For people tired of being told to "think positively"

"think positively" is a staple of pop psychology, bad advice from well-meaning friends, and the life coaches who talk a lot about "manifesting".

It will supposedly lead you to achieve everything you hope to achieve and allow you to never be afraid of failure again. Here's the main problem with thinking positively...

We never believe it.

Trying to convince yourself of something you don't actually believe is thoroughly ineffective. In fact, it often backfires and can send you into a tailspin of negative self-talk in response.

The logic behind thinking positively is legitimate. It's true that behind every action we take is a thought. And if we were able to reverse the thoughts that hold us back we would easily be able to create the change we want in our lives.

But, unfortunately, that's not how it plays out. Instead, we confuse ourselves by sending mixed messages and we berate ourselves for not being able to bypass our negative thinking.

 

Let me give you an example.

Corinne really wanted the promotion at work. But she felt that she didn't deserve it and that she would embarrass herself by applying for it.

Her co-workers told her not to think that way, "You deserve it, Corinne! You just need to believe you deserve it and that will make Jim believe it, too. Then you'll definitely get the promotion." Corinne blushed and thanked them for their kind words, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn't believe what they said.

The more she thought about it the more nervous she was about applying and the angrier she was that she didn't have the guts to do it. The picture in her head of Jim awkwardly having to tell her that she didn't qualify was just too much to overcome. In the end, the promotion came and went and all she was left with was the disappointment in herself that she couldn't shake.

It's not exactly a happy story. But it is darn familiar.

I've had countless moments where I've been frozen in place trying to convince myself out of my negative thoughts. And all I've gotten from it is more self-blame.

 

Instead of making change through denying negative thoughts, my approach is to make change through acceptance of them.

This is done through 1. allowing the thoughts and feelings in and 2. choosing to act imperfectly.

Here's how it would look for Corinne:

Instead of telling her that she just needs to believe in herself, one of Corinne's friends, Laura, tells her that her fears are totally legitimate.

Corinne tells Laura about the image she has of Jim rejecting her application. Even though Corinne wishes she was more self-confident, she tells Laura that she is afraid to make a fool of herself and can't actually imagine herself getting the promotion. It feels good to admit what she is feeling, rather than pushing it away. Laura asks her, "So, what do you want to do?" Corinne thinks about this for a while and says, "I want to find a way to apply even though I'm afraid."

This is Corinne's first step toward making change and the trick to overcoming negative thoughts.

 

You get to choose how to act in the face of your thoughts.

You are allowed to be scared out of your mind of failing and still take the leap. You are allowed to believe you don't deserve something and seek it out anyway.

And the real secret is this: taking imperfect action in the face of your fears leads to positive thinking.

Because you will teach yourself that your fears don't always come true.

And that even if they do, the risk is sometimes worth it.

And that you do deserve the promotion.

The action has to come first and the positive thoughts will follow. I know this is not what you are used to hearing, so I'll say it again:

You need to take imperfect action to learn positive thinking.

The effect may not be immediate - there are plenty of times I've taken a risk and continued to be in a negative thinking spiral afterward.

But this is a long game.

And over time, the more you give yourself agency to act in the face of negative thoughts, the more you will experience your worthiness.

 

And before you know it, you might just start to believe it.

 

If you want support in creating the life you want even while accepting your negative thoughts, check out my newest coaching program here!

 

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