Why Positive Thinking is a BAD IDEA At Times.

Why Positive Thinking is a BAD IDEA At Times.

Why Positive Thinking is a BAD IDEA At Times.

By Anubhav Srivastava ( Register for his Workshop – Build Super Confidence For Super Success!)

Conventional wisdom says that positive thinking is the key to success. You need to picture yourself or visualize for yourself the perfect outcome, the best possible result. You need to go into what you are doing with an absolutely positive mindset, whether it is a presentation, a job interview, a date, or a much bigger project as if nothing could go wrong. While positive thinking has always been preached, it has gained much more popularity recently thanks to the books that talk about the Law of Attraction as if it is a scientific law that always works. I am here to tell you that if you are always thinking positive and have been indoctrinated by the positive thinking mantras, believing that nothing could go wrong, you are dramatically lowering your chances of success, because in real life things go wrong all the time.

Do you know how safety standards are raised for cars, or for Airplanes or for Space Flights? They are done so by taking into account EVERY POSSIBLE negative scenario that could happen. Some of these are based on imagination, some are based on very probable possibilities of what could go wrong and some scenarios are worked upon only after an event actually takes place (Such as the September 11 attacks or a Foam Strike that destroyed Space Shuttle Columbia)

Would you be comfortable travelling in a car or an air plane or maybe in a space shuttle in the future, knowing that the only safety mechanism that the engineers relied upon was positive thinking and visualization of everything being perfect? Would you feel safe knowing that engineers did not imagine and solve most of the possible negative outcomes that could happen that dramatically increase the chances of an accident? Would you want to live in a building built by someone who only relied on positive thinking and did not thinking of how to safeguard it from possible disasters? The buildings we live in, the things we travel in and the devices we use are relatively safe today BECAUSE of the positive steps taken as a result of negative and cautious thinking.

Researchers have actually actually conducted studies where they compared the results of Strategic optimists and Defensive pessimists. Strategic optimists believe nothing can go wrong, cautious pessimists believe that many things could go wrong, and yet the fear doesn’t cripple them, it motivates them to take steps to actually lower the risk of things going wrong. Confidence is a great thing but sometimes the lack of it is an even better thing. The fear motivates you to settle for nothing less than excellence.

The researchers found that in many instances the defensive pessimists actually performed better than eternal optimists because they took into account many of the negative situations that could happen and then worked hard to eliminate that possibility. They worked and prepared much harder.

On your next flight, would you prefer pilots and engineers practise positive thinking instead of checking for all that could go wrong??
On your next flight, would you prefer pilots and engineers practise positive thinking instead of checking for all that could go wrong??

So, when should you practise positive thinking and when is negative thinking better?

The short answer to that is it depends on the situation. Positive thinking produces best results in which the realistic risk involved if you go wrong is not disastrous.

In all other cases it is better to be cautiously optimistic and rely on testing. Now disastrous can be subjective but being rejected in a job, a sale or in a date is not nearly as disastrous as causing a car crash or a personal financial crisis.

For example if you are an eternal optimist, you should go into a profession that may require a lot of perseverance and rejection but does not lead to disastrous results should you go wrong. The optimism will keep you going through rejections, at the same time if you go wrong, it won’t be on such a massive scale that it buries you and other people for good. For example in sales jobs, it is optimists who do better than pessimists. They sell more, because they are more positive and because they don’t give up when they fail. At the same time, failure in sales just means you move on to another client, it does not mean the end of the world.

But as an engineer you need to be cautious, as a doctor you need to be cautious. As an entrepreneur You HAVE to practise cautiousness if you are putting in a lot of your own money or taking a big loan from the bank. The reality is that businesses fail all the time and if you go into business thinking absolutely positive and assume everything will be rosy, you are going to fail, unless you are incredibly lucky. If your business succeeds, great but given that 90 percent of them fail, the odds are that by putting in most of your money into a new business without testing it or by taking a big loan from the bank and giving a personal guarantee of it you will end up in a considerable personal financial crisis.

If you are putting in a your money, or taking a loan from the bank, it is much better to be a pessimist in order to increase your chances of success. The strategy that will be most helpful would be to bootstrap, in other words use as little money as possible to get the business going , doing extensive practical research and spending the initial days of the business finding the right market and right customers for it. Only when you have found the right market for your business and proved that it has real potential through actual sales, then you start pouring in the money to scale it up faster. If you have ascertained during the initial days that your business does not seem to have much potential and the money will surely be wasted, you can safely shut down the business and move on to something new without burning a hole in your pocket or worse, declaring bankruptcy!


Negative or cautious thinking done in the right situations can either lead to great success or save you from massive failure. Positive thinking is great as a strategy only when relative risk is lower. Positive thinking makes people see good in the bad and inspires them to keep trying. On the other hand it can also lead to overconfidence and thus disaster. Negative thinking makes people cautious and makes them research and work harder to avoid negative outcomes, at the same time it can also cripple people out of fear. Ultimately the key is to find a sweet spot, a moderation of both approaches and the extent to which you favour one over the other, depends completely upon the situation. But certainly neither of the approaches can be taken to an extreme.

So the next time someone annoys you about the miraculous benefits of practising positive thinking or the Law of Attraction ALL THE TIME, ask them to jump off a plane and bet on the Law of Attraction saving them from the Law of Gravity.

About the Author

The author of this article, Anubhav Srivastava is an author, motivational speaker and the director of Carve Your Destiny, a first of its kind inspirational documentary featuring some of the most famous personalities from diverse fields, who teach the viewers how they too can make all of their dreams come true. The movie itself has been seen on Youtube by close to 600,000 people. Anubhav has also been featured in numerous International and India Media outlets such as BBC , The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Rediff.com, Leicester Mercury and many others.

Email Anubhav Srivastava for coaching, consulting or motivational speaking queries at anubhav101@gmail.com. Facebook Profile: http://facebook.com/anubhav981

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