Business psychology

Purposeful thinking vs positive thinking: What’s the difference?

- November 10, 2021 3 MIN READ
positive thinking

Positive thinking has become one of the most used terms in recent history. Yet for those who have navigated difficulty by being hands-on and creative in their problem-solving approach, the idea of sitting back and simply believing everything will work out as it should sounds overly optimistic, writes Samantha Rush, CEO and founder of Wondrous Women Cards.

To succeed in business requires a hands-on approach that is rooted in accountability partnered with a little faith that your hard work will pay off,

The power of positive thinking

In contrast to defeatism, which means you’re anticipating a negative outcome no matter what, positive thinking is the belief that everything will be okay. It makes it easier to find meaning in challenging situations, the silver lining in the cloud, which can help us contextualize potentially traumatic situations. That said, positive thinking is not always helpful, especially when confronted with a challenge that requires decisive action. A healthy dose of optimism should always come alongside an action plan and all of your discernment skills in business.

How things will work out vs how I will respond

Purposeful thinking is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to positive thinking. A sense of purpose is a driving force; it gives you a sense of ownership in how you’re going to control the outcome of a situation. Positive thinking hinges on the idea that the outcome will be positive, making it philosophical, while purposeful thinking is action-based and proactive.

When you’re empowered with a sense of control, you’re also better equipped to think critically about each possible outcome and how you will respond to it. Positivity means that a poor outcome is your opportunity to adapt your approach as you strive towards your goal.

Purposeful thinking is pen-minded and clear seeing

Positivity can lead to a blinkered approach. In some situations, it can be easier to deny some of the uncomfortable facts. For example, when a business is in financial trouble, the business owner may choose a generic the-markets-have-changed-since-COVID explanation for the problem, while the truth is that the business doesn’t have a good cash flow management system. As a result of this, the business owner continues to wait for better markets believing that things will get better any moment – this is a dangerous form of positivity because it is rooted in denial. Purposeful thinking is not dismissive of facts or possibilities, the purpose in this example would be to help someone get back to a healthy and happy state of being. To achieve this purpose, you need to examine the whole problem and all of the elements to determine the most appropriate way forward. You must be willing to look at all the facts, even if they hurt.

Purposeful thinking means conscious decision making

Have you familiarised yourself with your unconscious biases? Do you know what drives your belief systems, the ones that play a role in your decision-making process without you even knowing about them? Knowing that you’re more inclined towards some facts over others can help you to become aware of your decision-making processes and give you the ability to make more significant decisions, better.

Positive thinking is only half of the battle if you don’t follow the positive thoughts with action. On its own, positive thinking simply adopts a kind of surrender and blind faith that everything will work out. It’s a little disempowering and leaves the outcomes out of your hands. It is good to believe everything will be okay, but that belief must follow with two things; a plan on taking responsibility for the outcomes you want and the belief that if your desired outcome isn’t achieved, you will still be okay.

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