What’s Wrong with Positive Thinking?

Whenever I talk so enthusiastically about entrepreneurship, a few people really feel the need to correct me. They say that positive thinking is naïve, oversimplified and at best just a placebo. The serious pessimists love to point out that nothing so simple as positive thinking can be true. My job is not to prove them wrong, because at a gut level, I just know that positive thinking works.

What comes first; Success or Happiness? In the western world we are often obsessed with achieving success. We work hard and push hard for success to happen in the expectation that it will bring us happiness. Is this like a law of nature or a math formula? If Success, then Happiness?

Psychologists have proven that those people who experience happiness (even if only momentary each day) are much more successful than others. They are better at securing jobs, better at keeping their jobs, exhibit superior job performance, are more resilient, experience less burn-out, lower turnover and they even excel at sales (Lyubomirsky, 2005).

When you are experiencing happiness – even if only for a moment – your brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels increase. These chemicals act as neuro-accelerators and actually allow your brain to work more efficiently.

If this formula works so well, then can we turn it around? Can we reverse the formula and actually teach people to experience happiness? A recent Harvard study has shown phenomenal results. Quite simply they have given subjects a simple set of tasks to be carried out for 21 days. The results were measured the results over a long period of time afterwards. People who experience even momentary happiness on a daily basis are 31% more productive at work and 37% more effective at sales.

What were the simple tasks they had to perform each day?

  1. List at least 3 things each day that you are grateful for
  2. Write a brief journal entry about these things
  3. Meditate a minimum of 10 minutes per day
  4. Exercise several times each week
  5. Practice random acts of kindness

Again, the hardcore pessimists will argue that there was surely something else going on here. They will claim other factors intervened, but they will never convince me. I just know this is right.

Find Happiness first, then Success will follow you wherever you wander.

Entrepreneurs: Do what you love and love what you do. Find a way to be happy WHILE you are on the road to success.

Watch the following TED talk by Shawn Achor and figure out how to bring happiness into each day of your life.

One Reply to “What’s Wrong with Positive Thinking?”

  1. Hey Rick,
    Thanks. You know I’ve had this philosophy for a while and Neal seems to be operating from Fear right now. thanks for some other perspectives. (It’s not just me)

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