There is a big, happy, smiling, cloud shading our world from the UV light and it’s called positive thinking. It very well might be the same cloud from the Mario video game franchise, but I’m not sure, I’m not a scientist. Positive thinking or optimism is as American as apple pie, and Oprah Winfrey is serving us the slice with her gentle, warm, you-can-do-it-too Oprah smile. Go ahead, take the slice and grab the chair over there next to Tony Robbins. I know you want to, I want to. Positive thinking works well because we the people enjoy the idea of feeling good and believing life gets better everyday. It’s a great legal drug that’s being pushed on us and we all take the drug eyes-wide-open, hearts on our sleeve, smiling as we inject the sweet medicine into our veins.
Self help books and pop culture have made a fortune prescribing optimism and the benefits are well, what can I say? They’re beneficial. The popular narrative is when you think positively, your dreams will come true, you’ll wake up with a million dollars and you’ll start farting rainbows. Myself, a born realist, was enticed by the sheer thought of farting a rainbow. Thus I swallowed my pride and became an optimist. I do not regret it.
However, it wasn’t until very recently that fate struck his forceful hand and I read a Carl Jacobi quote that said “Invert always invert.” As my eyes soaked in these iron words, it was at this exact moment that my brain began to ponder and then I knew I was fucked. Not in a bad way, not in a sexual way, and not even in a good way. I was mind fucked, my beliefs had been challenged and my eyes were jarred opened to the power of pessimistic thinking.
So welcome to the dark side my friend, the pessimistic side, the side where the forecast is bleak and you just miss the morning cut off for breakfast at McDonalds. I’m here to walk you through the benefits of pessimistic thinking in relation to goal setting, problem solving and trouble shooting. To appreciate the value of pessimistic thinking I’m first going to address how positive thinking can fail us.
How Positive Thinking Can Fail Us.
When we optimistically set goals for ourselves, or optimistically seek to solve problems, our heart is in the correct place but our mind isn’t. Essentially, what we are doing is blowing hot, helium air up our ass and waiting to float. I’ll be fair, who doesn’t like the helium treatment? I won’t judge you. I’m a converted optimist remember? Pinky promise. I even go to the meetings damnit! We drink and laugh with our optimistic, grab-the-world-by-its-balls friends and ignore our the tingly, subtle pain in our Achilles heal. I’m here to tell you that there is a chink in the amour of positive thinking. Positive thinking can fail us in two ways, as it doesn’t prepare us for the worst case scenario, and it doesn’t motivate us to work harder.
Most are aware of the expression “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst” Most also fail to apply this expression. The problem with only thinking positively, is when you filter out the worst case scenario, and if you ever fall into it, it lives up to it’s title: The worst case scenario. Once you are in the worst case scenario, there isn’t any amount of positive thinking that can lift you from the icy depths. You will find yourself surprised, frustrated, hurt and your heart will suffer greatly. Yes, positive thinking is a great tool to ease your mind but addressing the issues head on is the only way to climb out, and it’s an uphill, rocky, unforgiving climb.
Hey Bro. So I totally just meditated that I’m the man, and I’m going to make a million dollars today. After I catch some waves, I can just go to the bank and it’ll magically appear right? Wrong. Bro. An issue with positive thinking is although it’s great to envision what you want as it forces you to work towards your goals; we often miss the key word, work. Many die-hard optimist thinkers succeed in identifying their goal but fail to work towards their goal. No amount of positive or wishful thinking will make anything magically appear. Sorry, no refunds. It’s when you actually begin to work towards your goals, is when you start to notice the coincidences and the opportunities start to “Magically” appear; don’t tell Houdini. By focusing in on what you want with laser precision, you can then intelligently work towards achieving your goals. Pretty crazy right? They don’t even teach that at Hogwarts anymore.
How To Positively Pessimistically Think.
Pessimistic thinking has gotten a bad wrap for years. Hell, I’ve even been the guy that wielded a pitchfork, a torch and led a million man march to a pessimist’s house with optimistically dark intentions…
Reading the quote “Invert always invert” has completely flipped the switch on me and it was a forceful flip. It forced me to factor in pessimistic thinking or in other words, inversion thinking.
So what is inversion thinking? Inversion thinking is looking at problems from the perspective of what is the number one thing I can do to guarantee that I wont reach my desired outcome.
This is beautifully simple logic which shows the true power of pessimistic thinking in relation to goal setting, problem solving and trouble shooting. It allows us to clearly identify our worst cast scenario, which then in turn provides us with a game plan to achieve success. After all, if you spend your time avoiding failure you are sure to win!
Let us use the example of trying to loose weight. Cliché’ I know. Common? Yes. If you wanted to guarantee that you wouldn’t lose weight what would you do?
- Eat junk food
- Never workout
- Drink soda
- Never eat healthy food
- Never be active
- Spend your free time watching TV
Inversion thinking clearly lists the steps of what exactly to do if we don’t want to achieve our goals. The path to success is usually the opposite of what we wrote down. If you wanted to be healthy you would
- Not eat junk food.
- Not drink soda
- Eat healthy food
- Be active
- Watch less TV
You see, knowing exactly what not to do gives us the clearest plan of what exactly to do. This is the merit of pessimistic thinking. This is a cool little hack can also be applied to every situation.
Another benefit of pessimistic thinking is, well, what was the scientific expression for this? Ahh yes, it forces you to pull your head out of your ass. No lube. As stated earlier it is a GOOD thing to know what you want and pursue it with an unrelenting drive. It’s a GREAT thing to be realistic about your approach. Shades of pessimistic thinking allows one to realistically come up with a game plan to achieve your desired results. By no means am I saying be extremely negative and sour with your outlook on life. That in no way shape or form can ever be beneficial to you. Ever. I’m saying use pessimistic thinking so you can set achievable goals opposed to unrealistic goals. It forces you to pull the helium air out of your ass and start working with a guided, tailor-made plan.
Let’s Meet In The Middle and Hold Hands
That’s so 2015 right? The meeting in the middle part that is. There are two sides to every coin, there is good and evil, there is positive and negative energy, there is yin and yang and there is math class and gym class. Knowing that there are two sides to everything is my blessing and my curse.
When it comes to goal setting, problem solving and trouble shooting, the key is to acknowledge both perspectives. Truly apply the expression “Hope for the best but plan for the worst” Truly have a positive outlook on life but be aware of what can go wrong. Truly hope for a better tomorrow but address your pitfalls today. Even the stars in the sky rely on the darkness to magnify their beauty. Most importantly, always address where you can go wrong and work your ass off so it doesn’t happen. Work always wins.
Comment, share, and let me know how pessimistic thinking has helped you, or combat my views. I don’t care. But I will respond.