Does Positive Thinking Work?
I’ll admit, for at least the past few years I have been known as the “positive person” among my group of friends and family. I’ll also admit that I’ve been a little embarrassed by that, and the fact that my personal FB page is jam-packed with all sorts of positive, inspirational and self-improvement quotes. But I am proud, that by learning from my mistakes and growing my emotional intelligence, I have learned ways to stay positive regardless of the challenges I face in my life. I certainly have personally benefitted from having a positive or optimistic outlook on life, and I know that my coaching clients have shared that they have as well. Part of positive thinking for me is, always thinking about how to move forward from a negative situation, rather than asking “Why me?” Instead I ask myself “What comes next?” or “How can I move forward from this challenging situation?” or “What have I learned or what good has come out of this not so great situation?”
All of these are great questions to ask ourselves, they are questions we use in Life Coaching to help people create a more positive life, to move past negative or limiting thinking, beliefs, patterns, and life situations. So I know from personal experience, with my own life, and by working with my coaching clients, that positive thinking really does help to create a happier life. But, is positive thinking enough, is it all we need to be happy? Some have asked “Isn’t positive thinking just fluffy thoughts, or even denial?” So I started to think about that, if positive thinking alone was enough to create a happy life? The conclusion I quickly came to was no, of course not, positive thinking is not all we need to create a happy life, it definitely can help us to change our perspective and mood a great deal, but it isn’t everything.
We need other things in our lives to be truly happy, we need basic life sustaining items, we need fulfilling relationships and adequate income - a job we enjoy, and we need a place where we can give back to others, contribute to creating - or spreading hope for - a better world. There, I thought, that should do it. But then I remembered something I had struggled with myself for a long while, and that was the negative reoccurring thoughts or memories that kept coming back to me, reoccurring memories didn’t seem to go away, even with positive thinking they kept coming back. When I thought about it, reoccurring thoughts seemed to be different, deeper, no matter how many times I tried to throw the negative memory out of my mind, and even if I replaced it with a positive one, it would eventually come back to me. You probably know what I’m talking about, those nagging negative thoughts that keep coming back to us, telling us we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, whatever we were once told or led to believe, those words or actions hurt us at our core, they made us doubt our self-worth. Negative thoughts about our self-worth, the ones that have been there since childhood or early on, are harder to get rid of. Just throwing them out of our mind doesn’t work, or only works for a short time. Thinking about something positive in place of the negative memory or thought doesn’t seem to work, because they always end up returning. When I was thinking about that, I remembered something I learned through my own coaching, when I was taking my “Coach the Coach” training. I learned that there was another way of thinking, something more than just positive thinking, that could help us to get rid of our re-occurring negative thoughts and memories - or replace them with something better.
So, what is better than positive thinking? Realistic thinking. Realistic thinking is also positive thinking, but it takes it one step further, making our thoughts not only positive, but realistic, truthful, and attainable. Realistic thinking is better because it is not just fluffy thoughts or denial, it is real. But it does takes a little thinking on our part, a little effort, anything we learn that is new takes effort, and it will take a little effort to learn how to change negative thoughts and memories that are related to our self-worth, into realistic ones. But if we work on it, if we practice, we can actually get rid of, even heal from, our negative reoccurring thoughts. Below is an example of how to replace a negative thought with a positive one, and even better, a realistic one.
“I am not smart enough to get that job.”
“You are great, you can get any job you want!”
“The requirements of the job list 5 programs I will need to know. I’m doing great I already know 4 of them! I can study to learn the 5th, and then apply.”
Realistic thinking is different than positive thinking because it is not only a thought, it is a thought based in truth and reality, a thought that motivates us to find a plan that will get us the positive outcome we are hoping for. The great thing about realistic thoughts, is that they seem to stick, when our positive thoughts and plans are based in reality, they teach our mind to let go of the old negative thoughts, and instead think and believe the realistic ones. To get support and learn more about positive and realistic thinking, consider scheduling a private Life Coaching session by using the Book Appointment button at the top or bottom of this page.
I look forward to the possibility of meeting you and helping you create the life and relationships you long for!
Julie L Gibson Vasquez
Life & Love Coaching and
The Proactive Parenting Coach