Resilience Tip - Accurate vs. Positive Thinking

Resilience is the ability to cope well with difficulties and to bounce back from setbacks. While some people are naturally more resilient than others, resiliency can also be intentionally developed.

Accurate vs. Positive Thinking  

You have probably heard claims regarding benefits of positive thinking. Consider distinguishing between positive thinking and optimism. Optimism is the belief that good things will happen. Positive thinking is too often the practice of robotic repetition of positive sayings, which may or may not lead to real change. Robotic thinking is not known to contribute to resilience.

Resilience requires that we are aware of positive opportunities so that we can take advantage of these opportunities. Resilience also requires that we are aware of potential threats and dangers so we that we can prevent these situations or adequately prepare for managing them. Accurate thinking is the ability to realistically assess our internal strengths and weaknesses, and to realistically assess external opportunities and threats. Accurate thinking is known to contribute to resilience.  

How can we increase our accurate thinking? We humans tend not to be such objective observers. We tend to collect data that will support the things we already believe. (You have likely noticed this in other people, check to see if just sometimes it may also be true for yourself!) To increase your accurate thinking and resilience, practice being a more objective observer. When faced with a tough situation, ask yourself: What are the facts of the situation (a neutral observation)? Ask in a separate question: What are my beliefs regarding this situation? And then ask: How did the facts and my beliefs about the situation make me feel and act? Begin to separate facts from beliefs from reactions.   Rather than positive thinking, strive for realistic optimism. Increase your realistic optimism and your resilience through accurate thinking - keeping a positive outlook without denying reality. Increase your accurate thinking by becoming a more objective observer, by separating facts from beliefs from reactions.    

Carolyn Tal, PhD                                                                                                Psychologist and Consultant                                                                                                Working with individuals and partners in developing resilience and related issues. ]]