The problem with positive thinking, and what works even better
The Shortcoming of Positive Thinking – And What Works Even Better
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a natural born optimist. I have a super-human (maybe slightly annoying) talent of detecting the silver lining in even the direst of circumstances. Flight canceled – lovely, more time to read our books! Fraud on my business debit card – smashing, I’ll save money until my new card comes in! Any stumbling block can be a learning experience, or at the very least a statistical sign that nothing else could possibly go wrong.
I believe – why not make the conclusions, assumptions, and predictions that put us in the most useful mental state? Why not believe and have confidence and move forward happily.
But, positive thinking can only take you so far.
Remember YIN and YANG and the BALANCE of two interconnected dualities?
You can’t force positivity or ask for only one side of the equation. Sometimes you will feel up and supported and sometimes you will feel down and challenged. And that’s ok. Banging yourself over the head with positive thinking can end up just suppressing your true feelings. We must allow ourselves to feel the full spectrum of feelings. You can’t tell yourself to NOT feel something.
Problems arise when we think we have to be upbeat all the time. In fact, anger and sadness are an important part of life. Unpleasant feelings are equally important as the enjoyable ones and help us make sense of life’s ups and downs and to navigate our lives towards a sense of meaning, growth and self-understanding. Attempting to suppress them can backfire and reduce our sense of contentment.
Our feelings are here to teach us something. We should listen to them. And seek to uncover our true feelings, desires and beliefs. Suppressing our thoughts can even be harmful.
No matter how much we crank up the positive thinking, and no matter how much we work on our mindset… it won’t get us anywhere if that positive thinking doesn’t honestly and truly reflect our emotions. If it’s not CONGRUENT with our core and subconscious beliefs.
Positive thinking is just delusional wishful thinking unless it’s IN ALIGNMENT with our intentions and true feelings and beliefs.
We must become congruent with the things we say we want. When I say I want something and yet I hold on to things or act in ways that are not in alignment with that…. That leads to incongruence, a dissonance or chaotic “vibration”. And it will block me from attaining what I think you desire.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say I want to lose weight, and this evening I get on my scale in order to see where I stand in relation to my goal. I notice the scale jumped to 145 lbs. Let’s say my goal is 130 and to be fit and strong. So that’s good, it should motivate me to keep working towards the goal. However, instead of working out and eating healthy, I eat a piece of cake and go to bed. That is what you call an obvious incongruence.
And let’s say I also want clothes that flatter me and make me feel good. But I won’t get rid of my “fat jeans” or clothes that are way too big and frumpy, “in case” I need them some day. I won’t let them go. Years go by and still there they are, at the top of my closet, leering down at me.
The question would be this: Do I REALLY want to lose weight or believe I will lose weight? Does my conscious mind say “I want to lose weight and be fit” but my subconscious mind say: “You’ll never be fit, you’ll always be pleasantly plump, you better just learn to love yourself the way you are”?
And those fat jeans? Every time I see them I’m sending my subconscious the message that I believe so deeply in my failure that I’m holding on to things to support and affirm that possibility.
We need to pay attention to what we are telling our subconscious minds, and what our subconscious minds are telling us.
You may say, “I want to have a busy practice and pay off my student loans” but if in your Unconscious the message is being countered with: “You?…You’ll never amount to anything,” what is going to be the result?
These subconscious self-limiting beliefs can block our success. But we can change them! First we have to bring them into the light and address them. This is why one of the first things I do with the acupuncturists I coach is address their beliefs around money and profit, and address their beliefs about marketing. We do exercises to uncover and then shift their beliefs, to be something more congruent with what they truly desire.
Unless you stop and think about it, and instead just hammer yourself with “positivity”, you will be unaware of the unconscious thought. All that you will probably be aware of is a slight sense of unease or something not being quite right An internal conflict may result and this will lead to incongruent behavior. This explains why saying an affirmation, or positive statement about yourself, sometimes does not work.
Try this little experiment: Don’t think of purple dancing elephants.
What happened? You had to think of purple dancing elephants and THEN use your mind to somehow negate the thought. In other words, every time you use a negative your brain is first registering the exact opposite of what you mean.
Have you ever thought, “I don’t want to fail,” “I don’t want to be in this job all my life,” “I must not be lazy about my marketing”? Think about it…by the time your brain has got to the “don’t” or “must not,” your whole body has already received the message: fail, stay in the job, be a lazy marketer.
So if you want to think positively, the key question to ask yourself is: “If I don’t want “X”, what do I want in its place?”
Answering this question precisely gives your brain something to work toward. The more you can specify what you will see, hear and feel, the more the brain is given a map to create new solutions and guide it to its outcome.
So, if you find yourself thinking something like, “I don’t want to be nervous in front of a group,” ask yourself, “What would I be doing instead?” You might answer: “I will have steady hands, breathe easily, feel relaxed in my stomach, make eye contact, have a clear voice, be humorous, etc. etc.” The more detailed and specific you are, the better.
What you believe and what you say to yourself have a tremendous impact on what happens to you and what kind of life you’ll lead. You are the creator of your own destiny. You write the script of your life with every thought. The more self worth and love you have for yourself, the more prosperity and success you will achieve.
When you LIVE CONGRUENTLY and address your core beliefs and desires, a quantum leap will occur in your life. Desire becomes passion. Purpose becomes mission. Need becomes abundance. Ability becomes talent.
And it becomes almost ridiculously easy to achieve fulfillment in life because all the parts of you are working together in the same direction.
Hi! I'm Katie Altneu
I'm an acupuncturist, herbalist, & business teacher
My acupuncture clinic in Denver, CO makes me so happy. It's full enough to support my life, and simple enough to give me peace of mind. I'm a firm believer that bigger is not always better and that we need to "stop the glorification of busy".
I want your acupuncture clinic to be as full as you'd like it to be. I want you to know how to inspire-to-action the people who need you and our medicine. And I believe the best strategies are simple and heartfelt.
Combining my prior education & career in business & finance with my personal experience starting and growing my clinic, I love teaching acupuncturists to master the business side of their clinics. I believe in you and I'm so glad you're here!