The Truth About Positive Thinking

I always cringe when positive thinking gurus go around telling people, “There are no limits! You are only limited by your own thoughts! You can do anything and achieve anything as long as you think you can!”

Because I, the skeptics, and the negative thinkers know, that the world doesn’t work that way.

For instance, I know that no matter how hard I train, how many techniques I practice and drill to perfection, how determined and positive I am, I’ll never be able to beat Mike Tyson at his peak (heck, or Mike Tyson NOW) at boxing. My talent, my muscularity, my reaction time to evade and time punches, and so on, are simply not there. If I have to beat Iron Mike in something, I’ll choose writing software. Somehow I’m quite confident I’m better than him in that one.

Similarly, no matter how correct their diet, how spotless their routines, how flawless their lifting techniques, 99.9999% of the guys out there will never have biceps as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. Their genes simply don’t permit that. Whereas the ones with the right genes go on to become the next Ronnie Coleman or Dorian Yates.

Have you ever tried so hard at something, only to see a “natural” breeze through all your obstacles in a tenth of the time you needed to get through them? Of course you have. It’s annoying, I know. But that’s also a fact of life. I think an important part of growing up is finding out that you WILL find a ceiling, and be OK with that and accept that. But an even more important thing is to really find out whether the ceiling you are seeing and hitting against is your true ceiling, your true limitations, or a false, fake, self-imposed ones.

That, is the truth of positive thinking. To find out your true ceiling. It is NOT true that there are no limits. That’s bullcrap. Everybody has limitations. But you’d better be damn sure that you’ve developed yourself to your own full potential, instead of hitting a ceiling that is put there by your insecurity, your fear, your laziness, your negative thinking, or whatever.

This can be quite disheartening at first. Because if you’re like most people, as you grow up, you get to witness your (perhaps unrealistic) childhood dreams being shattered one by one. And in the process, it’s easy to fall into the so-what’s-the-point-I-might-as-well-stop-improving-right-now thinking pattern.

Why do you think parents are so often charged guilty of telling their children to be “realistic” and to “forget their big dreams”? Because 99.9999% of the parents have gone through this before. Only 0.0001% have continued to develop themselves and find that their limits are higher than everyone else in the world–they become Olympian gold medalist, world-class musicians, Tiger Woods, Warren Buffett, and so on.

In fact, before I figured this out, I used to be quite negative about this whole thing. I used to think: what’s the point of even trying when the best I could ever do, to my full potential, is most probably only mediocre?

And now I think I have the answer.

  • Cos until you’ve tried it and do it to the best of your ability, you won’t know. In all probability your true ceiling might be the highest in the world. You might be world-class at something, you just don’t know it yet. Say, can you memorize the first 21 digits of Pi? Then you’re already world-class.
  • You keep doing it because you like it, even when you’ve found that you’re far from world-class level. I love programming, and it’s something that I’ll still do when I’m 60. Even if I’ll probably will never be the world’s best programmer. But I don’t care. I like it.

(Or probably I am the world’s best programmer. Since I’m so humble.)

So what the heck are those positive thinking, supposedly self-improving gurus are for? The good ones help to find out your true capacity. Because I suspect we never really get to know how high the true ceiling of our potential really is. It’s not limitless, surely. But it may also be much higher than we’ve ever dreamed of. And we need the gurus to lie to us and keep telling us there’s no limit so we won’t stop until we’ve hit our real limit. And that probably means that we shouldn’t stop, ever.

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2 thoughts on “The Truth About Positive Thinking

  1. Hey Ray,

    Having insomnia and saw this blog, so am dropping a few words based on, interestingly, something that happens to me recently.

    I had similar thoughts in this line recently after your wedding. As part of my introspective routine, I realized that I had been more negative thinking that what I actually thought I was. And in the split second of mind re-adjustment for finding a way out, I suddenly was enlightened with a solution. I chose the word enlightened because the solution was not conceived by my conscious mind but the subconscious or the unconscious depends how you want to see it. And the answer to it – it is to believe!!!

    I had been introduced the concept 5 years ago about the mind mis-alignment – of conscious perception and subconscious counterpart, or to put it in another words, the mind and the soul, using the language of the introducer. I couldn’t quite comprehend the idea at that time because it is not something to ‘understand’ but something to ‘feel’. It occured to me about 2 years later something happened, that I actually ‘felt’ it. In that incident, I had been constantly resolute to a decision and spent years getting ready for it, but at the point of execution, something unknown pulled me back. I realized upon that point, there is another force within me speaking a different language, it was like another self. Bit puzzled at first, but I soon realized that this was the mis-alignment that he was talking about.

    Our conscious mind are logical thinker. Our subconscious are partly self-programmed and influenced strongly by emotions and forces that we may not come to terms with. There are many people in self-denial to an extend or sort, we often turn a blind eyes on things we do not like to confront.

    So how is this relate to your article? Let me peel the orange. Upon realizing the duality of mind, I have a better understanding of the real me, the self-delaema, conflicts of the mind, and why we always want to do something but ended up something else.

    We have 2 bosses. We are trained to deal with mostly the first, the conscious mind. For many people, the 2nd boss is the one that makes a lot of decision, in fact sometimes more. So I started a practice to train and control my second boss. The way to deal with both, are radically different. In short, I became involved with self-programming, reprogramming my mind in a deeper level.

    Now comes back to my point, when it comes to the negative thinking I was touching on earlier, I realized that this department belongs to the 2nd boss. And I have been dealing (or lack of it) with it with the way I have been talking to my first boss, and of course I didn’t work. So now different puzzle came together, so I attempted to deal with it the 2nd way. Before the execution, it was like computer programming, I figured out something but not sure it will run, so I pressed the run button and it works miraclely.

    In retrospect to your article, I totally agree with you that we are very much handicapped by other form of programming, the genes, upbringing, environment, or karma if you believe in it. But I am attempting to answer your question why some positive thinking gurus teach the ‘limitless’ way. It is a belief that they have to preach. It is quite similar to the Matrix, to do it, you have to believe in it. Or to bring another point of argument, our mind ceiling of limits is a moving target, and it is somehow proportionate to how much we believe. Based on other programming, different individual may have to attach a different factor to the formula, but 1 thing is for sure, although believing does not mean your limit become endless, but conversely, keeping any slightess doubt in your subconscious department is going to incur a significant amount of self-limit. And the way to do away with this ‘remaining’ self-limits, is to surrender unconditionally your faith.

    To illustrate the validity of my point, as we are aware, some ppl are incredibly self-confident although he is not well-known for his capability. This guy is having a lot of faith or unconditional beliefs of his own greatness. This faith may not help him in improving his overall ability, but this confidence bring an aural upon himself, sometimes to the extend for some subjective issues, that it even influence other ppl to think that he may be right about things!!!

    This belief system is amazing!!! But it should be put to good use. Doing it is more like an art than a science. It is like when you first learn how to swim, to cycle, you can’t at first, but after trying, you learn the pattern, you register and it became a new skill. 2 bosses playing here. The first one is telling, ok, do it this way, do it that way. The second boss it he one that register the way to ultimately balance your cycle to ride along or to float and swim.

    If we practise both, we may be able to reach a greater heights. I am very keen to share this with ppl so to let ppl verify whether this is true also to them. So far, it works greatly on me. I use it on self-doubt, fear, insecurity, and some symptoms that have plagued me for decades got a cure.

  2. Wow, I’ve visited your site a hundred times for your https://rayfd.wordpress.com/2007/05/20/10-eclipse-navigation-shortcuts-every-java-programmer-should-know/ article, but now that I’ve read a few articles before and after it, I really like your attitude and train of thought. Even your “The following sentence is false. The preceding sentence is true.” caught my eye months ago.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

    P.S. The details below auto-filled, and filled in my website with my gravatar.com link instead of my xona.com site.

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