The Power of Negative Thinking

By Craig Price

They say that, with a positive attitude, you can do anything. Is that true? I mean, is it really true? I know that, no matter how hard I work and no matter how positive I am, I can never be Miss America. It’s a fact. Never going to happen. Why? Well, for one there is an age limit: You need to be between 17 and 24 years old, and those days have long passed me by. For another, I’m married (sorry, ladies, I know how disappointed you must be). So I can’t be Miss America. Maybe I can be Mrs. America instead. That would be great. If only I was a woman. So Mrs. America is out too. Maybe Mr. America will work. Then again, maybe not. I know what you’re thinking: “Craig, you delicious piece of man candy. Of course you can be Mr. America.” Well, I appreciate that, but let’s be honest and realistic. For me to enter a nationwide beauty contest … well, things would not end well. Let me put it this way: I don’t scare small children and I don’t need meat around my neck to play with dogs, but I am under no illusion that I have beauty pageant looks.

So I have to look at the reasons for my goal. Understanding why we want a goal can allow us to find other ways of reaching it. This is where negative thinking comes in. Why would someone want to be Miss America? I can only think of three reasons (I’m sure there are many more):

1. Scholarship money. The Miss America program is a great way for young women to get scholarships for college. But do you need to be Miss America to go to school? Not at all. There are a lot of more effective ways to earn money. There are other scholarships, grants and loans available. God forbid that you have to go get a job and then go back to school a few years down the road.

2. A social agenda to promote. You have to have a platform to be Miss America—some sort of agenda you wish to enlighten people on—be it poverty, homelessness, illnesses, injustice … something of significance that could be your cause. But do you need to be Miss America to do that? Not at all. Sure being a minor celebrity and all might help as far as publicity goes. But in the long run, hard work and drive will be more helpful than publicity. You can donate your time, give your money, or start a foundation. But again, you don’t need to be Miss America.

3. The only other reason I can think of to be Miss America is that you want people to think you’re pretty. You don’t need to be Miss America to do that. My solution: Hang out with ugly people; they’ll make you look a lot better. Like the old saying goes, “How can you look thin? Get fat friends.” So find some troglodyte friends so you’ll be the best-looking person in the bunch!

So we now know a positive attitude won’t get you everything you want. Keep in mind that I didn’t say it’s not helpful. But positivity isn’t the end-all/be-all to success that some would have you believe. In fact, we’re told to eliminate negativity entirely from our lives. But why would you eliminate a tool from your arsenal? It’s like saying, “Here. Build a house, but you can’t use a tape measure.” Can you build a house without a tape measure? Sure. Would you want to? Not unless you don’t mind living in a crazy, unstable, circus funhouse. Negativity is just another tool. Use all the tools you have.

Negative thinking allows you to plan. You can identify problems before they happen so you can avoid them. A football team has a backup quarterback. Why? Wouldn’t positive thinking tell us that our starting quarterback will be fine? That he’ll go all season without getting hurt, so why bother having a backup?

Computers are proof that negative thinking has a major part to play in our daily lives: You have antivirus software on your computer (at least I hope you do). Why? Positive thinking tells us everything will be fine. But common sense and negative thinking say that bad things happen to computers every day: viruses, crashes, power surges, hackers and identity thieves. We try to be as proactive as possible to protect ourselves from harm, so we get the firewalls, the hard drive backups and the surge protectors.

Why wear seatbelts? Positive thinking tells us that we’ll be fine if we just have a good attitude. Negative thinking allows us to look at the dangers of driving and to do something about it. Airbags, seatbelts and speed limits are all negative-based things that are good for us. Negativity can work for us if we:

Keep an open mind. Allow yourself to be open to both the positive and negative aspects of your life. If you can see the value in positive thoughts, you can see the value in negative thoughts. We’re conditioned that negative thoughts are bad, so it may take some practice.

Look for the “why?” If you can see the reasons why you want the goal, you can often find other avenues to it. We see things that we don’t truly know through a warped perspective. We make assumptions on how things “should” go. If you want something, you must take steps A, B and then C. Sometimes, to get to step C, we can take a shortcut by jumping the fence at E and backtracking. We get caught up how we think a goal should be obtained when we don’t really know. If we knew, we’d have done it by now!

Maintain a balance. This is the most important part of negativity. It’s not an all or nothing approach. Use the proper dose of negativity with your positive attitude. The combination of the two can be a powerful 1-2 punch. “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst” is the balance we’re striving for. No one wants to help, work for, work with or be near a 100% negative person. But a person who avoids problems, thinks ahead and understands the world isn’t perfect…they’re the ones take control and succeed.

Negativity is part of our lives and we can either use it to our advantage or be victims of it. So look at your negative thoughts. Find the kernel of truth in them and use it to move forward. Being negative can be a positive if you’re willing to open yourself to the idea that it is another tool at your disposal.

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