Negative Thinking Part II

If you bought, say, a smartphone that performed much worse than advertised, you might avoid that manufacturer in the future. But the doctrine of positive thinking that underpins modern self-help rests on circular logic: when a given technique fails, the implication goes, it’s because you weren’t thinking positively enough—and so you need positive thinking even more. In reality, psychological research increasingly suggests that repeating “affirmations” makes people with low self-esteem feel worse; that visualizing your ambitions can make you less motivated to achieve them; that goal setting can backfire; and that emotions can’t be controlled through sheer force of will. But the temptation to just try even harder can be hard to resist. “The key to success,” argues the best-selling motivational writer Brian Tracy, “is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire, not things we fear.”

Related to my post on “negative thinking” from last week, is this post from The Daily Beast about how we should rethink making New Year’s Resolutions. Basically, what I’m seeing here is that making big lofty (or vague) resolutions like, “being healthier and losing weight” or “quit smoking” often don’t pan out. But things like, “lose five pounds,” or “smoke one pack a week instead of two”—reasonable!

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4 Comments / Post A Comment

RocketSurgeon (#747)

For the last few years, I’ve made New Years Resolutions that are meant to be fun and add a little spark to my day. Last year’s was to find, try and wear more interesting eye makeup. Previously, I’d been wearing the same shade pretty much everyday for years. Even though it sounds silly, I’ve had a lot of fun with trying new stuff out. I didn’t go on a purchasing spree, so it hasn’t been expensive.

ThatJenn (#916)

I make resolutions throughout the year that are quantifiable. One of my things is (of course) weight loss, so I pick milestones and say “I will lose [5, 10, or 15] pounds by [first date] and [5,10,15] pounds by [the next date]” and so on. If I don’t make one, it’s fine – I start from wherever I am at the first date to measure my progress to the next date. Clean slate every time. It’s good. I do similar things with other goals, and do try to give myself enough time to let one become a real habit before moving onto a new one.

ThatJenn (#916)

Also, this is my favorite key point from the article you linked to:

“More problematically, the Robbins philosophy merely strengthens the misleading belief that you need to feel motivated before taking action—which is the biggest barrier to actually getting things done.”

Brunhilde (#78)

Last year my resolutions were to smoke more pot and find a different apartment for my boyfriend and I. This year I think I’ll just find a new apartment just for me, since he’s so attached to the shitty one, he can have it.

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