The awesome power of positive thinking | Sunday Observer

The awesome power of positive thinking

29 November, 2020

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. -Helen Keller

The power of positive thinking is awesome because optimists fare better than pessimists in almost every aspect of life. In every field they achieve success and enjoy life. What is more, optimistic people are less prone to illness or depression than pessimists. Martin E.P. Seligman, a Professor of Psychology, says, “There’s evidence that optimism bolsters the immune system.” This is good news at a time the world is facing the Covid 19 pandemic.

People who are optimistic see a failure as due to something that can be changed so that they can succeed the next time around, while pessimists take the blame for failure ascribing it to some lasting characteristic they are helpless to change. Optimists tend to respond actively and hopefully by formulating a plan of action or they may seek out help and advice. They see the setback as something that can be remedied. On the other hand, pessimists react to each setback by assuming that there is nothing they can do to make things go better the next time. They will do nothing about the problem. Instead they see the setback as due to some personal deficit that will always plague them.

Optimism and pessimism are habits we learn as children. At the beginning parents become the role models for children. When they go to school teachers exert a great influence to mould their character. If your parents or teachers happen to be pessimists, you will naturally become a pessimist. Apart from our parents and teachers, the books and newspapers you read will have a great influence on our lives. As a child I used to read Sithivili, a series of thought-provoking articles written by Dr E.W. Adikaram and published in the Silumina. Later, a collection of the articles was published as a book. As a teenager I read Napoleon Hill’s The Law of Success with absorbing interest. The book is full of positive thoughts. I also attended lectures delivered by Dr Abraham T. Kovoor. Dr. Adikaram, Napoleon Hill and Dr. Kovoor virtually turned me into a positive thinker and a rationalist.


What is remarkable is that positive thinkers are very enthusiastic in whatever they do. They know that enthusiasm and success go hand in hand. Enthusiasm inspires confidence and raises your morale while building loyalty. Anybody can cultivate the habit of enthusiasm and acquire and practice it. You will note that water turns into steam with a difference of only one degree in temperature. Unlike water, steam can move some of the biggest engines in the world. It was due to someone’s enthusiasm that we use steam for various purposes.

Daniel Goleman in his Emotional Intelligence says, “Optimism, like hope, means having a strong reputation that in general, things will turn out all right in life, despite setbacks and frustrations. From the standpoint of emotional intelligence, optimism is an attitude that buffers people against falling into apathy, hopelessness, or depression in the face of tough going. And, as with hope, its near cousin optimism pays dividends in life.”

According to Seligman, optimism is a habitual way of explaining setbacks to us. The pessimist believes that unfavourable events stem from permanent conditions and favourable events from temporary conditions. If you fail in an examination, you blame yourself for having a poor memory. Similarly, if you receive a gift from a friend, you believe that he expects a favour from you. However, an optimist attributes failure in an examination to temporary causes such as a sudden illness. And he believes that a gift is given as a token of friendship or love. It is not a bribe to get something done by you.


Sometimes, optimists and pessimists get married. You can imagine the situation. I have heard of such a couple who decided to spend their honeymoon at a hotel. After partaking of food and drink they retired to their bedroom. Although it was a five star hotel, there was a fly in the bedroom. When it started flying in every direction, the bride who was a pessimist complained, “This is a real nuisance. Ring the bell and ask someone to kill the fly.” However, the bridegroom was an optimist.

He calmly told her, “The innocent fly is trying to get out of the room. I will open this window and it will fly away.” In fact, the fly flew away through the open window and the bride heaved a sigh of relief.

When a pessimist loses his job, he thinks that even his family members would reject him. But an optimist is not easily swayed by such events. If he loses one job he knows that somebody else will open the door. Without getting frustrated he will move ahead with the rest of his responsibilities. He knows that his family members will not reject him simply because he lost his job. He has the confidence that all of them will stand by him in adversity.

Despite the precautions you take against accidents, a careless driver might knock his vehicle against your car causing extensive damages. The pessimist will blame himself or his stars for the unexpected accident, but the optimist knows that such accidents are inevitable. There is a legal requirement that all vehicles should be insured.

Pessimistic attitude

When you get late to office you begin to blame your wife and the transport system in the country. That is a pessimistic attitude. The optimist will try to reach his office as early as possible. He believes that everything is under his control. Most of the late-comers get up late in the morning. Some of them are incorrigible. Unless an accident prevents you from coming to office on time, it is within your power to control your movements.

In any activity in life the optimist thinks he is a winner. If you think you are a failure, you will fail in all your activities. David Myers, a Professor of Psychology, says, “People who imagine themselves succeeding outperform those who expect to fail.” While attending an interview some people think that they will not be selected.

Such negative feelings will reflect in your behaviour and the answers you give. An attractive young woman in my office who had been divorced by her husband received an invitation for a party. She knew that there would be eligible bachelors who might be interested in her. However, she refused to attend the party thinking that nobody would talk to her after her divorce. She continued to entertain such negative feelings throughout her life and missed the opportunity of getting married to someone else.

With the passage of time some of us feel that we have not achieved anything worthwhile in our lives. It is true that we fail in examinations, love affairs, marriage, and career. However, nobody fails in everything. Sometimes, life plays tricks on us. Cultivate the habit of reading the life stories of great men. All of them had ups and downs in life. But they were optimists who always wanted to see the bright side of life. The pessimist will always see the dark side of life.

We experience successes and failures in life every now and then. When you are faced with a disastrous situation, count your blessings and boost your optimistic standpoint. Think of the areas you have succeeded in. Do not harp on the failures all the time. The optimist will always look forward to a better and glorious tomorrow.

Psychologist C.R. Snyder says, “Hopefulness requires both willpower and the means to achieve your goals.” If you choose the goals wisely, you will realize them with ease. Sometimes your parents wanted you to become an engineer but you became a musician. There is nothing to be ashamed of your position. The world needs engineers and musicians. Be happy that you have achieved what you deserve.

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