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Why Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work

If you work with me, you might think that I’m pretty pessimistic. I wouldn’t consider myself pessimistic, but one who doesn’t dwell only on the positives. Thinking positive is a great thing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that positivity is going to occur. Just like anticipating the good, one must also anticipate the bad and pivot when things start to shake.

The problem with positive thinking is that it’s very superficial. No one really thinks about the underlying events that occur if everything is fine all the time. Being unreasonably optimistic can be detrimental to one’s mental state in the form anxiety and depression. Having self assuring affirmation could work wonders for someone who has a lot of confidence, but backfire for those who may not only because actions may not meet expectations.

To be clear, I’m not saying that positive thinking is a bad thing. I’m saying that you’re going to need more more than good thoughts.

Elicit Feedback

With everything you do, make sure you do it while asking others for feedback. You can’t accomplish anything worthwhile on your own. While you’re on your journey, be sure allow people to track your progress. THe better you get, the more people will notice, and more you’ll feel better about yourself. If you suffer a setback, thinking positive thoughts isn’t going to turn it around. In this case, you’ll actually have a support system that console and consult with you as you pick yourself up. The positive action you set will get you back on track.

Measure Your Progress

If you’re looking to achieve a goal. Track where you are and where you are going. A goal is just a step of actions that get you there, so when you progres, check the action off your list. Again thinking about how you will get there is not the same as doing the steps. While you make progress and log them in, you can look back at something tangible, whereas positive thoughts are not.


A good reason why thinking good thoughts about achieving a goal isn’t healthy is because it takes away an important aspect of getting things done: accountability. If you’re not accountable all of the positive thoughts in the world won’t help you. No matter how good you think, nothing is handed to you, so you’re going to have to do a bit more.

Be Realistic

The last thing that people jump on me about not positively thinking is saying that I’m too pessimistic. I don’t think I’m pessimistic. I think I dwell in the realms of reality. To say that nothing negative is going to happen is unrealistic. We don’t live in a perfect world. Things aren’t going to roll the way you’ll want and your positive thoughts won’t detour you from negativity.

I don’t want to end this article on a downer. The problem with positive thinking in this scenario is that people don’t want anything bad to happen and when it does it derails everything they worked on. They flame out instead of overcoming. We have to accept that negative things can happen, but also know that we can overcome any obstacle.