We have all heard the expression ‘think positive’, accompanied by the idea that if we start thinking negatively, then all is lost. Negative thinking is seen as always a bad thing, and positive thinking is seen as always a good thing. However, this is a dangerous over-simplification.
If we think positively all the time, then we see the world how we would like to see it, not how it really is, and there are some dangers associated with this. The first of these is the we may tend to over-estimate our capabilities, and assume we are capable of things that we - realistically- are not. The second danger is that we under-estimate the difficulties that lie ahead of us and then fail to make adequate preparations and take adequate precautions. If we think negatively about a situation we are likely to give it more thoughful evaluation.
Naturally, not all positive thinking is bad either – it has the potential to give us the confidence to tackle things that we feel may be beyond us. It’s also not true to say that there is more truth in negative thinking than positive – both are biases in our thinking, and both are distortions of reality. Perhaps the best approach is to use a mixture of positive and negative thinking; in this way we see the situation more broadly and completely, whilst not sacrificing our ability to attempt the hard things we need to do.
- Tim Hill
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