For years I’ve had mixed feelings about positive thinking. Sorry to sound negative, but positive thinking can take you only so far. For instance, I might think positively about becoming an accomplished jockey, but at nearly 6-foot-2 and over 200 pounds, I’m more than a tad beyond the size limit for that diminutive profession. At the same time, I might desire to be a center in the NBA, but that’s unlikely in the forest of 6-foot-10 and seven-foot giants.
|"I think, therefore I am...what?"|
“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” That’s been the positive thinking mantra. Sometimes it’s right. A friend dreamed about becoming a successful salesman, and that’s what he did. But it took much more than just thinking. It required training, hard work, planning and perseverance, along with determination not to become disheartened by setbacks.
Early in my career as a newspaper editor, I conceived and believed about writing magazine articles – and also a book. I achieved these goals and more. But again, it required diligence, dedication, acquiring the necessary skills, and tenacity to try-try again, even when rejection letters arrived in the mailbox.
So positive thinking’s OK to a point, but it takes a lot more than that.
At the same time, negative thinking can destroy your day before it even gets started. So thinking positively definitely trumps thinking negatively. It’s even recommended for good health. Studies have shown that long-term pessimistic thinking can triple the likelihood of a serious “heart event” or other life-threatening health issues.
The late Zig Ziglar, one of the world’s foremost motivational speakers and writers, talked about people sometimes commenting, ”Zig, I loved your talk, but for me, motivation doesn’t last.” Ziglar always responded, “Bathing doesn’t last either. That’s why I recommend it daily.”
So, is it a matter of thinking happy thoughts, or as the Bobby McFerrin song of decades past suggested, “Don’t worry, be happy”? I’ve found positive thinking works best when it’s based not on wishful thinking, but rather on reality – and reliable promises.
For instance, addressing followers of Jesus in the ancient city of Philippi, the apostle Paul wrote, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
In an age when we’re bombarded by negativity – bad news, reports of gloom and doom, harsh conversations and people just waiting for an excuse to spew their anger – it helps, stating it another way, to accentuate the positive.
As Zig Ziglar advised, I’ve found it useful to make it a habit of meditating on positive, motivational thoughts on a daily basis. And I can’t imagine a greater thought than the promise Jesus left His followers, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).