Positive Thinking: Only with Due Diligence Is It A Good Thing

Nothing messes more with real spirituality, with real positive approaches to life, work or money than phoney or illusory positive thinking.

Distorted positive thinking can cost you money, sleep, your job, peace of mind, and maybe your life. It can also be a catalyst or enabler of fraud, waste and abuse on an individual or social scale.

Even the best models of positive thinking, like The Little Engine That Could, can be distorted. Yes, many obstacles can be overcome and dreams can be built when we affirm, “I think I can,” then follow through with action and stay on track. But sometimes, wisdom and integrity call us to accept what we can’t do. Sometimes, our best path is to go off track, even if we don’t yet know the best path to follow next.

However, if you anchor positive thinking in reality, then give it due diligence, you’ve always got the start of something great.

Real Positive Thinking is Grounded in Reality

Thanks to Stephanie West-Allen, JD, a very compassionate lawyer and creative person, I’ve just discovered Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

How exciting it is that people are now confronting the many distortions about positive thinking! Here are some thoughts after pondering Stephanie’s post about the book:

  • It’s positive thinking to affirm that the world is filled with many options and opportunities.
  • It’s positive thinking to affirm that in following options and opportunities, we look past what’s already known or customary.
  • It’s positive thinking to be guided by the truth and wisdom of our souls, not by fear of fear or by pride, self-will, or a search for the easy way out.
  • It’s positive thinking to celebrate a faith that recognizes we can deal with any challenge, including things we really don’t want, like death.
  • It’s positive thinking to practice a faith that calls us to use challenges as a stepping stone to meaning, growth, and the capacity for joy.

That’s the kind of positive thinking that allowed Randy Pausch to have a breakthrough life filled with joy and service, both before and after he received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

That’s the kind of positive thinking that has supported all sorts of breakthrough lives and contributions, including Auschwitz survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl.  That’s the kind of thinking that guided a group of mostly uneducated market women in Liberia to overthrow the rule of a corrupt government and competing warlords, then initiate new vitality for their country.

And that’s the kind of positive thinking that you can employ any time to make sweet lemonade from the best possibilities and bitterest challenges of life.

Too Much of What Purports To Be Positive Thinking Isn’t Positive, Because It Isn’t Real.

The bliss bunny version presumes that if you think only good thoughts, only good will come to you. This distortion of positive thinking seems to fear even mentioning anything “negative” (seemingly defined as anything unwanted).

Of all the bits in the movie “The Secret” that irk me, none hits my buttons more than the scene where a man is worried about losing his bike, so he locks it to a post and “of course” someone saws off the chain and steals it. Yes, obsessing about what can go wrong can destroy possibilities and sometimes invite what we resist, but too many people take the “only positive thinking” idea way too far. E.g., comments like “we shouldn’t admit our financial deficit because that’s a downer” or a business owner’s statement that planning represents a lack of faith.

The bliss bunny distortion has been around for ages in many forms. In the fifties, when I was a child, it wasn’t nice to talk about racial injustice, religion, anger of any kind (especially the anger of women), or doubts that progress was really as wonderful as it seemed. In fact, all doubts or angers or fears were taboo. We’re still recovering from the fallout from this kind of thinking at home, the workplace, environment, economy, and places of worship.

Having spent many years as a paralegal in employment and business law, I’m steeped in stories of how often the “see no evil, think no evil” mantra leads to either the doing of evil or allowing it to happen.

I can’t count the number of stories I’ve heard from employees who avoided help from abuse or harassment for years because they just kept hoping it would get better. Or people like the church member who had been so pressured to think positively of her pastor that she allowed him to lead her into a contract that eventually cost her to lose her home. Or a man who ignored his doubts that Madoff’s promised returns could be so great, because he trusted the friend who connected him to Madoff.

Due Diligence Plus Hope — a Foundation for Real Positive Thinking

Due diligence in the legal sense means to provide the kind of attentiveness and research that’s necessary for a wise decision. It means to get curious.

Instead of assuming and hoping everything will work out, take the time to clarify what you really want and research what it would take to get there. Face what can go wrong, then take necessary precautions so you can move optimistically and realistically ahead.

“Diligence,” from the Latin “diligentia,” is connected to the word “diligo,” which means to love, value or appreciate. Diligence includes the meanings of care, attentiveness, and regard for.

Due diligence is a great spiritual practice as well as a powerful creative practice. It helps strengthen dreams and visions so they can live in the real world. It supports financial abundance with integrity, purposeful work and loving relationships.

Due diligence at work leads away from fraud, waste or abuse to a workplace filled with compassion and efficiency. In business, due diligence is a foundation for more conscious capitalism and a critical key to socially responsible investing.

You probably already practice some form of due diligence. Before you let your child drive, you take the time to ensure that the child has proper training, proper attitude, and as safe a vehicle as possible. As a host or hostess, before you invite people into your home, you make sure your home is safe and that the food is prepared and served safely.

Due diligence is a perfect partner to hope. Put hope and due diligence together, and we have really positive thinking.

What Are Your Thoughts About Positive Thinking and Due Diligence?

  • What’s your definition of real positive thinking? Of due diligence?
  • How have you acted with real positive thinking so far and thrived?
  • How have you distorted positive thinking into something unreal? What has that cost you?
  • What happens when you practice due diligence combined with hope?

As always, many blessings. Please comment below and help others learn from your thoughts and feelings.

Best wishes, Pat McHenry Sullivan

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2 Responses to Positive Thinking: Only with Due Diligence Is It A Good Thing

  1. It comes down to good old-fashioned common sense, doesn’t it?
    THere must be a backlash going on, because I saw another article just yesterday in one of the major papers about this same idea – Positive Thinking may not be the best advice for our life. Rather, practical, but hopeful thinking, grounded in reality. My wife is really good at this!

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