Why positive thinking is overrated

May 19th, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  11 Comments

I [heart] Mike Mahler. He’s really good at telling you the stuff you need to hear, but don’t want to. And he does it with tough love. One of the most important lessons I ever learned was that sometimes, you just have to suck it up. Nobody wants to change a baby’s diaper or clean out the eavestroughs but it has to be done. Everyone is looking for “motivation” and “inspiration” to strike. That’s great if it does. But much of life isn’t like that. Before every workout or piece of brocooli, most of us don’t think “Hooray!” (Although I really like vegetables so I kind of am thinking that.) Ideally we don’t overthink at all. We just do. Say what you want about Nike, but “Just do it” was a genius piece of marketing.

Why positive thinking is overrated

Take an effective plan, put it into action, have the tenacity to see it through, and it will work in spite of your positive, negative, or indifferent attitude. When it comes to making dramatic, positive change in your life, a positive attitude is the least of your concerns, and in fact, may actually inhibit you in accepting the brutal self-knowledge required to break free of inertia and move forward…

A stubborn positive attitude may be the enabling factor in continuing to slog on with a life you don’t event want.  Sometimes, it’s hitting rock bottom that spurs forward action. No, you don’t have to lose all your worldly possessions and end up on the street but you do have to feel low-down and angry enough with yourself for accepting your misappropriated life.  When you are completely fed up and nauseated at the idea of remaining as you have been, you are finally ready to initiate change and create a new life.

Creation is dramatic and powerful, not passive and subtle.  Creation arises from destruction and only by destroying your wrongfully lived life can you finally embrace the life you’ve always wanted.  This is what it means to be reincarnated as a new person. There are no second chances when you’re keeping one foot in your old life; your anger and extreme dissatisfaction are the flames that burn the bridges to your past.  Dramatic change isn’t always pretty, nor does it always come from a pretty, positive place.

demotivational-posters-rock-bottom

Responses

  1. lyn says:

    May 19th, 2009at 9:37 am(#)

    These last two blogs are some of the best common sense motivation I have read in a long time. Sometimes life comes easy, sometimes it feels like getting dragged stark naked thru a rosebush backwards. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and bull your way thru, despite the discomfort or fear that you feel. It seems that that lesson is the hardest one in life to learn, but it is one of the most important, because the best things in life are not free-you pay for them with mind and muscle, spirit and soul.

  2. Rhomboid says:

    May 19th, 2009at 5:37 pm(#)

    I’m very glad to see someone call out this line of irrationality. Sometimes I’ve been known to watch an episode of The Biggest Loser and every time I see a contestant (or worse, a trainer) fall on this crutch of “we must stay positive no matter what” I want to hurl. Why do people believe in this tripe? It’s okay to be critical, questioning, negative, or doubtful. Above all, we must be rational: if you are not meeting your goals you need to identify the problems and form solutions. Your state of mind while doing this plays no role. You can still be a surly misanthrope and lose plenty of weight, just as you can be the most chipper roses-and-puppy-dogs hugs-not-drugs sort that ever walked the earth and still be bloated, unhappy, and unfit if you don’t make the right decisions and sugar coat your situation to yourself.

  3. Josten says:

    May 20th, 2009at 2:39 pm(#)

    i believe that positive thinking to some is overrated because of the talks about it negatively and those who say it doesnt work.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    May 20th, 2009at 5:09 pm(#)

    If you’re going to do something, you need to believe, at the very least, that it’s worth doing for some reason; otherwise you won’t do it, or you’ll half-ass it, and of course it won’t work. That’s as much “positive attitude” as you really need; anything beyond that is nice, but non-essential.

  5. Michelle says:

    May 20th, 2009at 9:21 pm(#)

    Thanks for this one.
    My alarm went off this morning and I felt ‘less than motivated’ then I remember reading this post last night.
    Got up, ate my tuna and spinach and smashed it in the gym.

  6. Chris says:

    May 22nd, 2009at 3:26 pm(#)

    The danger with the mythology of positive thinking is that it can devolve into a form of blaming the victim. You see this often in cancer patients who want to “beat cancer” by “staying positive”. Well, if the cancer returns or is resistant to treatment, is the patient to blame for not be “positive” enough?

  7. PB says:

    May 27th, 2009at 4:02 am(#)

    These last two blogs are some of the best common sense motivation I have read in a long time. Sometimes life comes easy, sometimes it feels like getting dragged stark naked thru a rosebush backwards. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and bull your way thru, despite the discomfort or fear that you feel. It seems that that lesson is the hardest one in life to learn, but it is one of the most important, because the best things in life are not free-you pay for them with mind and muscle, spirit and soul.

  8. Mike Mahler says:

    May 28th, 2009at 12:41 am(#)

    Hey Krista, thanks for sharing my article with your readers. Glad you liked it and great feedback from everyone here. Thanks a lot and I think you will love my upcoming book: “Live Life Aggressively!: What self-help gurus don’t want you to know”

  9. Ms .45 says:

    June 8th, 2009at 7:01 am(#)

    Ha ha, I dropped about 25kg last year because I was working with an utter douchebag who badly needs to be punched in the crotch (but who has the most divine body… see, looks really aren’t everything). Every lift, every squat, every step on the treadmill or cross-trainer was done with white-hot hate and a semi-pleasant reverie involving a spot of Gordon Freeman action on the back of this fucker’s head.

    So, not a positive thought in sight… but 25kg of weight loss to show for it. I’d be grateful to him if he wasn’t such an utter prick.

  10. Guess What? You Don’t Need Motivation « Tiny Glow says:

    January 20th, 2010at 9:43 am(#)

    […] Extra-credit reading: “Why positive thinking is overrated” […]

  11. Destined For 150 says:

    October 1st, 2010at 11:50 am(#)

    If more people did things instead of sitting around thinking about it and looking for motivation, just think of all they could accomplish! That’s what I tell people… stop looking for someone to coddle you through the process. Just get to it and stop wasting time.


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