Is there a difference between powerful thinking and positive thinking?
When I posed this question at the dinner table, my family’s responses were interesting. There was consensus that powerful thinking had a Machiavellian quality to it related to getting and keeping power in organizations or among friends. Positive thinking, however, was equated with success and happiness.
It was interesting that most of the conversation about powerful thinking involved thoughts about leadership tactics and theories about how power is used negatively to control others. This may be the case, but there is also research that shows how powerful thinking can shape what happens to you.
Defining Powerful Thinking and Positive Thinking
Powerful thinking is thinking with a purpose. Powerful thinking inspires. It leads to creativity and action. It leads to making choices that leave you feeling that you can make a difference — in your life or in the lives of others.
Powerful thoughts help to overcome fears, worries, stress, guilt, and self-limiting beliefs. Powerful thoughts provide the capacity to approach each day with the certainty that our thoughts will change the way we deal with the day.
For example, upon waking we can decide that instead of a gloomy, negative approach to the day, we will approach it with confidence. Whether the day is filled with obligations or with pleasurable events, how we think about each activity will affect how it is experienced.
Powerful thinking has implications well beyond organizational behaviour or leadership tactics.
Positive thinking refers to approaching situations with a mindset of optimism. it is often seen as a ‘glass half-full’ attitude. Frequently, positive thinking includes affirmations designed to help achieve personal or organizational goals.
Martin Seligmann, one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, framed positive thinking as explanatory optimism or the capacity to explain life events in terms of opportunity, even in difficult circumstances.
Positive thinking is about mindset. It’s about mental toughness. It’s about attitude. It’s about hope.
Positive thinking is also contagious. When a smile greets you as you enter a room, it’s natural to return the smile with a happy greeting. Positive thinking certainly improves general happiness and produces energy.
Links and Limitations
There are a links between powerful thinking and positive thinking. The toolkit of powerful thoughts shapes the way you talk to yourself and your thought patterns.
The same is true for positive thinking which is often characterized by using affirmations and visualizations. A positive and optimistic attitude helps us to navigate life.
Regardless of whether you term your thinking as powerful thinking or positive thinking, you are using your subconscious mind to shape perceptions and behaviour.
However, there are limitations. Richard Sloane of Columbia University Medical Centre cautions that there are things you can’t think your way through. For example, you can’t think yourself out of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. Neither powerful thoughts nor positive thoughts will prevent a stock market crash or a financial downturn.
Realism is important when using powerful and positive thinking. Understanding the situation and choosing your thoughts purposefully will help to stop unnecessary worry and stress. You might be able to change aspects of your life, manage an illness more effectively, and help yourself accept human failings.
Both powerful and positive thinking will help you overcome limiting beliefs. You can choose which term makes sense for you.