Oct 16

“Thinking positive” isn’t working out? Let’s try something that works.

One of the things I see all the time on LinkedIn and on newsletters and frankly, all around me is the idea that you have to have a positive attitude to succeed. That, anyone that doesn’t think positively isn’t going to get anywhere, or that ideas somehow affect the universe so that what you are thinking will become reality.

I wish people would stop it. It’s annoying as hell.

The Secret is not real, and magical thinking is an unproven, unscientific way to look at something (as well as one symptom of a few different mental disorders). That’s not to say that I don’t believe in magic – because we all know I do. But I don’t believe for a second that God, or the Universe, or Whatever cares about mine or anyone else’s day to day brain activity.

It’s also not productive. And I want to be the first to say it, to shout it from the rooftops: every situation I’ve ever been in where I was truly happy, I came to because I was pissed off first. Nearly fifty percent of my class didn’t have jobs when we graduated. Those people were smart, capable and (mostly) driven. I didn’t get my job because I was better than them. I got my job for two reasons: I was in the right place at the right time, and I was driven enough to pursue even the most remote opportunity.

The reason I was driven wasn’t because of my optimism. Au contraire, it’s because I had a constant scream of frustration going in my head the entire time. A scream that would not die until I had shut it up. And the only way to do that was to get a job. I was tormented with fear and anger every day, and it was impossible to not do something about it. So I scraped and clawed and hung on to anything I could get purchase on, until something gave and I got what I was looking for.

That’s not to say that my way is the best way, and I wouldn’t wish my stress level over the last year on anyone. But thinking that things will get better, in my experience, leads to complacency. And that never gets anyone anywhere. Women don’t have the right to vote because we felt that eventually we would get it. We have it because women were pissed off and fought day and night for what was right. It’s the same for almost anything of value in our society.

In my vision of a bright future, I have us all living the lives that make us fulfilled and happy. I am all for margaritas at the pool and going to a job that is so much fun it feels like vacation. However, we are not going to get there by brainwashing ourselves into thinking we feel one way when we really feel another. I always know when I’m lying to myself, and the outcome is never good. Instead, let’s embrace our negativity and use it as a call to action. Let’s say, “I’m sick of this situation and I want out!” rather than “Well, I don’t want to whine, so I’ll stay miserable…” Let’s finally make our lives better than wishing our way out of it.

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