The Dangers of Positive Thinking

America has an addiction to positive thinking. Here’s why that’s an issue.

by Katherine Hosie, M.Sc.
The Dangers of Positive Thinking
When we’re addicted to seeing only the positives, we miss all the richness and data of reality.

Positive psychology and positive thinking may be popular, but their benefits are only partial. In fact, there are dangers in using only positive thinking—it may come at the expense of real awareness and change.

When we’re addicted to seeing only the positive in our organizations, others and ourselves, we miss all the richness and data of reality. I believe that is hurting business leaders’ ability to build robust organizations.

Holding the binary assumption that things are black and white, positive or negative—which is a normal response to anxiety—has leaders believing they have only two options:

  1. to see everything positively; and
  2. to come down hard on everything and everyone—including themselves—and be critical and judgmental.

Neither of these approaches is useful. What is useful, however, is a combination of acceptance, compassion and curiosity.

  • Acceptance allows us to exhale and look at things with less attachment.
  • Compassion allows us to look at that reality, including the reality about ourselves, without judgment.
  • Curiosity is enabled by that lack of judgment and allows us to dig deeper to find true causes and real solutions.

This calm, clear-eyed and curious approach allows us to investigate things more deeply to improve or solve them. I encourage people not to be overly positive about themselves or their companies. Instead, be positive and hopeful about their ability to create change wherever it’s needed—personally and professionally.

Katherine Hosie, M.Sc. is one of only three executive coaches in the U.S. qualified to offer master’s-level evidence-based coaching psychology to her clients. Learn more at powerhouse-coaching.com.

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