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The 3 Sneaky Traps of Positive Thinking


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“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too”
Voltaire

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

This blog is called The Positivity Blog, one of my books is called The Power of Positivity and I have spent quite a bit of time on writing articles about positive thinking.

So yeah, I am kinda big on positive thinking. It can be very, very useful. Learning to think in a more positive way on a consistent basis can change just about any part of your life radically. The difference can be especially jarring if you are coming from being stuck in a negative mindset for some time.

But there are some things to keep in mind while thinking in positive way. A few traps that you may wind up in from time to time.

The bubble of positivity.

This is when you lie in your bed going “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!”. Whilst your bed is on fire.

This is what one may call mindless positivity. So be positive, but use common sense.

Don’t use positivity to repress and stop thinking about real, practical challenges in your life. If you are having real problems with money, relationships, work etc. don’t repress them with positive thinking until everything spirals out of control and comes crashing down on you like 30 story building. It’s always better to try and deal with a problem in the early stages.

Creating a negativity backlash and giving up.

If you’re so positive that you aren’t even in this reality anymore then that may not be so helpful. You may for instance plan for and believe that you will lose 30 pounds in a month.

Now, setting optimistic goals can be a great thing. But setting goals that are totally unrealistic can create a backlash when you don’t reach them as planned. Your positive energy and enthusiasm may turn into disappointment and negativity.

Positivity and enthusiasm are wonderful things. But you need to experiment and learn to balance them with a dose of realism to be able to achieve what you want. Otherwise you may wind up very disappointed and give up altogether. Even though you would probably have lost those pounds in a few more months time if you had just continued.

Confusing positivity with trying to please everyone.

Positivity isn’t about being nice and trying to please everyone. Or accepting everything that people do to you.

Being nice is wonderful thing. But letting people walk all over you and accepting it with a smile and a positive attitude won’t help you.
We do to a large extent choose how we want to be treated. How you expect people to treat you can have a big effect on how you allow yourself to act and how people around you view and treat you. If you start creating a role for yourself where you always let people do what they want to you then you may create some pretty destructive and negative things.

  • You may create an identity for yourself where you get used to always taking whatever anyone doles out. You create a kind of victim identity where you may look happy on the outside but don’t feel so good on the inside. But since you have gotten used to it after a while you may accept it and think that: this is just who I am.
  • You may create a concept in the minds of the people around you that it’s OK to treat you this way. Either because you seem so positive despite what they are doing so they think it’s OK. Or just because you aren’t saying no and some people may take advantage of that.

Look, you can’t please everyone. I think both Eleanor Roosevelt and Buddha have mentioned something along the lines that whatever you do there will always be people who don’t like what you are doing. And that’s OK. That’s normal.

Going around trying to please everyone at your own expense isn’t healthy though. Or even a realistic thing to attempt. It eats away at you both mentally and physically.

So be nice. Be positive. But make sure you set your own standards, rules and limits too. And remember that you might as well do what you want because there will always be critics.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sandra Lee October 6, 2010, 7:05 pm

    Excellent points on using positivity the wrong way, especially the third point about trying to please everyone. I think we can be positive, but still see the world as it is. There’s no contradiction. Thanks.

  • Marlon @ productivity bits October 7, 2010, 9:02 am

    Positivity is not positive thinking either.

  • Ahmed October 7, 2010, 3:09 pm

    Very true. It’s much better to be a positive realist-never make a situation worse than it is, assess it for what it is, and realize that if there’s a negative there has to be a positive!

  • ZenCasanova October 7, 2010, 9:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing your informative experiences.

    It’s very important to keep your feet on the ground but facing realities of life doesn’t really need to be negative. The “bad things” in life are not really bad things but beautiful opportunities of growth which is possible to face with shining positivity, just like I wrote today on my article “Love, Happiness and Positivity” ( http://zencasanova.com/personal-growth/love-happiness-and-positivity/ )

  • organic joy blog October 7, 2010, 9:53 pm

    I love the last point. A forum I posted in was filled with women trying to please those who had broken so many rules of self respect and relationship respect. I found myself getting a bit tired of hearing the same story again…I wanted to say, “you can only balance yourself, your behavior can’t change someone who is not evolved enough to respect themselves and in turn respect you. ”

    Thanks Henrik,
    You’ve just inspired me to recall my response in that forum and make an official post once and for all. Best wishes.

  • Kim October 8, 2010, 11:25 am

    Hey another wonderful sea of thoughts . You must be a beautiful being for only then you can think so beautifully :) Well coming to the theme of the post , yes positive thinking should be done without forgetting common sense! At times, people who are genuinely nice are cheated by the wicked ones . A situation which looks negative should be turned positive only if that does not shadow your happiness and self worth.
    The test finds out how inspired you really are.
    http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/motivation/motivation_instructions.asp

  • Henrik Edberg October 11, 2010, 10:35 am

    Thanks for adding your own thoughts and insight, guys! I appreciate it. :)

  • Samantha October 12, 2010, 1:52 am

    This is great, Henrik. I have been musing similarly. If I may add one trap to your list, it’s the danger of becoming Stepford-wife-ish numb. Like pretending that things don’t bother you, when really they do… or not going for a promotion that you really want, but instead choosing to be positive about your current job. By ignoring your feelings, I think you become disconnected from yourself, hence numb. So be positive about your life, sure, but don’t ignore your feelings in the process… experiencing the highs and lows of feeling is one of the things that make us human.

  • Robert October 12, 2010, 7:13 pm

    Good article. I think “bring positive” is truley mis-understood by most people, so thanks for clarifying. Most people have the question “How can I not be so negative?” and seem to focus on the negative. Rather than simply focus on the positive and eliminate the negative.

  • Travis Webster-Booth October 12, 2010, 11:58 pm

    Good points, Henrik.

    In reviewing point #1, which I think is the most dangerous, I was reminded of an insight that a friend and I recently made about positive thinking/gratitude.

    Essentially, there are two ways to be positive:

    1) To appreciate and be grateful for the great things that are already in your life.
    2) To see the silver lining in the “bad” things, and re-frame an old problem or wound by turning it on its bed.

    I believe both are important. #1 matters because you’ve got to take stock of what you’ve got. But #2 is no less important, and much, much more challenging. In the end, that makes it all the more rewarding.

  • stefanie October 13, 2010, 9:14 am

    Ahahaha I like the lying in your bed, going LA-LA-LA-LA-LA thing xD LOL

  • maryawrites October 24, 2010, 1:53 pm

    I loved your article. Often people confuse being positive with being delusional. :) Positivity with common sense. I like that.

  • Gabriel October 26, 2010, 4:04 am

    Always hope for the best…and prepare for the worst.

  • Erin October 27, 2010, 2:07 pm

    I think sometimes I use positivity as an avoidance measure. It allows me to not deal with things that are painful. I tell myself I am responsible for my own experience in life and I’m going to make it a positive one. Then I just push the pain down under that. I need to learn instead to deal with the pain and go on.

  • edina jackson October 29, 2010, 11:35 am

    Great! I so understand where you are coming from with this! I am a massive believer of positive thinking, however I know too many people who use it as a way of shutting out the real problems they are facing in their lives. There is nothing wrong with thinking positive and at the same time working hard to change the way things are going in your life. There is no point thinking positive and just sitting around doing nothing about it and believing that your positive thought is what is going to make things better. You have to take positive action as well think positively.
    Please do take a look at my piece on the power of positive thinking and comment if you have the time to do so. Thank you
    http://quazen.com/shopping/the-power-of-positive-thinking/

    Miss Edina x