Negative Thinking Can Actually Help You Accomplish Your Goals

Negative Thinking Can Actually Help You Accomplish Your Goals

You’ve probably heard a lot of people tell you to “stay positive”, but being overly optimistic isn’t always the best way to achieve your goals. The Wall Street Journal explains that it can actually cause anxiety.

Title image remixed from anthonycz (Shutterstock).

While optimism can keep you motivated, it can also make failure seem a lot scarier, stopping you in your tracks:

Just thinking in sober detail about worst-case scenarios — a technique the Stoics called “the premeditation of evils” — can help to sap the future of its anxiety-producing power. The psychologist Julie Norem estimates that about one-third of Americans instinctively use this strategy, which she terms “defensive pessimism.” Positive thinking, by contrast, is the effort to convince yourself that things will turn out fine, which can reinforce the belief that it would be absolutely terrible if they didn’t.

You want to avoid overdoing this though. If you get too negative, you might just create overly easy or realistic goals, or just giving up before you start. A bit of negative thinking, however, can reduce that anxiety and help you realise that failing isn’t so bad. Hit the link to read more.

The Power of Negative Thinking [Wall Street Journal]


  • When I was in school, whenever a schoolmate would ask me if I did well in an exam, I would tell him that I did somewhat Ok, although I probably did better than average. In the end, if I did get an average grade I wouldn’t be embarrassed or disappointed. On the other hand If I got a good grade I would feel great and still would be seen as a humble kid for not trying to brag about it in the first place.

    • Basically a simple form of the philosophy of (carefully) setting low expectations: “Better to be pleasantly surprised that you succeeded than disappointed that you failed.”

  • oh well… isn’t that a given? Everything is relative! You already apply it in your everyday life.

    You should not let your fear of crashing stop you from driving. However this very same fear can make you a better driver.

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