Monday, December 1, 2008

False Hope or Positive Thinking

I was texting Hollywood earlier about her basketball game tonight.

H: The game’s at 6.

Me: Great. We’ll be there!

H: Ok, but be warned: We’re going to lose.

Me: That’s not a good attitude! Confidence, girl!

H: So false hope is better than the truth?

Me: tsk, tsk

H: You know I’m right

Me: No, I’m always the right one, remember?

H:(always wanting the last word, even while texting…) Not quite.

It could have gone on forever, but hey, I only have 500 texts a month!

Anyway… This textversation made me wonder… Lately, I’ve been contemplating some rather deep issues, and this notion of false hope vs. optimism has entered my mind more than once.

Is it better to have an ‘anything is possible’ ‘CAN DO!’ attitude? Even when the odds are stacked so high against you that you can’t see over them?

Or… is it best to be realistic and accept that you may not be able to change the inevitable?

Does the ‘can do’ attitude beget success where the ‘realistic’ attitude dooms you to failure? Or are the 'anything is possible' folks disappointed all the time?

I’m not sure. Some days I’m a glass half full person. But other days I’m not. I'm split, depending on the day and the situation.

The Husband once had a professor in college who gave a lecture about positive thinking. Her mantra was that if you thought hard enough about it and truly believed it would happen, then whatever you wanted would come to pass. TH asked her if he truly believed that there’d be a front row parking spot at the mall on Black Friday, then would it really happen? Her answer was yes.

I don’t know, though… I just can’t accept that. I get that you should build up that 'you can do anything' message to your kids. (which is why I tsk, tsked Hollywood for thinking they'll lose tonight...) I think a person can accomplish many things with sheer determination. But anything you want just by believing in it? I just don't know... Life is messy. Some things aren’t changeable, no matter how hard you try to make the outcome different. I tend to think it’s best to be realistic and prepared. I’d love to be convinced otherwise, though, because the optimistic, Can Do! spirit is so much more cheerful. Anyone know of any good reading about this subject? I'd love to know your thoughts...


Kirsten said...

I could run 140 mile weeks and I still won't be winning any marathons. "Runners" aren't built like me. I had breast reduction surgery and my boobs are still too big. This is not something one sees on any elite or even local elite runners. The asthma kind of gets in the way, too.

So, yeah...I believe that I CAN complete a race of virtually any distance, but WIN--no. That's not pessimism, that's simply fact. I placed 3rd in my AG once in a 15k, but there were only 7 of us who showed...heh. eating contest--that I might have a shot at! My scale would agree after this weekend, too.


Barb said...

While I truly believe that a negative outlook is truly a self fulfilling proficy ie.. if you think you will not be able to do something you are probably right. On the other hand I don't believe EVERYTHING is possible if you believe it ~ you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. I guess I'm a middle of the road kind of gal.

SUV Mama said...

I've met people who firmly belive in creationism- i.e. "The Secret".
(Not creationism in a "God created the world" kind of way).

They are EXTREME. In order to have those beliefs they have to believe that everyone chooses everything that happens to them. Got cancer? You chose that. Your kid hurt by someone? They chose that.

GOOD stuff? You chose it. Bad stuff? You chose it.

I'd rather be middle of the road too, but I think it is because I have faith that I'm not solely responsible for everything that happens in the entire world. I have to let some stuff go- because I'm not the head honcho in charge (even though I'll argue that to the death with my spouse, I'm sure...ha!).

Maybe you are just middle of the road- but then again, maybe it's faith. Either way, I think the path is a greener way to go!

Little Miss Sunshine State said...

After a series of disappointments, I developed a new theory of life:

Be prepared, but no expectations=no disappointments. I don't expect things to go badly, but I also don't expect them to go well.

Monnik said...

Great comments, guys!

Kirsten, ha! You are SOOO an elite runner in my 15 mile a week maximum book. And I'm not so sure I wouldn't kick your butt in an eating contest.

Barb - yep. I think I'm a middle of the road gal too.

SUV Mama, exactly! Those The Secret followers are who I am mystified by. I've had some icky things happen to me, and I absolutely won't believe that I chose for them to occur. I think there's a lot of comfort in faith in a higher power and that some things are beyond my control.

LMSS - that's what I've been operating under lately too. No expectations = No disappointments. I want to have a cheerier outlook, though...

Travis Erwin said...

I am a false hope myself but way I figure once you've lost hope, what else is there.

Mom In Scrubs said...

I have a "Serenity Prayer" attitude.

Accept the things I cannot change.

Change the things I can.

Know the difference.

I think it's a nice happy-medium, that way I can focus my energy on the attainable, and accept the overtly un-changeable.

All in all I try to be positive.

Here's a thought: accepting the negative with grace and serenity is in fact a positive action! Even when the glass is half empty, accepting that gracefully is a glass-is-half-full reaction!

I'm confusing myself now. I'll stop.

Momma, The Casual Perfectionist said...

I think a positive attitude never hurts. I also believe in being realistic. I think you can find a good balance between realism and positivity.

A book I enjoyed reading was "Excuse me, your life is waiting" by Lynn Grabhorn.

As for whether the glass is half empty or half full? I don't really care, just please don't knock it off the table, thanks. ;) (Can you tell I have a preschooler??) :)

Prairie Chicken said...

According to Bill cosby's grandmother, whether the glass is half emptyor half full depends on whether you are pouring or drinking.

That said, I believe in possibilities and opportunities. The things you attain are often not the things you started out after, but by following the path that results from all the big and little choices you make, and all the big and little choices a lot of other people make that you don't have any control over, you find yourself somewhere new every day. Then the challenge is not to win, or to succeed so much as to do the very best you can in that moment, on that day. Those choices will move you another mile down the road, although to what point you really cannot know until after you've left it. Perhaps this is a feather floating on the wind approach, but it makes for an exciting and interesting life.

Jacob Lau said...

My own thoughts on positive thinking, in the yes I can do anything mentality, is that it dangerous in breeding false hope. When it comes to setting goals I think having a positive mentality of "I will try my best" is, in fact, better if not best.

Some will say that that kind of thinking brings about mediocrity, I disagree, because your best cannot be mediocrity. Saying you WILL be the best breeds potential false hope, destructive competitiveness, and extreme negativity backlash in the event of failure. That is far worse a risk then any mediocrity in my opinion.

I also have a problem with the idea of advancement/innovation only coming out from the "best". This is untrue at best, and oppressive at worst, and I don't know why people are always so hung up on that. (I won't into detail for my reasoning now but maybe later if someone wants to know)

In terms of relationships I think positive thinking is not the best solution either. I prefer Analysis via Critical Thinking about the situation/your reaction, followed by Acceptance of what can and cannot be changed (you and everyone else, respectively), finalized by Indifference to, again, what cannot be changed.

I guess this could be labeled as another form of realism. But I find realism can very easily be biased by negativity so I prefer to label it critical thinking and acceptance.

A bit long winded but I hope it makes sense.