Positive thinking, gah!

Listed by Farnam Street as one of its top psychology publications of 2012, a book about the positive power of negative thinking wouldn't seem like a natural pick-me-up. My thought? Finally! Here's a book I can relate to.

I'm just kidding.

I think. But what if positive thinking were a problem, a roadblock in the way of innovation? Oliver Burkeman:

Ancient philosophers and spiritual teachers understood the need to balance the positive with the negative, optimism with pessimism, a striving for success and security with an openness to failure and uncertainty. The Stoics recommended 'the premeditation of evils,' or deliberately visualizing the worst-case scenario. This tends to reduce anxiety about the future: when you soberly picture how badly things could go in reality, you usually conclude that you could cope. Besides, they noted, imagining that you might lose the relationships and possessions you currently enjoy increases your gratitude for having them now. Positive thinking, by contrast, always leans into the future, ignoring present pleasures.

Mentioning Tony Robbins, who famously urges his seminar attendees to visualize success, Burkeman points out that one fire-walker at a Robbins' event manages, despite the participant's cheery affirmations, to get burned.

Mr. Robbins reportedly encourages firewalkers to think of the hot coals as 'cool moss.' Here’s a better idea: think of them as hot coals. And as a San Jose fire captain, himself a wise philosopher, told The Mercury News: 'We discourage people from walking over hot coals."

Imagine that.


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