Positive thinking is an exercise in futility.

– Gbolade Ogunfowote

The natural progression of thoughts to results popularized by motivational speakers is true.

Thoughts → Feelings → Actions → Results

Just like we try to beat gravity by inventing airplanes and drones. People have tried to beat the natural thought process by inventing positive thinking. Positive thinking is meant to be a hack that alters the process, and trust me it does work, for a while. You see, the challenge with thoughts is that they are very fluid, same goes for feelings. I think it’s futile to measure this, but it’s estimated that humans have thousands of thoughts per day. If we follow this natural progression, then we probably should produce thousands of different results. This kind of proves that thoughts don’t matter all that much, but I know another argument (which I believe to be true) is that it’s not individual thoughts that matter, but patterns of thinking.

Patterns of thoughts produce our feelings, so when we have several thoughts around a certain issue, we start to feel a certain way, then those feelings eventually get us to act in a certain way. That’s the theory. The “clever” thing was to hack thoughts, so if we can think positive thoughts, we’ll feel positive, then act positively, then produce positive results. BULLSHIT!

Thinking positively goes against animal and thus human nature. Think about the fight or flight response. It evolved to save our lives when we’re in danger, thinking positively when someone is shooting at you would help you end up in a body bag, fleeing or shooting back gives you a chance at life. If I were to hack thinking in any way, I would recommend pragmatic thinking.

To see live examples of pragmatic thinking in action, go to the ants or the protective mother hen. Pragmatic thinking requires that we assess situations objectively and evaluate them based on our knowledge and experience. Let us consider for a moment the definition of the word “pragmatic”.

Dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.

– Oxford English Dictionary

How do you think pragmatic thinking helps improve the thinking-action value chain? It produces the optimal results. The positive mother hen would soon be childless if she thinks hawks are wonderful creatures created by a wonderful God and they can do no harm but just want to take her kids for a ride. The worker ant would soon be extinct if he feels winter is just a beautiful season created by a beautiful God and would bring with it it’s own blessings. It’s okay to be angry, hostile, selfish, violent, skeptical, cynical, competitive etc. none of these are positive but, in some instances, your wellbeing and success in life just may depend on them. Appraise matters pragmatically, don’t be a pessimist or an optimist, be a pragmatist!

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