Sorry, Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work


Photo: Depression by George Hodan

Study after study has shown that Positive Thinking doesn’t improve your results. In fact, in many cases it has a negative effect on your outcomes. You can visualize every day, think positively about your life and still be in a worse place than people who don’t.

Why is that? Because many of the people who visualize, and think positively believe that’s all they have to do!

Positive Thinking on its own doesn’t work – because you have to take action to get the right results. Ideally, the “right” sort of action, inspired action. But any action is better than none. Your thoughts are the starting point, but we live in a physical world. Thoughts alone won’t get you there. You have to move your feet. It’s no good buying a new Ferrari if you don’t fuel it up. You don’t have to change the world, but you can make changes to yourself.

Working with thoughts and actions in tandem is where you get the best results. Lot’s of people work hard every day, and have little to show for it. So you need to take time to focus and plan your outcomes and goals. If you don’t know what you really want, how will you know if you get there?

This is where positive thinking and visualizing kick in. You have to practice them regularly because their effects are short lived. But so is cleaning your teeth, and you probably do that twice a day. It’s still a useful activity!

A problem can be, the more time you spend visualizing, the more you notice the difference between your current reality and where you want to be. But if you mix in short term goals, you can see the progress you are making towards them. You can even add goals you have achieved on the list, to remind yourself of your successes.

So make Positive Thinking part of your lifestyle – but don’t forget to take Positive Action!

37 thoughts on “Sorry, Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work

  1. Thanks for the excellent post! I once read a book where 3 words stood out…just do something. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. Just something that will bring you closer to the goal.

  2. Well said Steve! Positive thinking alone can’t make difficult times go away, and can be a bit like burying your head in the sand…When whats really needed is taking some positive action to change things:)

  3. Positive thinking PLUS taking one small step in the right direction really works. Each small step leads to another small step and than another one…Everything humans have ever accomplished is due to taking incremental small steps. Great post, Steve!

  4. Positive thinking is a great platform, and a great motivator to get those feet moving. But just like the best laid out plans, it is all useless without action. Of course… They are still important partners. Without positivity, there is no sense in taking action. If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anyone else?

  5. Great post Steve especially the brushing your teeth analogy. Some people forget to brush their teeth twice a day, something that should have been embedded into us from a child. Your post reminds us the importance of taking action to see results.

  6. A quote that I love is “Watch your thoughts they become your words, watch your words, they become your actions, watch your actions, they become your character, watch your character it becomes your destiny” Positive thinking should inspire positive actions, and therefore a positive life. And if life is rubbish (as it is sometimes)…. well, at least you feel good about it, or if not feel good, then cope with it better! 🙂

  7. I thought, hey… Why’s he saying that… But you are right… Love a bit of positivity, but isn’t much help with action. Take action!

  8. There’s a lot of thought about this subject out there at the moment, and everyone seems to be in agreement about the action combined with the thought. Always great to read a succinct, helpful piece like this, to add to the pot!

  9. Action without works is dead.

    The Universe can do so much.

    If you don’t take advantage of the opportunities that come to you then what’s the point?

    Brilliant post.

    Thank you.

  10. I liked your post….Reality does happen in the mind where positive thinking helps, but making it happen is often frightening and risky. Leaving the mind is like going to the moon with no spaceship….

  11. Pingback: Spring cleaning time: Throw away the negative! | Scribbles & Thoughts

    • Thanks for the positive comment. I think FOCUSED actions can speak louder than thoughts. For instance, you may think you’re not a “morning” person, but if you focus on getting up at the same time every day, your actions can eventually over-rule your old thinking.

  12. One hast to act in faith, go prepared, know when to go, how to go, etc. We can learn much from the San Bushmen of the Kgalagadi (aka “Kalahari”),how they hunt and how they survive. And their processes of decision making. Never rush into things but contemplate, get their plan figured out and then act decisively. This is how they survive even today while being oppressed by taller, more numerous tribes who want to see them dead. Our Western culture sometimes is in deficit and our sophistication is paled by their primitive efficiency. We study their history instead of studying their psychology. This is but an example of how wrong we can be. To think that a positive approach alone will save the day.

  13. Thank you for visiting my blog Mr. Lakey…and I specially love this post…
    Action is needed in order to make something…dream will be just dream if action taken to make come true…

  14. I always set small short term goals to help me achieve a bigger goal. It takes a long time and I can usually achieve all of the smaller steps but when it comes to the final step, it all goes to hell. I was a fan of positive thinking but its not working anymore. At least not for me!! Dont know what i did wrong but i feel like a huge grey cloud has been cast upon me and theres no getting out!!! HELP me!!

    • If you are able to complete small steps, keep doing so! If something prevents you from finishing your final goal, is this goal really what you want? If you are sure you want to complete this goal, and it’s appropriate for you, then make your steps smaller. Keep your short-term goals realistic and manageable. Take time to enjoy your successes along the way. Good luck!

  15. stroked 10/2001,rehabbed,able to walk,drive,depression was very deep,lots of talk therapy survived my new me world is the best i can do,,tired,lots of balance issues,i was very optomistic,still struggling with the why me nonsense reality is,i’m still here,just a different kind of life,positive thinking,lots of reading,walking,appreciate life more,not many more pluses realistically strokes suck,no doubt about it

  16. Hi Steve! Thank you for visiting my blog! I enjoyed reading this post, and I do very much agree that intentional thinking followed up by appropriate action are very important concepts for personal growth. But I do think it is equally important to add that as human beings, we are a combination of light and darkness, vegetative and active energies. Sometimes it’s appropriate to reflect and be still in order to arrive at the clarity necessary for meaningful action. The process is sometimes slow, awkward, and uncomfortable, although self-help and spirituality books often try to transform the alchemy into something overly bright or easy. It’s not easy; it takes work and effort. However, it is uplifting to know that we can control or choose our own thoughts and behaviors by becoming each day a little more self-aware!

    • Thanks, Rebekah. You make a very good point. There is a time for contemplation, reflection, and sometimes, complete inaction. Sometimes it’s about quietening our conscious mind which often screams at us to take action. I think that learning to trust our intuition, usually a trial and error process, is the way to learn which action to take, and when to take it! Thanks again for your insights. 😀

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