Positive Thinking = Make Belief ???

I often get the feeling that many people still underestimate the value of positive thinking and optimism. Some even think it’s similar to brainwashing: even if you managed to convince yourself that everything is and will be great, it wouldn’t get you anywhere, it’s all just pretend. How sad… Fortunately, psychologists have gathered lots and lots of data to show that a positive mindset makes a huge difference and leads to measurably more achievements and other good stuff. Here’s why:

Two common criticisms of optimism:

“Being optimistic is not going to change anything, you can’t just pretend everything will work out, you’d be lying to yourself.”

“I’d rather expect things to go badly to save myself from disappointment.”

Neither of the above sentiments are helpful. Psychological research has shown time and time again…

  1. Positive thinking does lead to more success/ good outcomes 
  2. Negative thinking makes good outcomes less likely

‘simply expecting an event to happen makes it much more likely’

Why? because your belief causes you to subconsciously adjust your behaviour in a way that makes your initial prediction come true. Some examples:

You have a job interview

Belief: You believe it will go well
Behaviour: You feel confident and excited during the interview

Outcome: You manage to show your full potential and improve your chances of getting the job

Belief: You believe it will go badly

Behaviour: You feel inhibited, unmotivated and anxious during the interview
Outcome: You can’t show your full potential and are less likely to get the job

Your relationship

Belief: You believe your relationship is meant to last

Behaviour: You are able to form a secure attachment and are more willing to work through problems

Outcome: Your relationship is more likely to last

Belief: You believe your relationship will fail eventually
Behaviour: You are hesitant to form a deep attachment and are less willing to work through problems

Outcome: Your relationship is more likely to fail

You have big plans
 (like write a book/ run a marathon/ start your own business)

Belief: You think: It won’t be easy but I know I have it in me

Behaviour: You are excited which gives you enough energy to persevere
Outcome: You write a book/ run a marathon/ start your own business

Belief: You think: Lots of people want to write a book/ run a marathon/ start their own business, and fail
Behaviour: You get discouraged and have no motivation to give it your best try
Outcome: You didn’t make your big plan happen

Self-fulfilling prophecies are so powerful because they promote a constant reinforcement of your initial prediction

An optimist who believes she has a good chance of reaching a goal, gains a little bit more confidence in her own abilities each time she succeeds, continually strengthening her positive mindset.
If a pessimist messes up her job interview (like she thought she would), she will be even more convinced of her lack of abilities, even less confident in her next interview and even less likely to get the job. Every negative experience enforces her negative beliefs.


So… What’s the moral of the story?


  • Practice being positive, because in most situations optimism can only improve things, while pessimism definitely won’t.
  • Start small: A small positive belief leads to a small positive outcome, which leads to a bigger positive belief and so on.
  • An easy way to become more positive is to focus your attention on the positive aspects of any situation.
  • Tend your mind like a garden – Don’t let the bad stuff take over, fill it with good stuff.
  • Encourage others, especially kids. People sometimes assume it their job to keep relatives, children and friends ‘in check’, i.e. keep them from pursuing ambitious goals/ being too positive so they won’t become arrogant or idealistic. However, most people’s problems stem from a lack of confidence and negativity, not from ‘arrogance’. So don’t discourage – a positive attitude counts for a lot!


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  2. Thank you for this post, seriously! It’s extremely hard to stay sane and happy while looking for a job and wondering what your next move in trying to get into a PhD program will be! I’ll just bookmark this :)

  3. i love this post. when it seems like we have no control in life, we have control of how we see things, glass half full or glass half empty.
    life is so much richer when your glass is near overflowing!

  4. I think you are absolutely right about this. There has been a backlash in the last few years against “positive thinking” because I think people misunderstand it, as you say. People read and try methods from “The Secret” for example, and then get frustrated when they aren’t manifesting and throw it all out and go back to their old, self-damaging and inhibiting thought patterns. Either that or they believe it means somehow denying “reality” and being naive. The reality is that a jaded mindset is self-fulfilling. You did a good job of pointing this out.

  5. Wonderful post. I like the illustrations. People do think positive thought is silly. I like calling it a positive mindset instead because no of course you will not win the lottery just by thinking you will. You also have to PLAY!

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  7. Illeyah Draunidalo

    I agree in keeping a positvie mindframe but I also think one must be a realist too. A positve realist, if you get what I mean. Good read.

  8. Totally agree… if you cannot be optimistic and positive about what you do, then why do it in the first place. I’d rather live a life of positive vibes than think the world is coming to an end any moment.

    Live life, be positive about it and every day will bring new creative opportunities.

  9. I totally agree with this!!! I want to share the quote I have lived by for the past 15 years, It has helped me get a better job, through grad school, through personal endeavors you name it!!!


    The first time I heard this it was so simple yet so powerful!! I just had to share this in hopes that it helps someone else :)

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  11. OMG! this is a wonderful and absolutely marvelous infoblog. I admire you for posting this especially when it comes to education piece. I will reblog this. I and many of my friends are at a crossroads. The world has changed and I know I sometimes drag my past failures behind me and it holds me back from seeing the positive aspects about all this. I call it fluxality. There is so much opportunity to grow and participate positively on so many levels and in so many areas. Today’s world demands some serious creativity and ingenuity. Not to mention self confidence a prerequisite in today’s world. On many levels society has a lot of work to do as far as encouragement on a national level.

  12. mitsk2002

    Love this infograph. It sums up everything I’ve been trying to tell people about positive thinking and self-fulfilling prophecies. I am posting this on my facebook page. Did you create this infograph? I would love to learn how to create them.

  13. I love this post its great i think everyone should read this. Sometimes i do have negative feelings towards something so i wont get disappointed. Wow and that’s really bad cos we never realise what a big impact our attitudes have on our lives. Thank you for the advice

  14. Airpan

    Great post. It’s funny, most twelve step programs have a saying, and it came from Abraham Lincoln. Most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be. In addition, there is a slogan: Fake it ’til you make it and act as-if.
    Oddly enough, I have seen those three saying really turn people around in terms of their thinking, which in turn directly effects their ATTITUDE. IMHO, others pick up on the vibe – if you are acting positive, the response is usually positive. Anyway, great post.

  15. You’ve summed it up really well by saying: “your prediction makes you change your behaviour subconsciously in a way that makes your initial prediction come true”. Don’t you think it’s also important to distinguish between future situations and current ones? A lot of people think positive thinking is like putting on rose coloured glasses – which it can potentially be when judging a current situation.

    Our brains are continually interpreting the outside world. We can choose to ignore that – disconnect in a sense and create our own positive world in our minds. Or see it in a more positive light – seemingly putting on those rose coloured glasses. Yet ignoring our senses response to a potentially damaging situation would be detrimental. An outside action is required rather than just an inward change of perspective. In other words the important question is when exactly is a change of perspective required and when should it be used.

    Maybe there is a difference between evaluating a current situation versus creating expectations for a future situation?

    I guess the main point would be to know when to think positively and when to think realistically. Realistic optimism :) And let’s not even get started on the chemicals within our brain that also play a part :)

    Thanks for the post!

  16. SweetP

    The more posts about positive attitude and self esteem the better! My eyes have been opened to how much sadness people suffer through since being on WordPress so thanks for encouraging others to make a change in themselves! It’s the Law of Attraction! It just keeps giving back!

  17. Meghna Bohidar

    I love this post!! :D
    But there is a very thin line between positive thinking and denial.. I guess I’m in a situation where I’m trying to figure that out.

  18. I loved your article. Unfortunately I’ve been more negative lately and it is inhibiting me. I needed a reminder to BE POSITIVE. I just wrote an article about getting out of a funk. Perhaps you’d be interested in reading it. Ohhsillyme.wordpress.com

  19. This is actually what I’ve been learning about this past year. I’ve spent all my life being incredibly negative with feelings of worthlessness. I pretty much didn’t have a life because of how screwed up my mentality and self-image were. Being negative has gotten me nothing but misery, so why not try positivity? My thoughts are naturally becoming more and more positive, allowing me to relax and live in the moment, rather than worry and live with fear of the future. Starting small is an excellent tip, too! I wish I had started that way, but better late than never right? Thank you for a great post!

  20. This post is very true and timely for me! I have implementing this mindset, and it has made a considerable difference when you shift from negative to the positive side of seeing life.

  21. Absolutely true!!! I applaud you for this post (wish I had thought of it myself! hahaha). Everything in this post rings true. I grew up in a very negative environment and much of that stayed with me until I realized that if I wanted to be free and uplifted I had to change my way of thinking. . .surprise. . .it works. I believe that negative people are toxic people, who drag you down and take all your air away. Don’t allow that to happen.


  22. Matthias L

    pretty much this came often to my mind when people talked negatively about optimism… but until now i failed to articulate it properly. well done! awesome post! :)

  23. Great post, love your work as always. (The grammar, not so much :p )

    A further comment, though. The self fulfilling prophesy also works externally. For example, in the job interview scenario, the positive person exudes a confidence that the interviewer will notice. The interviewer will then pick up on that attitude and also be affirmed that the person can achieve what they say they can achieve.

    [an aside… I always recommend that people go into an interview with the mindset of thinking that the interview is about the company convincing the person that it’s a good place to work. This way, you’re not focusing on trying to sell yourself, but have an air of confidence that you are perfect for the job, you just have to decide if you want to work there.]

    The big plan scenario also works like that. To extrapolate the example of writing the book, the confidence will then rub off on others (either through the text or promotion) which will incite confidence in the author and therefore open more opportunities (sponsorship, support, praise, etc).

    This positive thinking thing, when coupled with affirmative actions will not only affect yourself, but also those around you and your overall success.

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing it.

  24. Tracie Louise

    I was a pessimist for most of my life. Believing that it was the best way to save me from disappointment. Of course I now realise that it lead to more disappointment that it ever could have saved me from. I now live by the creed to look for the positive in all things. I have come to learn that everything is about perspective. Everything is about how you look at something. Even science has proven that the outcome of an experiment will be affected by act of observing it. Look for the good, and good is what you will find.
    Great post.

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