Hey man. How about we turn down the pep talks, okay? Yes, we understand the importance of mindset. Yes, we understand the importance of positivity. But the truth is, positive thinking doesn’t yield positive results.
I know what’s coming next, and that’s the whole “stop being a negative Nancy” routine. And you know, I think you should apologize to Nancy’s everywhere. You’re giving them a bad rap. Besides, I’m not negative, I’m pragmatic. I’m a realist. The fact, I repeat FACT, that life is often cold and bitter is not lost on me. Quite the opposite, actually; I revel in it.
But whoah Tim, how can you actually revel in the cruelty of an uncaring world and the entropy and eternal decay that is said world?
Well I’m glad you asked, me, because I’m going to talk about it whether you like it or not. If you can’t stomach things that aren’t puffy and fuzzy, just close this and go to r/Eyebleach instead.
STUFF IS DIFFICULT
Uggh stuff is so hard! A positive outlook isn’t going to change the difficulty level of any task. Now it CAN help give you a little more mental stamina and be better able to face those difficulties, but you also have to understand that it doesn’t mean you will overcome them. Sometimes we fail, even through our best planning and effort.
The problem is that the disciples of positive thinking tend to think that you WILL overcome because you’ve repeated the mantra enough. I can call myself a duck over and over, but that doesn’t mean I’m a duck. I can say it all I want and it’ll never happen, because positive thinking can’t force change. Change takes hard work, and sometimes change can’t happen. That’s just the truth.
It’s true that when you believe you’ll fail you will most likely fail. And it’s true that believing you will succeed will give you a better shot at succeeding. But simply believing you will succeed means nothing without the work required to make it happen, and some tasks require soul crushing, bone grinding work. Don’t gloss that over in favor of hype men and catch phrases.
THE WORLD ISN’T NICE
What’s that? Staying positive and peppy will attract positive and peppy people? Well, you’re right about that. It’s true. You do attract people who hold similar beliefs as you.
However, that doesn’t mean the world is positive and peppy. In fact, it can be downright mean. Real mean. Bad things happen, bad people abound, and there will be those who wish you harm. Or worse yet, those who CAUSE you harm.
You can’t change this. Well, not with a peppy positive attitude. Take it from a surly curmudgeon like myself: negative people hate peppy. My fucking god, why are you so happy? We have 40 million unemployed people and you’re happy? Take a dose of reality for Christ sake.
Half of that was tongue in cheek, but the rest stands true. You cannot change the bad with a good attitude and a smile. The average person would rather hear something that’s more grounded in their experience, which is generally bad. Being a cheerleader for positive thinking won’t push them toward a better life, but approaching them with realism and providing practical solutions to how they should think about the world will absolutely change them over time.
Why won’t positive thinking and cheerleading work? Because it makes them angry. Just ask someone and they’ll back that up.
AGAIN, I’M NOT A DUCK
Positive thinking simply can’t make some things happen. Fuck, positive thinking and hard work together can’t make some things happen. If you’re blind, you can’t be a Nascar driver. If you’re quadriplegic, you can’t play in the NBA. Facts is facts.
No matter how positive you are or how much work you put in, sometimes you need to know when to quit. If you’ve been pursuing an acting career for 10 years and still can’t land a toothpaste commercial, maybe you should be reevaluating.
I support trying. If you pursued the acting career and failed, at least you’ll know you tried and can’t regret never going for it. After all, if you don’t try, you’ll never know if you can do it. Every great thing ever done was because someone tried.
But also every failure. Every failure happens because someone tries. And that’s where positive thinking let’s you down. It talks about every great thing done because people try, but then doesn’t add in “but a lot of people try and fail.” That’s important. Not to drag anyone down, but to be realistic about the fact that not everything is for everyone, and we don’t all hold the same skill sets and abilities.
There’s nothing wrong with failing. Failing is good. A nice, solid loss will teach you a lot if you let it. Quite often, people stumble into something they love and are good at because they fail at something else. Don’t be so single minded that you can’t take an L and move on.
In the end, everything I talk about comes back to my ideas about positivity, nihilism, and the sliding scale of positive and negative. That scale goes from absolute perfection on the one end down to death on the other, but you’re more often in the middle. To me, positivity isn’t necessarily hoping for the perfection on the one end, but understanding that no matter your outcome, there’s things on the lower end.
It’s hard to be let down when you keep in mind that no matter what happens there could be a worse outcome. It’s a lot easier to be let down when you look at it the other way and wonder why it wasn’t better.
In other words, when you don’t die, you did alright.