Follow Friday + Nicki’s Personal Updates: Why Positive Thinking Sucks

Positive Thinking Sucks

Seth Godin says you have to occasionally say things to grab readers’ attention, and I guess this is one of those times.

Longtime readers of the FutureDerm blog know that I’m always about personal improvement. My favorite titles include works like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and Finding Your North Star by Martha Beck. Amongst other things, these books emphasize the importance of having a vision, setting goals, making a plan, sticking to it no matter what, and having a positive mental attitude.

So where does my issue with positive thinking come in?

Simple: When you are doing so much positive thinking that you are failing to do positive things. That gets you into trouble.

I am blessed to have incredible friends. My one friend is absolutely brilliant and wants to write a book. And could, admittedly, write a best-seller. Another wants to start her own business. But month after month goes by, and when we meet up, they still say they want to do these things. They’re thinking about it, figuring out when to start, trying to meet the right people. They have their vision boards, their goals, their ideas and their outlines, but they just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Here’s a secret: The only way to achieve anything is to start. You don’t have to wait for the right time, the right team, or even to build the right skills. You learn in this life by doing. Failing is inevitable. If you learn to see mistakes as lessons, you’ll get far in this world. One of my favorite stories involves a Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry: “I got here because of my mother. When I was two years old, I spilled milk on the floor. She asked, ‘Oh, mistakes happen. How do we make this right? Do you want to use the mop? A dishtowel?’ Ever since, I was never afraid to make mistakes.” She had the patience not to shame him for his mistake, but to teach him how to correct it. In turn, his tens of thousands of failed experiments in the lab lead to the one that worked. Most other scientists were too afraid to try all the failed approaches.

There are no right times. Life changes. People get married, divorced, pregnant, have miscarriages, or die. Yes, this is morbid, but folks, this is life. If there is something you want to do, start. You can quit your day job, or you can devote an hour a day to it and slowly build it up on the side. But you have to start.

Personally, I think the right time for positive thinking and personal development books is when you feel stuck. If you wake up in the morning feeling less than motivated, read the motivational books or listen to the tapes just long enough to feel inspired. If you are working and want to quit, read the books or listen to the audio. Shift your perspective when you need to, but keep on moving.

Whether you like it or not, what makes you successful in this world is what you give to others, not what you give to yourself. You have to keep on creating, producing, and doing to succeed — feed yourself what mental fuel you need to get moving and keep going, but don’t immerse yourself in it and delude yourself that your thoughts are work. Your real work is being done when you are starting to fail, you’re uncomfortable, you don’t know what to do. That’s when you’re growing.

Do work. And make it beautiful. That’s what life is all about.

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