When my clients beat themselves up about something, they often stop and say, “I know I should think positive.”
I say no. Positive thinking always feels like a lie. When you’re feeling down on something, trying to think positively about it is like dousing one of those houses on Hoarders with air freshener. It’s only going to make things worse. Strawberry-scented filth is still filth. It’s just infinitely more irritating.
What should you do instead? Think deliberately. Thinking deliberately means thinking the thoughts that are the most true and most empowering.
Here’s an example. A client I was coaching today was struggling with anxiety every time a certain kind of time-sensitive project would come up at work. She would worry about getting behind, and that stressed her out, and then she’d get hyper-focused on the project for a short time, complete it with this frantic energy, and then she’d have to take a break. She was distracted for the rest of her workday because she’d burned up all her energy being frantic.
But here’s the thing about this client: She’s the kind of woman who really gets stuff done. For example, she has a long commute and an important job, but she still gets up early and meets her friend to exercise in the morning before work. She makes things happen. No drama or anxiety at all.
In my mind, that’s a super-power. People with long commutes and important jobs typically don’t make time to exercise. They certainly don’t do it in the morning before a big day. Most people take a pass from exercise in that instance.
So I told her my take on this. She doesn’t need positive thinking when this certain kind of time-sensitive project comes in. Breathing deeply and telling herself, “I know I’ll get it done. I always do, and it will be fine,” isn’t going to work when her mind is screaming at her that she can’t get behind. Rather, she needs deliberate thinking, Her brain is only thinking she can’t get behind because she hasn’t bothered to direct her thoughts to the truth about her super-power—she’s a woman who decides what to do and gets it done. She can in fact get behind, because if she did it would be fine, because she gets things done. And she’ll probably never get behind because of who she is and how she handles her work.
Once she saw the difference between deliberate thinking and positive thinking, the frantic feeling went away and it was replaced by a calm energy that supports focus for her entire workday. Now she gets even more done, and that’s going to inspire a big pay raise at work. It also keeps her from assuaging her stress with sweets.
This is the reason I say kick positive thinking to the curb. Think deliberately, by thinking the thing that is most true and most helpful. It’s a great way to get Rich & Thin.