• David Strittmatter

How a lack of positive thinking hurts my well-being

Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the aeroplane, the pessimist the parachute - George Bernard Shaw

Summary:

  • Thinking something won't work out will make your disappointment in case of failure feel less harming

  • Yet, optimists suffer significantly less than the opposite in the face of a major challenge and uncertainty

  • You cannot really grasp the significant change in well-being until you try it for yourself.


Practical advice:

  • Every person can learn positive thinking

  • Being optimistic is a decision - a decision one has to make every day again

  • Stop social comparisons - the only way to be always positively minded is to compare oneself with the person who you were yesterday


Dear friend,


This week, I was reminded once again how vital positive thinking is to my well-being.


I somehow felt less energy and motivation than usual in the last month, and I couldn't really tell why. When I paid more attention to this issue during my monthly reflection, I also realized that my overall happiness suffered. Digging deeper, I came to the conclusion that the drop of my well-being was due to a lack of positive thinking.


Right after this realization, I took care of this behavioral change. I told myself to be more optimistic and think positive in face of difficulties and challenges again. As a result, my motivated and energy came back.


In today's blog article, I want to tell you why positive thinking makes my life so much better and how you can benefit from a more positive mindset too.


Optimists vs pessimists


You might know this quote from Winston Churchill: A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Even though this expression is clearly biased, I think there's some truth in it.


I know a few people who clearly describe themselves as either positively or negatively minded. While my optimistic friends find themselves more relaxed in stressful or challenging situations, my negatively minded friends go through rough times once they find themselves faced with uncertainty or unfamiliar challenges.


I totally understand why pessimists want to see the glass half-empty: Thinking something won't work out will make your disappointment in case of failure feel less harming. I've already experienced very low lows because I set goals, told myself it'll work out for sure, and eventually failed. If I had thought more negatively or just a little more realistically, I surely would've suffered significantly less.


What do you think is worse: Being disappointed after a failure and feeling blue for a few days or being stressed out and not relaxed once you face uncertainty for weeks or even months?

I believe that's the actual difference between optimists and pessimists. On average, both are wrong most of time. Usually, pessimists underestimate the outcome, optimists overestimate it. While the pessimist is clearly less harmed by failure, the optimist falls deep. Yet, optimists suffer significantly less than the opposite in the face of a major challenge and uncertainty.


Optimists have a better time


As I told you in the beginning, I experienced a drop of my well-being last month. I use to walk always with a smile on my lips, think of the opportunities rather than of the obstacles, and love challenging myself. This mindset and way of life massively boost my happiness and well-being. Usually, I cannot wait until its tomorrow, but in the past month that all was different. Making things worse, my motivation dropped as well. I assume that a lack of positive thinking was the cause of this behavioral change.


Many people think that success and well-being create optimism, and not vice versa. However, Martin Seligman - a leading figure in the science of psychology - found vast evidence showing the reverse to be true: an optimistic attitude and mindset lead to well-being and success.


According to his research, optimists tend to do better in school, work, and extracurricular activities, perform better than predicted on aptitude tests, are more likely to win elections when they run for office, have better overall health, and may even live longer and have better relationships.


There're plenty of further advantages of positive thinking, however, you cannot really grasp the significant change in well-being until you try it for yourself.


How to benefit from optimism


Seligman is a strong proponent of the idea that every person can learn positive thinking. I can only support this notion. In my view, being optimistic is a decision - a decision one has to make every day again. If you want to go through life with more positivity, you need to tell yourself that...

  • good things will happen in the future

  • things will work out for the best

  • challenges and obstacles are opportunities to learn

  • mistakes are necessary and good as long as you take responsibility for them

  • failure is part of the process...

This shift in mindset will massively help you to cope with uncertainty and major challenges.

What's more, you need to stop comparing your progress and achievement with those of others. It's short-sighted to compare your grades in school, performance at work, or skills in sports with those of people around you. There'll always be people worse or better than you.


The only way to be always positively minded is to compare oneself with the person who you were yesterday. Making a mistake today provides you with the opportunity to do better tomorrow. Comparing yourself to others, though, will make you feel miserable and afraid of mistakes.


Ultimately, it's key to adopt the right mindset, make the decision to go through life more positively, and don't let social comparisons spoil your well-being.

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