Get out of the treadmill
Updated: Apr 25
Get out of the treadmill
For many of us life is like running on the treadmill. You may walk, run at different speeds, but you are not going anywhere! You are just where you are, despite your treadmill showing that you have run 6km!
Even in our lives we find that our career is not moving ahead, despite our best efforts. Our personal relationships with our loved ones have become unexciting and stale, despite taking a number of holidays together. All our efforts to improve things seem to be falling on the wayside. Our mind is constantly chattering within, devising strategies, planning things for our future and even plotting evil designs to achieve our desires. But does any of these planning result in any action? Very often not. They all remain in our head as unfinished and unexecuted plans and designs.
Positive thinking is necessary and often useful to give the life a different perspective and to cheer us up. But positive thinking beyond a certain point is harmful. In a research conducted over 20 years, Gabriele Oettingen, professor of phycology at New York University says that positive thinking in a short term can be helpful, but in the long term it leads to inaction and underperformance. According to her, “The more that people think positive and imagine themselves achieving their goals, the less they actually achieve”.
All the stories and concepts of “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne has to be taken with a bit of caution and a tablespoon of salt. Merely imagining what you want and what you would be in future might give you the adrenalin push for the moment and help you live in the dream world, but unless concrete steps are taken to work towards achieving those dreams and ambitions, they would remain dreams. “Law of Attraction” may work or may not work. But putting some hard work with planning will certainly work. As the psychologist Gabriele Oettingen says, “We achieve our goals virtually and thus feel less need to take action in the real world”
Toxic Positivity: Scientists have coined the term “Toxic Positivity” when we continue to live in a state of denial of the reality and continue to live in a make-believe world. “It is excessive and ineffective overgeneralisation of a happy, optimistic state across all situations”. We all know that anything in excess is bad, so is positivity.
How Self-Help books mislead: Many self-help books talk about positive affirmations, positive thinking, “You can do it” kind of philosophy. If I am not good in math and did not put in any effort to learn the fundamentals of math, and on the day of the math exams, can I start my positive affirmations to say “I will do it”. “I will crack the exam”. Will it help me to pass the exam?
Steven Covey in the books “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” talks about how a wrong map can confuse you and take you nowhere. Let’s assume that you landed in Chicago and to navigate yourself in the town you pick up a map from the airport. Unfortunately, the map is for Detroit and due to a printing error it was shown as Chicago. Based on this wrong map, you will end up going round in circles, because you will never reach your destination. You may start thinking positively and smile and start all over again, or you will affirm that you will make it, - all these will be futile because the map in your hand is a wrong one.
Similarly, positive thinking and affirmations can only help if you have the right map in your head.
How do we get the right map?
Let’s accept our limitations: All of us are not super humans. Our abilities differ. Just because your mom is a nuclear scientist, it does not mean that you are automatically interested in nuclear science or even physics. Your interest might lie in arts or poetry. We have to accept this and move on. There is no point in a wolf trying to be a lion. A wolf is a wolf, and a lion is a lion. Both have different strengths and abilities. Many of us cannot build a six pack like the film stars or play football like Lionel Messi. Accept this and move on. Spending time, effort and money on building skills and abilities that are not in line with our basic nature is a futile e
Build on our strengths: While accepting our limitations, let's focus on our strengths and build them up. Perfection comes from practice. Habits are like muscles; we need to constantly exercise them and keep it fit so that it becomes part of our lifestyle and personal traits. We should identify the skills and abilities that we are good at and practice on perfecting them.
Well-crafted design of our future: The today is the result of what we did yesterday, and the tomorrow will be a result of what we do today. If we want our tomorrows to be successful, happy and satisfying, lets ensure that we work on it today. Nothing happens by miracle. The bumper crops a farmer might get in a season is the result of the sowing, nurturing, tending and watering the plants for months together. Not all of us are lucky to win the Dubai Millennial Millionaire lottery. Most of us have to work towards building our future and careers.
Positive Thinking: Positive thinking is the last step in the process and not the first one. If we are able to accept our limitations, build up on our strengths and have a structured plan to make our future secure, positive thinking would help. It would give us the hope and courage that good things will happen to us in the future.
WOOP: Following an extensive research Oettingen, formulated a concept called WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle and Plan), which helps in putting in place a plan to achieve our ambitions. It is a four-step process
Wish: This part of the process involves visualizing what we want in our life.
Outcome: The implications of and the result of realizing our wish
Obstacles: The likely obstacles that we are likely to face in the realization of our wish
Plan: How do we overcome these obstacles so that you are able to realize your dreams