Enough with the Positive Thinking (there I said it, and I’m glad)

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

I am a fan of looking forward toward possible futures. I think there is something gained by having a positive vision of what’s possible. I also like the idea of building on our existing strengths to get there. All that makes perfect sense to me.

But, some take it too far. Acknowledging the truth in front of us, no matter how negative it might feel, seems like an important part of any planning process, whether personal or organizational.

Just heard a well-known organizational speaker all-but-dismiss the importance of conflict and resistance in organizational change. That scares me. I hate to wallow in misery, and I don’t recommend it to my clients. But neither do I want to ignore what’s in front of us. I think of those poor saps who appear on the early rounds of American Idol. Some exhibit few, if any performance skills, and don’t appear to have a glimmer of talent to build on. When they get feedback from the panel, they blow it off. They act as if the judges must be out to get them. I’ll bet these aspiring stars have lots of family members encouraging them to sing at holiday gatherings. Aunts and uncles coo, tell them they’re doing just great, and say that their better than anything on TV these days.  Since no one is telling them otherwise, they believe. Sometimes it is best to tell the truth.

My friend, Patrick Masterson wrote a compelling blog post that speaks to the folly of too much positive thinking.  Be sure to read the quote from Barbara Enrenreich in his post. It’s worth reading.