Positive thinking may be getting in the way of your success.

I know that’s the opposite of what most of the “gurus” will tell you. Heck, it’s the opposite of what I would have told you a decade or so ago.  I would have said “Positive thinking is the most important factor in your results.”

I used to preach positive thinking. In fact, I even spoke at seminars and conferences about it.

You know what I mean. The kind seminars that tell you things like:

  • if it’s negative, don’t think about it
  • don’t give your “energy” (whatever that is) to things you don’t want
  • don’t think about your problems. Instead, focus on your goals
  • write your goal on a card and carry it in your pocket
  • buy magazines with pictures of things that you want and make a “vision board”
  • write and repeat mantras and affirmations about wealth and prosperity

I believed that positive thinking and a “positive mental attitude” was the #1 way to “attract” a large income, an ideal spouse, perfect health and a near-perfect lifestyle.

My thinking on this has changed a lot over the years.

I’m not saying that none of these ideas have merit.

But, I think it should be obvious to everyone by now that merely thinking of something isn’t going to make something happen.

And while that idea might sell a lot of “Secret” DVDs and “law of attraction” workshops, the simple truth is this:

But, you might be thinking: “Okay. Fair enough. But how does that mean that positive thinking might be getting in my way?”

Let me give you an example and then I’ll offer a quick explanation…

I don’t know if you remember a guy named Admiral James Stockdale. He was Ross Perot’s Vice Presidential running mate in the 1992 U.S election.

He didn’t do well as a VP candidate but he had an impressive military career. He was the former president of the Naval War College and the highest ranking officer in the dreaded “Hanoi Hilton” in Viet Nam.

He spent 8 years in Hanoi and was tortured many times by his captors.

Many years later, Stockdale talked about his time as a prisoner-of-war and he said something on this topic of “positive thinking”.

He said that the “optimists” never survived their time in Hanoi simply because they clung too tightly to their dreams of rescue and release. They couldn’t handle the brutal realities of what it took to survive from day to day.

He said that, instead of dealing with the “here and now”, they would talk about how they were going to be home by Christmas….or home by July 4th….or home by their wife’s birthday. And when that day came and went, their spirit and resolve broke just a little more.

Over time, they died because their spirit was extinguished by reality.

It seems like a paradox, doesn’t it?

On one hand, being “too optimistic” led to ruin….but just throwing your hands in the air and giving up wasn’t a solution for surviving, either.

Stockdale explains the paradox this way: “You must never confused faith that you will prevail in the end (which you can never afford to lose) with the discipline that’s required to confront the most brutal facts of your reality, whatever they might be.”

It’s worth repeating:  

In other words, it’s possible to take “positive thinking” too far.
It’s possible to abuse the concept of a “positive mental attitude”.

I’ve seen loved ones who were getting closer and closer to financial ruin every day but they wouldn’t do anything about it because they were certain that the “law of attraction” was going to suddenly make them wealthy.
I’ve seen people refuse to get medical treatment for serious health problems because they just knew the their healing was going to come in a miraculous way.
I’ve seen families destroyed because people thought they could “think their problems away” instead of confronting the real problems that were tearing them apart.

This is what I call “the abuse of positive thinking”.

And I’ve seen entrepreneurs do this, too.

A lot of entrepreneurs are just too optimistic. They aren’t willing to do what it takes to actually learn the formula for success. They think it’s just going to happen because they “attract” it. Or because they have a “positive mental attitude”.

I’ve seen business owners who refused to hone their craft and make changes because they thought that their ability to “attract results” was going to overcome their lack of skill.
I’ve seen entrepreneurs ignore the warning signs in their business because they “don’t allow negativity in their life.”
I’ve seen them get so “high” on their belief in their own ability to “manifest their own reality” that they walked blindly into situations that would be precarious for someone with their eyes wide open.

And they failed.  Time and time again.

All because they thought that the “law of attraction” and “positive thinking” was a substitute for an organized plan and action.

It doesn’t work that way.

The worse part is that a lot of these good, honest people wind up so discouraged by their failure that they become cynical and jaded.  They flip-flop to the extreme other end of the spectrum and buy into the media’s version of the world: everything is hopeless….the world is ending….the game is rigged….there’s nothing you can do about anything….what’s the point of trying?

My friend, both extremes are a recipe for failure.

None of us in business will ever face anything as horrible as the Hanoi Hilton.

At the same time, nothing is worse in business or life than walking into battle armed with nothing but a plastic helmet, a water pistol and a “positive mental attitude”…..only to be cut down by tanks and machine guns.

Do you want to survive? Then prosper?

Here are some precautions that will prepare you for adversity and then ensure your success:

  • Assume that things will take longer than they actually will
  • Assume that the cost of your ads are going up, not down
  • Assume that Facebook or Google is going to slap you sooner or later even if you’ve got the most righteous product on the planet
  • Assume that your favorite traffic source is going to run dry one day and plan accordingly
  • Assume that the buying cycle is longer than it is, not shorter
  • Assume that the product you’re marketing right now may not be what you’re marketing in 3 years. (I know. I know. Do it anyway.)
  • Assume that your company WILL change the compensation plan
  • Assume that your best lead capture page is going to get stagnant and go ahead and get a new one ready
  • Assume that your merchant provider isn’t going to work out and have a Plan B and a Plan C in mind

This is not negativity. This is maturity.

Because, once you’ve made these assumptions, now you really CAN be optimistic!  Now you really can look forward to great success. Because you’ve anticipated every obstacle you can think of and you’ve already got an idea of how you’d get around it.

The other day, one of our mastermind members in our Facebook group was talking about his concern that using some of his most ultra-successful case-studies might seem too unrealistic in his marketing.  It was a true case-study of real results….but it was a little over-the-top in terms of what his prospects could believe.

Here’s what I told him:  “Meet your prospects where they are.  Your most qualified prospects will say ‘no’ because you made it seem too easy than if you made it seem to hard.  Making unrealistic claims only attracts unrealistic people….and they’re the ones that are going to get sabotaged by their own lack of perspective anyway.  Everyone loses.”

You’re far better off just telling people honestly what to expect.

Don’t encourage people to think that there will never be problems or snags.  Because, guess what? There will be problems and snags.  As sure as the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west….there will be problems and snags.

It’s far better to tell people the truth so they understand what’s ahead of them. That way they don’t die of a broken heart when Christmas comes around and they’re not out of Hanoi just yet.

And here’s the best part: people who are prepared for the tough roads will make it. It’s the ones who are caught off guard who tend to fall by the wayside.

Positive thinking is important. Never doubt it.  But, positive thinking becomes even more powerful when you temper it with maturity and common-sense.

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