Why Positive Thinking Won't Always Work

Think positive.

Think happy thoughts.

Your thoughts can change your reality.

It’s likely that you’ve heard at least one, or maybe all three, of these statements many times before—in blog articles, online memes, books, magazine, YouTube videos and TedTalks, and of course, from the well-intended advice from loved ones and friends. Positive thinking has become a pretty major buzz word for at least the past three decades. Concepts related to The Secret along with the popularity and research supporting Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have brought positive thinking to the forefront of all-things self-development-related.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not minimizing the importance of positive thinking, but I do believe it should come with a warning label.

Hanging our hopes on positive thinking could potentially be a recipe for disappointment. It’s important to identify negative thinking patterns and if you’ve succeeded at replacing negative thoughts and beliefs with more positive thinking then you are well on your way to benefiting from improved mood, self-esteem, and certainly better quality of life overall. It’s likely that you can see a lot of changes in your life simply by practicing positive thinking. But, don’t stop at just your thoughts. Action, decision-making, and initiating change are the key players if you want to take your self-development to the next level. Your positive thinking must align with positive behaviors. Below I will discuss how.

Taking Action

When I encourage you to take action, I mean that you must identify the specific tasks and activities you need to accomplish to truly turn your life around. Positive thinking sets the stage for action, but it is through decisive behaviors that you will get things done. You can take action by setting goals—and don’t be afraid to aim high and set ambitious expectations for yourself. You can also create objectives for each goal you set. Objectives help you break down your goals into the progressive, manageable steps you need to take to succeed. Then, set a timeline for goal completion and stick to it. Once you accomplish your goals, set new ones. This is an ongoing process. It is real action—putting your positivity to work.


Decision-making is related to taking action, but involves the additional element of commitment. Positive thinking will help you see yourself and the world around you from a whole new perspective; now, make a decision to improve the aspects of your life that are in need of change. Decision-making is like showing you mean business—you’re not just talking the talk. Remember that positive thoughts only take you so far and you don’t want to risk staying stuck in this new ‘happy place’ you’ve created in your mind. Make your positivity a reality in your life by deciding that you are committing to changing your behaviors.

Don’t be Afraid of Change

Once you get the hang of positive thinking, the exercise becomes much easier and more habitual. This is a good thing, but once a self-development task becomes too easy, it’s time to increase the challenge and step out of your comfort zone. This is where goals, objectives, and behavior change applies. But don’t be afraid of the changes that lie ahead for you. Some people struggle here because change involves challenging yourself—putting yourself out there, trying new things, and even putting yourself at risk for failure and disappointment. In your self-development, it is the setbacks, not the wins, where your learning and progress takes place. So, invite change into your life without fear or hesitation. If you value and practice positive thinking, you are ready to make these your new, positive thoughts a part of your reality.

Copyright ©2019-Current by DRM Scholars, LLC. All rights reserved.


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