I want to share some thoughts with you around the benefits of “negative” thinking and choosing progress over complacency. I’ve ended the article with a few questions for you. I hope that you will set some time aside to consider them. 

I’ve come to believe that, while positive thinking has its place and can feel good, “negative” thinking does a better job of helping us face reality. A little focused exploration of what is not going well for us can be useful.

We often need a little “negative reality check” to get us moving in a new direction. The truth is that when we start consciously making new decisions and taking better actions, we empower ourselves to become the confident CEO of our lives.  Who doesn’t want that?


When we live outside of our potential, we let ourselves and others down. This is an extremely heavy burden to carry, isn’t it? To cope, we numb the pain of our failures in a multitude of ways. 

As you are listening or reading this, you may be thinking about some of the ways you numb the pain of your own failure. Failure is a pretty tough word, but sometimes it is a fair one.

As human beings, we work hard to avoid pain. We can be very creative at setting up ways of being or what I refer to as cow paths, that allow us to distance ourselves from the truth of our inadequacies. Again, inadequacy is a pretty tough word. But stubbornly holding onto positive thinking is a common strategy. Ultimately, this ensures that our tomorrow will not be any different than our today is. 


We often think that “someday” things will change. Every now and then we take a half-hearted stab at trying something new. We have all been there. Then, we end up back in the same old dissatisfied place. We may offer ourselves trite positive thinking platitudes to reduce the pain that comes with our lack of progress. We need to progress in order to be happy, that is a fact. But the truth is:

  • things do not “always work out.”
  •  things are not “as they are meant to be.”
  • we do not “attract” good things into our lives by simply being positive.   

That is the positive thinking that we hold onto, that things will work out, that things are they are as they are meant to be, and that we can attract good things by being positive, this becomes a strategy for us and it keeps us stuck.


There are no do-overs. Time will continue to march on whether or not we decide to choose progress over complacency. Our greatest commodity is our time. Yet, every day our time is slipping away from us. The old adage that “if you don’t know where you are going any road will lead you there” is apt, it’s true.

Even more significant is the fact that… the longer we aimlessly travel down the wrong road, positively hoping that something with change, the harder it becomes to take a new turn.

And that road is what I refer to as cow paths, our ways of being, The more we continue down that path, making use of ways of being that do not serve us the more stuck we get, the more rutted we feel the harder it can be to make a change.   


It is true that we all have challenges. We can convince ourselves that we are no worse off than others within our circle of influence. I think we all do this. This is a form of warped positive thinking.

There is some comfort in identifying ourselves with the masses. It allows us to excuse our lack of progress. However, having the same chronic problems that our inner circle has does not put us in a very exclusive club, does it?        

We cannot create something better for ourselves unless we first wake up. We live our lives in robotic mode, doing the same thing day in and day out. we sleep through our days. But we need to take stock of where we are, even when this feels like “negative” thinking.

This can be hard to do when we have lulled ourselves into complacency and developed ways of being that numb the pain of our failures.  Our failures and inadequacies, again that is a hard thing to look at and they are pretty tough words.

But, before we can create a compelling vision of the future and begin setting realistic goals, we need to be willing to question whether positive thinking is keeping us stuck. We need to have a hard look at ourselves. As I discuss in the complimentary workbook, we need to be honest about where we are in order to close the GAP. Only then can we decide whether we are motivated enough to create something better.  


Time will continue to pass by whether or not we commit to choosing progress over complacency. And eventually, the time will come, for all of us, when we will look back at our lives and ask “Did I fulfill my potential?” There will be no do-overs.  

Stubbornly holding on to “positive thinking” can create huge obstacles to progress. It can cause us to see our lives through rose-colored glasses that warp reality. A solution-focused life begins with an honest assessment of where we are now. This can be extremely painful. However, we can’t chart a new course without taking those rose-colored glasses off. 

I want to be clear that a “negative reality check” is not an excuse to dip into despondency. It is not intended to make us depressed or make us feel anxious. A negative reality check really should be seen as a launching pad for what else is possible for us. Creating something better for ourselves begins with an honest assessment of where we are. Glossing over reality with positive thinking can result in staying stuck over the long haul.


1.  Has positive thinking kept you from honestly assessing your life?

2.  Has positive thinking resulted in you becoming complacent?

3.  What could be different for you if you chose progress over complacency?

4. What does any of this have to do with building self-confidence and a greater belief in ourselves?

Terri Lee Cooper Msc. RSW