The Magic of Positive Thinking

by Mr. Cheap

In case you haven’t seen the movie (or read the book) “The Secret” I’ll give you the condensed version: positive thinking improves your life, negative thinking worsens your life. For example, Bill Gates is the richest man in the world because he believed he would be (his business instincts and impeccable timing were trivial details) and everyone who has ever been the victim of a crime deserved it (for thinking negative thoughts that caused their victimization).

Yes, I agree its trash but I’m going somewhere with this.

In “The Dilbert Principle” Scott Adams’ discusses how he wrote “I am a world famous cartoonist” 5 times per day until he was a world famous cartoonist. He also played monopoly for an entire summer with a bunch of Irish kids and never won once (because the lousy potato eaters were convinced of their “Irish Luck”). He writes about an objective reality (where things happen because they happen) and a subjective reality (where things happen because we expect them to happen).

He’s a smart guy and I like him, but still kinda wonky reasoning.

Positive thinking actually works though. How it works is based on psychology rather than mysticism. We all have limited resources (time, money, energy, etc) and competing internal needs and desires. As much as economists believe we’re purely rational beings, often we make poorly considered decisions because of resource constraints (salesmen would be unnecessary in a purely rational world). Thinking about something (positive or negatively) increases its “priority” during the limited resource consideration cycle our tiny brains go through, and increase the chance that we’ll take action towards that goal.

For example, every day Mr. Adams wrote out the 5 lines. Later, when he was debating whether he should practice drawing, have a nap or take his girlfriend out for lunch 2 hours later, it was easier for him to practice drawing, because he’d recently put a priority on that activity. If you have a goal (say becoming famous or being rich) that you don’t think about very often, the chance of taking actions that will lead towards it are very small. Any action that gets you thinking about it (writing lines, talking to friends about it, dreaming about it before bed or in the shower) will increase you commitment to the goal and the chance that the next time you have a decision to make, you’ll work towards this goal (instead of a competing goals – such as watching the next episode of “Hell’s Kitchen”).

Recently I was told I’m consumed by money (ouch!). While I don’t agree with this 100%, in part I think it means I’m on the right track to sorting out my finances since I’m spending time thinking about them (to the point that other people are aware of it and thinking I’ve gone too far).

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