The folly of positive thinking


#1

Continuing the discussion from Toxic and bargaining buyers:

No, positive thinking is a denial of reality, thus you can’t be a realist and a positive thinker.

An objective man, realist, measures the world around him and draws a conclusion. If a gig isn’t selling, all the positive thinking in the world is not going to make it sell. Nor will promotions or demotions happen because one thinks positively.

Positive thinking is dangerous. People buy real estate they can’t afford, thinking they will be making more money in the future. Web marketing in particular preys on positive thinkers, offering them riches beyond measure as long as they spend $100 to $1,000 on some dubious program.

That’s not always true. In the 1980s, the brand Benetton made a huge impact with an advertising campaign focused on social issues like AIDS, celibacy, war, etc. They could have done what every fashion advertiser does- show happy people wearing clothes. Instead, they decided to be controversial and became more famous than before.

Realism matter whether the issue is investing, selling on Fiverr, or finding someone to marry. Positive thinking only leads to disappointment as the high expectations aren’t met. Better to expect nothing and celebrate what you get than to expect everything and despair when you get nothing.


#2

It’s not just thinking positively but acting in a positive way in order to improve the situation. Yes you can and should be realistic too. Being positive can also be healthier (eg. help the immune system etc.) .

But being positive about the work you’ve done for a client will help (if it is actually good). eg. you can show the buyer why it is actually good/correct/will help them. Someone could act in a positive way by providing support and help for a product in a polite way and improve the chance of future sales.

If a gig isn’t selling, all the positive thinking in the world is not going to make it sell

But acting in a positive way to either make that gig sell or a different gig or improve the chances that it will, will help. Maybe training to become better at a particular task will help or looking for other opportunities will also help the situation. Not being positive (by not trying to improve the situation) won’t help (eg. just being depressed that things aren’t selling and doing nothing).


#3

No, positive thinking is a denial of reality, thus you can’t be a realist and a positive thinker.

I’m not saying one should force positive thinking and I feel you’re using term positive thinking more as over-expectation. There is a term realistic optimist that describes someone who tends to maintain a positive outlook while knowing what’s realistic.

For example, someone whom you would describe as a realistic optimist would acknowledge if they’d have to cancel a project as a bad thing for them, but wouldn’t go into pessimistic mode because of it. Stuff happens, you acknowledge the reality, move on…

If a gig isn’t selling, all the positive thinking in the world is not going to make it sell. Nor will promotions or demotions happen because one thinks positively.

It might not be consequential to optimism itself, but that positivity will definitely increase one’s productivity and concentration level, which is a good thing. I’m not saying you can be a mindless looney who thinks he’s best at everything and everything will be great and go their way and get good results. Of course, you need to have certain skills, to begin with.

Better to expect nothing and celebrate what you get than to expect everything and despair when you get nothing.

Then you’re lowering your expectations on purpose (leaning on a pessimistic side) so you’ll not be disappointed in the outcome. You’re contradicting this:

An objective man, realist, measures the world around him and draws a conclusion.

If you were a realist, in that case, you’d see how the things go and then draw a conclusion.

Web marketing in particular preys on positive thinkers, offering them riches beyond measure as long as they spend $100 to $1,000 on some dubious program.

Those people are naive, not positive thinkers.


#4

I do have to at least give you credit for doubling down on this idea. I seriously question whether you are this lost in your thinking or if it is a convenient way to dismiss taking responsibility.

You must realize that buying real estate you can’t afford and hoping that money will come from the heavens is about as stupid as it gets, while positive thinking, as in belief in yourself looks a bit more like this:


#5

I think you should read Brightsided, or maybe you understand “positive thinking” in a different way than I do.

I try to do the best work I can for each client, but I’m never positive about it, that’s for the client to decide.

True, but some situations can’t be improved, so it’s better to quit while you’re ahead. Narcissists for example often suffer from too much self-esteem, they think everything they do is amazing, some are actually good at what they do, but others aren’t and end up hurting themselves and others. Consider Prissy from Gone with the Wind, first she tells Scarlett that she knows everything about birthing babies (positive thinking), then she confesses she knows nothing of the subject, and gets slapped in the face.

A realist would have admitted knowing nothing, and perhaps he’d get an opportunity to learn.

Positive thinkers instead demand that you “fake it until you make it.” That’s not only dangerous to the seller, it’s dangerous to the buyer. Would you want a surgeon that’s faking it until he makes it? I would rather get treated by an honest veterinarian than a dishonest surgeon. At least the vet can do simple things, like close wounds.


#6

No, positive thinkers believe that they are capable and try their best every day. They show up, they work hard, if they get knocked down they get back up…They are not quitters or whiners. They don’t hide under the bed because something bad might happen. And if it does, they will kick its ass.


#7

Muhammed Ali only became a braggart after winning several fights. Also, his bragging was a marketing strategy to acquire more fans.

As for the real estate example, I’ve done enough real estate advertising to know what my employers are peddling. In the real estate business, it’s always a good time to buy real estate. If the economy is crashing, then you must buy because prices have never been too low. If the economy is booming, then you better buy before prices rise. My favorite lie is that you can own for the price of renting. Never mind that homeowners are responsible for repairs, taxes, homeowner association fees, etc.

Thinking realistically can prevent a lot of problems.


#8

I have to ask, so if you decide to write a book what would the title be?

“Don’t bother trying cause it hard and is a lot of work”?


#9

Since I consider myself a “positive thinker,” allow me to hop in.

I personally think that thinking positive and not thinking things through are completely different things.
So let’s say I wanted to buy something very expensive. ( BTW there is this antique brooch that I really want…)

In my mind, a person who is NOT thinking through will say “I want to buy it, it’s OK,
I can get a job in the near future” and get it.
In this case I think the person is using positive thinking as just an excuse.

In my case, if I saw something I want but cannot afford it, I’ll say to myself
“Ouch, that’s a bit too pricey…but thank god I have a job and a healthy strong body, if I work my but off next month, I can buy it before Christmas!”

I think the “job and healthy body” is the positive thinking part.

IF for whatever reason I could not get what I wanted, I’d usually go with

“I don’t know why and I don’t like it, but I’ll just tell myself that it happened for a reason.
I guess it was a voice from up above telling me not to get it…for whatever reason.”

“Nah, it’s OK, I’ll keep working hard, maybe I’ll find something even better in the future”

For me, positive thinking has worked and helped me a lot.

Am I making sense here??? :sweat_smile::sweat_smile::sweat_smile:


#10

We’re all over the field atm. :pensive:

It’s straying away from the subject of positive thinking itself to over-expectations, naiveness, erratic decision-making, overly optimistic and pessimistic behavior.

@fastcopywriter

Positive thinkers instead demand that you “fake it until you make it.”

That’s a narrative which is misleading and it misrepresents the real positive thinking. It’s more in a manipulative thinking area.

A realist would have admitted knowing nothing, and perhaps he’d get an opportunity to learn.

I absolutely command this, but the optimistic realist would’ve done this. He/she’d say - Okay, I don’t know this and they would’ve tried to learn it. I’m with you on so many points of realistic thinking, but I feel we have a different understanding on certain terms.

newsmike

And if it does, they will kick its ass.

Too optimistic IMO, should say they’ll do their best to kick its ass because you can’t tell the outcome.


#11

I suppose some are more confident than others. Again I don’t ever recall Muhammad Ali saying, “I will try my very best to be the greatest.” He simply told you he was, because at the same time he was telling himself. Why is everyone afraid of their own awesome abilities?

I’m not sure it is best to lead a group of soldiers into battle with the call “We may die but we shall try to do a competent job.”


#12

He knew he was the best boxer at his prime, so he just stated the obvious.

Now you’re going into a subject of a good leadership. Great leaders display their confidence to boost the morale of their team, but that doesn’t mean they themselves are super confident about it. That’s a strategy to create a more efficient teamwork.

Of course, if you know your team is great, you’re a great leader, then ofc - be confident as much as you like.


#13

It’s good to try as hard as you can to do or accomplish something but it still has to be realistic.

For example, if you want to be recognized as one of the best artists in the world you need some above average talent or no amount of trying, practicing or studying will get you there.


#14

Watched this TedEd episode few months back, good stuff. There are also few good videos on Dunning–Kruger effect on YT.


#15

There is a big difference between what one might call “the positive thinking movement” and just being a positive thinker or an optimist.

What @zeus777 describes is, to me, a realistic positive thinker. This is a person who does focus on a goal with the belief that being positive can help achieve the goal. The goal is something that either looks quite achievable or is perhaps just a bit beyond, but isn’t “pie in the sky” or faking it.

There is a “movement” that has been around for a long time, it gets re-branded here and there, but the motivational speakers who are part of it tell people to set their sights on literally anything. Want to live on Venus? Great, set a goal for yourself so that in ten years you’ll be living on an uninhabitable planet that no space program can get you to. It doesn’t matter if that’s crazy, if you believe it, you can do it. (I’m using a sarcastic example because I think some of the “motivational speakers” behind this kind of thinking represent insane thinking and they might as well be promising a colony on Venus.) Some people call this kind of thing positive thinking, but IMO, it’s not. It’s unrealistic bovine fecal matter.

There are some great things about being a positive person and thinking positive in a regular way. Scientists have proven that having a positive outlook can help with stress, blood pressure, etc. Having a negative outlook can add to one’s stress and causes the release of stress hormones that are bad for your health. You can be balanced and positive without being aggressively unrealistic and without expecting nothing or even being on the negative side.


#16

The new skills tests that not all users can access but some users have been using (currently for translation at least but they’ll probably add more tests I think - the tests are made but not available to the different Fiverr members/in different categories yet) could help to show which users have various skills and how good they are at those skills. Though it will only be as good as the tests are and it will be limited by the fact that the tests are all multiple choice questions. But it could help give a more accurate representation of someone’s skill in various fields (more accurate than if they are being over-optimistic) - as long as the tests are good (and within the limitations of the multiple-choice style of test).


#17

I think much of this debate is about semantics. What is the differentiation between positive thinking and maintaining a positive attitude? Where is the dividing line? Is positive thought the same as positive thinking?

I agree that the approach often promoted by self-help books and absolute tosh like ‘the secret’ (anyone who still trusts that one should look up the records of those behind it) can be unrealistic, counter-productive and even dangerous.

However, the act of posting ones frustrations on here can indeed be an act of positive thought. It reflects an expectation of either comfort / undertanding / advice / acknowledgement from strangers that is by definition positive. Indeed, working as a freelancer is a leap of faith that can only be positive thinking of some sort.

I complain in the hope of acknowledgement leading to either a change in fiverr policy or a response that might tell me something useful.

Generally I describe myself as a positive pessimist. Bad things, disappointments, betrayals etc will inevitably be a part of the human experience. So, accordingly, its vital to appreciate positive experiences and approach life optimistically - with the eternal hope that ones efforts can improve the situation of yourself and those you care about.

Of course, realism allows one to make judgements as to where to apply these efforts, and how. My philosophy is that realism and positive thinking are a vital combination for a healthy and happy life. And this combination should lead to personal responsibility.


#18

There is no place for positive thinking in the world.

If you are a farmer of limited means and several years of drought renders your land useless, being positive won’t make your crops grow.

If the conditions around you impeded practical success, you need to be ultra-realistic and act accordingly. Being ultra-positive will only last for as long as your Prozac prescription.

Too many people use the idea of positivism and personal happiness/comfort interchangeably. In the majority of cases, those people eat self-help books and in any real challenging life situation, are the first to become your friendly neighborhood panhandler.

Positivism doesn’t get anyone but cult leaders anywhere in life. Opportunism does.

Bill Gates, the Original Apple guy and the alien which runs Facebook, didn’t sing ring a ring a roses while working hard to create something new, because they had a really strong positive feeling they could. They copied other peoples ideas, took advantage of other peoples ignorance or unwillingness to change, and surrounded themselves with the right lawyers.

Opportunism + Realism + An environment which makes success possible = A sense of personal accomplishment and positivism

Positivism + Recycled quotes from other successful people = Future Prozac prescriptions


#19

In your statement you assume that positive thinking is the opposite of realistic thinking. They are both sides of two different coins and don’t rule each other out.
The opposite of positive thinking is negative thinking, whereas realistic thinking is the opposite side of unrealistic thinking.
Never in my life I saw any of my friends who thinks in a negative way (what results in an according attitude) achieve anything positive. Of course I saw people with positive thoughts and attitudes fail, because they also thought in an unrealistic way, what led them to take the wrong actions in order to proceed.
The main problem, what I see here on this platform over and over again, it the attitude of complaining and not taking responsibility. People want to own their successes, but always want to blame someone or something else for their failures. Once one decides to also own their failures, a whole new world opens up to them.


#20

That’s called the placebo effect. Some people are highly suggestible and will believe what you tell them if you seem credible. They will think a pill is helping them lose weight even if the pill is a placebo with no effect whatsoever.

The fact that some people can lie to themselves, can convince themselves that reality is whatever they want it to be, does not mean positive thinking is a good thing.

True, but negativity is like positive thinking, a denial of reality, an example of irrationality. Thinking “I will fail” is as harmful as thinking “I will succeed.” Why not just wait and see?