Have You Been Seduced by Positive Psychology?

Think positively! You can do whatever you want to! These words of encouragement, especially when repeated to yourself in a challenging situation, should allow you to achieve anything, right? As it turns out, although this kind of positive “self-talk” can get you through stressful times in life, there are other occasions in which what you say isn’t quite as important as what you do.

Consider the prepping you might engage in for an important meeting, where you need to impress one and all with your astounding skills, personality, and knowledge. You could do some prep work, getting yourself ready by imagining the types of questions you might be asked or the information you’ll be asked to provide. Or you could spend the time imagining how successful you’ll be, worried that you might ruin the whole affair by over-preparing yourself.

The essence of positive thinking is that you envision yourself as successful, and by doing so, you will succeed.

Reflecting the idealistically positive thinking of the day, these speeches and articles simply mirror what people experience in their daily lives. When the culture encourages people to engage in wishful thinking, this shows up in the behavior of individuals and the speech of influential leaders.

An image of an idealized future leads us to mentally enjoy ourselves without thinking of the obstacles that might come in our way. If someone were whispering in my ear constantly that my tennis serves will always land where I want them to, and in fact will be more likely to do so if I don’t even try, then eventually I’ll forget about the fact that I’ve never won a tennis game in my life.

It’s one thing, then, to imagine yourself as successful when there is a basis in reality for it. However, as your visions of success drift increasingly away from your record of past performance, that positive thinking will ultimately lead to failure.

The upshot is clear: It’s fine to use positive imagery to help yourself through stressful times. Focusing on improving your situation will inspire and motivate you, especially when things look bleak. When it comes to effort, though, you’re better off making sure your “inner game” matches your actual abilities and, if not, it may be time to roll your sleeves up and get to work.

Source: Have You Been Seduced by Positive Psychology? | Psychology Today

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