Does Positive Thinking Actually Work?
Some people have the impression that positive thinking is strictly about feigning happiness all of the time. But if you talk to people who have done it in this way, you will likely figure out sooner or later that that’s not how positive thinking actually works. That’s because if you don’t really believe, feel, or at least enjoy what you are thinking, all you will be doing is feeding your insecurities and doubts even more.
One thing that is often attached to positive thinking is affirmations. When I first learned about affirmations it seemed like such an easy concept. Just recite to yourself over and over what you want as if you already have it and, voila, there it will be. But after doing this again and again, and seeing no tangible results, I quickly started to doubt the power of affirmations altogether.
But I was wrong to doubt affirmations. You see, affirmations are not the problem. The problem is when we do not believe what we are telling ourselves. For example, if the point of doing affirmations is to put yourself in the feeling of already having that which you desire (whether it is a thing, experience, or state of being), saying to yourself over and over, “I am blah blah blah” doesn’t actually make sense. That’s because if you already had what you desired you probably wouldn’t be affirming it to yourself.
For example, if you were driving your dream car, you wouldn’t be affirming to yourself, “I am now driving my dream car” or “I now have my dream car” over and over again because you would already be driving it, and that would be stating the obvious. I mean, who does that? Who sits there as they are doing something or enjoying having something and affirms to themselves out loud, “I am now doing this and I am now having that”? They don’t. They just do it and have it. You see, by affirming what you want when you don’t have it, it actually indicates to your subconscious mind even more that you don’t yet have what you want, because if you did already have it, you wouldn’t be affirming it.
So instead, what I have learned is to put my affirmations in the context of appreciation. So instead of saying to myself, “I am this” or “I have that” I would simply feel appreciation. So with the car example, I would think, “I appreciate that I have this car and I love the experience it provides me. This feels amazing and I am so grateful.” So even if I don’t yet have the car, I end up getting into the feeling of actually having the car because I am so focused on how it would feel to experience it. I am focused on the thoughts I would actually be having if I already had my dream car, not if I was wishing for it. So the affirmation, in this case, is really just a catalyst for a visualization exercise that evokes the feeling of having that which I desire. I could also simply just focus on what I love about my dream car and think about it without any attachment to any specific outcome. This will then cause me to focus on the car that I love without the pressure to manifest it (since pressure comes from yearning and yearning causes doubt and subsequent resistance).
To illustrate further, if you desire to be more confident, stating to yourself that you are confident might bring up more doubt. But telling yourself that you appreciate this skill that you have or that talent, and learning to accept and appreciate yourself for who you are now, can indeed create the confidence you seek, as can envisioning what it would be like to feel more confident in general. And to be honest, often just saying, “thank you” and feeling appreciative for everything you already have can bring about wonderful results.
In truth, positive thinking is more about shifting your perceptions than it is about faking your happiness or repressing your real emotions. You can never truly fool yourself anyway. And so, if you have underlying negative feelings or beliefs about something, telling yourself you don’t have those feelings won’t work. You need to actually deal with that resistance first if true positive messages are going to resonate with you. In fact, if you don’t deal with your inner thoughts, feelings, reactions, and beliefs first then you will feel even more resistance to positive thinking, no matter how many times you repeat your affirmations. I mean, have you ever tried to tell yourself that you are happy while in the midst of a temper tantrum? How effective would that even be? Or have you tried to recite to yourself that you love your job when you are at work doing a job that you hate? If you don’t feel it, if you don’t believe it, it won’t be true for you. But, if you find something to appreciate in the moment as you are doing what you are doing, with an intention to manifest something even better, then you are at least in the space of receiving that which you are affirming to yourself.
Positive thinking is not a magic pill. It is simply a means of shifting your awareness and focus onto appreciating and enjoying the things, experiences, and people you love. It is about finding the silver lining in your life, or if you feel like you can’t do that in the moment, it is about trusting in a higher purpose and even looking for one. It is about looking at the bigger picture, finding reasons to be appreciative now (even down to noticing the minute reasons you have to be happy), and seeing life as a learning experience.
Being positive in order to attain positive results, then, only works when you do the inner work to actually become happier or, at the very least, to allow yourself to be open to happiness. Being positive works when you release your expectations and agendas and embrace life as an adventure and an opportunity to create your dream life by believing that you can. It is simply about being in the moment and finding the joy in your experiences, or creating as much joy in your experiences as you possibly can.
We often think we need to imagine what we want in order to manifest it. We also think we need to affirm what we want over and over with discipline and a perpetually positive attitude. But maybe manifesting what we desire is even simpler than that. I watched a documentary with Michael Caine called "My Generation" and he said something I found quite interesting. He said that he never thought he would ever be famous, yet he did in fact become quite famous. Now I am not sure if he just didn't believe he could achieve fame or if he didn't actually care to be famous, but that begs the question, "Do we actually need to affirm, visualize, and be positive about a goal in order to attain it?" From the movie it seemed like he just wanted to act because he enjoyed it. It seemed like he would just go with the flow enjoying his craft and taking opportunities as they came. So maybe the lesson from this is to do what you love and enjoy for the passion of it and then the means to sustain that passion will joyously show up through various opportunities. Maybe the lesson is not to worry so much about outcomes but instead to be positive just for the joy of it.
I know for me what has worked so far is simply believing in possibilities and continuing to live my life in the most authentic way I know how. Plus, the more relaxed I am with my yearning, the easier manifesting becomes. The times I manifest
opportunities and synchronicities with the most ease seem to be the times when I don't think too hard about it. Sometimes I visualize in advance what it would be like to be/do/have that manifestation. And sometimes I simply notice something I like without deeper consideration. But most of all, it is when I put one foot in front of the other and take one inspired action after the next towards my desires that each step naturally unfolds when it is the right time. And the common thread throughout has always been staying true to myself and ensuring that I am not sabotaging myself with too much self-doubt or fear.