Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, took the country by storm when it was published in 1952 and we haven’t looked back since. Positive thinking is so embedded into our culture that questioning it just a little bit is almost like questioning mom and apple pie.
But can wishing really make it so? Is positive thinking all by itself really enough to get things to happen exactly, or even close to, like we’d like them to happen?
Using a positive self-talk affirmation like “I’m a highly successful real estate agent” that expresses your positive thinking scenario may backfire on you if you aren’t taking actions in your business to make that a reality or if you don’t think deep down that you ever will be. Instead, try to reframe your thinking to focus on who you are becoming…focus on your progress. Try re-working your self-talk to sound more like “I’m progressing each day and that’s okay. I’m working on calling five prospects every day. Every moment that I make those calls, I’m making an effort to achieve my goals.”
Biologically, we as human beings are hardwired for optimism. Tali Sharet’s Affective Brain Lab in London says that a whopping 80% of us across all regions, ethnicities and socioeconomic levels are optimists. Such self talk, such positive thinking about our progress suits our optimistic selves. We get into trouble with positive thinking only when we attach it to end results, not progress, not process.
Gabriele Dettinger, a psychology professor, conducted a recent research study on the fantasies or end results of positive thinking with college students. He found that college students can feel disappointed to find out they are not as good as they “positively think” they are, that they can underestimate risks when they “positively think” everything will work out great and that they can ignore negative consequences when they “positively think” nothing bad will ever happen to them.
Dettinger’s conclusions? Positive thinking by itself is not enough. “It should act as a supplement to planning and efforts…positive thinking is just one part of the process. Wishing, fantasizing, positive thinking does not make it so.”