Do We Only Focus on What’s Positive?

A common (though incorrect) criticism of positive thinking is that it means one must ignore/deny negativity. Doug Krug’s excellent book, “the Missing Piece in Leadership” sums up nicely the misunderstanding and the reality:

A frequently asked question is, “Are you suggesting that we only focus on the positive and ignore what’s wrong?” No. Telling the truth about what needs to be fixed is essential. It is the context that we bring to how we look at what’s wrong that makes the difference.”

This is an excellent distinction which dovetails well with my critique of Oliver Burkman’s “The Power of Negative Thinking”. Just as the questioner above misunderstands what is meant by focusing on what works, Oliver too misunderstands positive thinking as a requirement to avoid negativity: “A positive thinker can never relax, lest an awareness of sadness or failure creep in.”

Positive thinkers don’t avoid “what’s wrong”; it is how you respond to what’s wrong that makes the difference. Our cultural conditioning tends to have us fixate on the problem, which ironically tends to reinforce conditions that encourage the persistence problem while simultaneously making the conditions scarce that would foster a solution. Positive thinking redirects our attention towards focusing on the steps required to get to  the desired solution, “keep your eyes on the prize.”

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