Limitations of Positive Thinking
Positive thinking and the pursuit of happiness are common goals associated with self-improvement. They seem to be becoming more common in corporate culture as well, as employee happiness, customer satisfaction, and an emphasis on productivity appear in many culture documents and mission statements.
At first glance, management appears to be taking a step forward by focusing on the emotional health of employees and customers. But positive thinking is more than meets the eye.
This post originally appeared on the Crew blog .
When is the positive good for us?
During performance reviews, criticism and focusing on issues can make it difficult for employees to see opportunities for improvement . Negative thinking tends to narrow our focus and block other options, so we can get stuck in the negative without finding a way to move forward.
However, positive support for achieving goals and finding opportunities for improvement can open the way for us to options and alternatives. Moderate levels of happiness and a positive attitude can help us solve problems by developing creative thinking .
And the feeling of happiness can often last further than it was caused, as the feeling of happiness tends to increase our focus on other positive aspects of our life. It also opens up opportunities for us to take more risks and helps us feel less overwhelmed.
However, it has actually been shown that the very act of pursuing happiness makes us more unhappy . It seems that the more positive emotions we generate, the less we feel them.
Should we cut back on positive thinking?
While extremely positive people tend to be most successful in close personal relationships and volunteer work, in reality, moderately happy people tend to be more successful financially and educationally .
Forcing us to think positively constantly baffles us because we can never relax if negative thoughts come to our minds. It ultimately becomes more stressful, requiring constant attention, rather than happy and enjoyable. It can also put us under additional pressure if we think other people expect us to be positive all the time – it can actually make us experiencemore negative emotions and more often .
We may be more likely to blame ourselves for not being happy enough when we expect to see results based on positive thinking, which can be a dangerous cycle. And for people who already have low self-esteem, the consequences of so-called positive statements (for example, “I’m a nice person!”) Can actually be harmful. People with low self-esteem tend to feel worse after making or hearing these statements because they disagree with them.
We need a number of negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety, to help us act appropriately in certain situations – for example, to alert us to danger. Psychiatrist Mark Banshik says that people often use positive thinking as a defense against anxiety when they should listen to this negative emotion. Worry can point us to an underlying problem that needs to be addressed, and covering it up with positive thinking can harm us in the long run. Even in business, this can be a problem. CEOs who are so optimistic that they ignore the warning signs can lead their companies to disaster .
In some cases, negativity can actually be useful for our work . Research has shown that people in a bad mood can often make better and more convincing arguments than people in a good mood, and that bad moods can improve our memory and mental accuracy.
The tendency to think negatively can also be helpful in reducing the suffering from negative events. For example, anticipating worst-case scenarios can help us prepare for these events and better deal with them if they arise. And trying to “fix” negative thoughts can actually make them worse.
But too much negative thinking is not good for us either. Negative emotions can suppress the immune system, increase stress levels, and raise blood pressure .
Both positive and negative clearly take place in our life. The trick, as with so many other things, is to find a healthy balance. While optimism can be good for us, it’s important not to lose control of what’s real and what’s not. Psychologist Christopher Peterson calls this realistic optimism .
Realistic optimism suggests that we should not focus on positive thinking, but hope for the best while planning for the worst. Watch out for what can go wrong and what difficulties you face, instead of blocking them or pretending that they are not so bad.
Another tip is to avoid positive statements . If you have initially low self-esteem, repeating phrases like “People like me” and “I’m smart” can make you feel less comfortable. And even for people with high self-esteem, positive affirmations tend to improve mood very slightly, and only immediately after repeating the affirmations – there is no lasting effect.
Finally, avoid putting pressure on friends, family, co-workers, or colleagues by forcing them to think positively. If the pessimist uses negative thinking as a coping strategy, eliminating that strategy by forcing him to think positively may interfere with their work . And, as I mentioned earlier, expecting other people to want us to think positively all the time can increase the frequency and intensity of our negative emotions.
So allow yourself and others to experience and appreciate the downs and ups that are part of life.