ART BY TIFFANY CHAN
By RANI CHOR
The mantra of today’s motivational gurus is “positivity is priority.”
And in this day and age, this idea is spreading like wildfire due to its alarming promotion on social media—from inspirational TED talks to motivational Instagram posts. As onlookers, we are encouraged to follow this method for the betterment of our lives.
However, in reality, positive thinking does nothing more than give us a false sense of reassurance as well as cripple our ability to find a reliable solution to our problems.
Although positive thinking is meant to boost self confidence and encourage auspicious outcomes, many misinterpret this strategy as an easy way to manage a problem. Say for example, you bought an expensive new coat, but after returning from your fashion spree, you instantly regret your shopping choice. Despite feeling disappointed, you conclude, “at least I have a coat.”
In essence, when we choose to think “positive”, we are only brushing the problem aside and willingly embracing an illusion of happiness. Even worse, over time we instinctively bury the real problem under a stash or excuses such as “All it’ll take is a little while”, or “If I thought of this differently, then that will become a positive change.”
In fact, Wellesley College psychologist Julie Norem, concluded in her 2013 study that “forcing positivity” worsens problems instead of solving them. Furthermore, even as we convince ourselves to be cheerful, we can still be crippled by anxiety in dreaded situations, defeating the purpose of thinking positive. That in turn, leads us to feel like all our efforts are going to waste.
Regardless of how hard we try to change our perspective of the situation, only negativity will emerge from our forced positive mindset. The issue we face will remain the same, and we will become more anxious and unhappy as time goes by.
Ultimately, ignoring the negatives by feebly focusing on the positives is not an effective way to handle our problems. Through positive thinking, it is a common misconception that the best way to solve a problem is to fix our thoughts and not the issue at hand. Consequently, by following this method many are led down a rabbit hole of excuses that only leads them back to square one in their journey towards happiness and success
In order to efficiently reap the awards “positive thinkers” so often idolize, we must take initiative and face the problem head on.
Those who do have focus on bettering themselves through positive thinking instead of trying to fix the situation are the ones who end up living a healthy and well rounded lifestyle. They are not held back from realizing their potential, recognizing opportunities or utilizing their unique talents. Faculty director of the Harvard initiative “Making Caring Common” Rick Weissbourd studied this issue and found that people deal best with problems when they “convert passivity into activity.” Thus, contrary to popular belief, positive thinking is not a one way route to success.
In the end, we all want to say we were successful—but the path to success lies not within the boundaries of positive thinking, but inside of ourselves. Making excuses only creates a false sense of positive reassurance, which in the long run, really is not so positive after all.