I believe in positive thinking. I started toying with the ideas of positive thinking back when I started my first business. 20 years ago, when you launched a company, you were obliged to adopt the tenets of positive thinking, much as you were required to learn the peculiar logic of double-entry bookkeeping.
Things haven’t changed much in the past two decades, except that software packages make double-entry less mystifying. Positive thinking techniques are still highly encouraged in budding entrepreneurs.
I adopted positive thinking as a doubter. I practiced positive thinking much like the dying non-Christian who takes communion just in case. My doubts centered on that thought that positive thinking wasn’t much different than magical thinking: If we all just wish for peace, the world will eventually comply and become peaceful – we’ll wear the world down with our insistence in believing in a reality ungrounded in evidence.
Even more disturbing, I worried that positive thinking may be a nasty form of self delusion that could ultimately clothe you into an unreality that could actually prevent success. If I believe as hard as I can that I’m going to succeed – gripping my hands and wishing, wishing, wishing – I might indeed spend too much time hoping and hoping rather than spending that time selling something to somebody.
But thoughts go through your head whether you want them to or not, and if you’ve taken on the weight of starting a new company, those thoughts are best centered on your belief that you can actually lift the weight. The alternative of negative thinking is as gloomy as it is natural. When you roll up your sleeves and begin the heavy lifting of starting a company, doom thoughts quickly fill your empty brain. Every “NO” from a sales call is a powerful referendum on the very idea that you could successfully launch a business. If you’re not thinking positively in the face of rejection, you eventually believe those who are rejecting you, and during the early stages, there’s more rejection than acceptance.
So eventually, the techniques of positive thinking became an antidote to the waves of rejection. Rather than using the magical thinking of positive thoughts as an excuse to avoid the next sales call, I used positive thinking to help me make that next call in the face of ongoing rejection. Yes it was self delusion. The actual evidence said I should quit and get a day job. But I made the next sales call, and the one after, and slowly, oh so very slowly, the tide turned.
As things changed and my fledgling business actually began to succeed, I continued practicing positive affirmations. I kept affirming my success and I kept succeeding. Of course, I also made sure to practice the evidenced-based elements of success – create a quality product and deliver over-the-top customer service.
Ultimately, positive thinking becomes a habit. The constant noise in the brain takes on prettier hues than the noise you had previously absorbed from the crazy world. Then something else happens. You begin to shift away from the continuing thoughts of enhancing your own condition. Positive thoughts by their very nature are generous. They are powerful tools to help you prosper, but they are anti selfish.
The final element of positive thinking is positive giving. There’s a hidden agenda that lives as the subplot to positive thinking – what you receive is not yours to horde – it’s yours to pass. Sometime in the third of fourth book written by a positive thinking guru, you’ll begin to find a subtle shift in the thinking, a shift from grabbing to giving. That third or fourth book is usually devoted to tithing as a principle of receiving. You’ll find it in Stephen Covey (7 Habits), Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad), all of them.
Positive thinking can help your business succeed. It may be the critical factor. But part of the physics (or metaphysics) of positive thinking is that is changes you, and part of that change involves learning how to take your success and share it – weather in time or treasure.