Common-sense vs. Magical Thinking. And the winner is…
For the past 15 years, I've often tried tips and programs to help me reach my post-retirement goals and be more positive along the way. I was willing to suspend disbelief in exotic philosophies because I wanted new successes. I finally recognized that the conventional, well-intentioned success advice that was not convincing me was really based on common sense knowledge we've had for thousands of years. So, I stopped my search for the quick fix and identified a common-sense positivity formula that worked for me.
Common sense is not very marketable, but it is usually simple, practical, and effective – if you understand the principles and learn to apply them to your needs. So, I needed a modern context to express my success/positive thinking concepts: common-sense science and psychology.
To be consistent and simple, I use the term "positivity" to encompass all the varieties of positive thinking, "you are what you think," and other New Age and metaphysical teachings. I'm defining success as any goal or achievement you want, from a weight loss goal to building a multi-million-dollar business -or writing a book.
I was searching for the magical success formula.
I bought books, watched videos, read blogs- somebody must have discovered what I was looking for. I did not find it.
I started with popular self-help programs such as the law of attraction, visualization, meditation, how to think like a millionaire, all the varieties of "you become what you think." From Sun-Tzu to Tony Robbins to Dr. Wayne Dyer. Then there were concepts I had difficulty accepting — angels channeling me instructions. Most concepts had elements of truth and good intentions, but none fully satisfied my need to understand and believe in the practice. So, I did the research to develop my own formula for a practical, modern common-sense positive thinking approach.
Although I believe in the goals of success strategies and positive thinking, I finally admitted that I don't believe in magical, mystical woo-woo ideas.
But I feel confident, even a bit knowledgeable, about my formula for positivity based on the observable patterns and connections of how people do transform their ideas into successful outcomes.
My professional career was in communications and behavioral research, helping businesses and organizations achieve their goals. But I did not realize that the practical research I developed over decades used the same principles I could apply to my personal goals. As the quote from the Wizard of Oz states, I always had the power to take control of what I wanted, but I was too eager to look outside my real-life experience for ready-made, quick solutions.
If you have ever been frustrated, disappointed, and confused as I was, I can offer some new ideas. I'm updating my Manifestation program to what I call "common sense science and psychology."
Common Sense Positivity for Success
People want to achieve greater happiness, more financial security, a new job, getting an education, losing weight, living a healthier lifestyle, or getting a new house.
Achieving success can apply to almost any realistic goal that you have. We cannot always overcome physical limitations, age, or lack of resources, and sometimes those limitations are the first obstacles that must be overcome.
But the object of what you want is not a factor that determines success; it's the process of your personal thinking that has the greatest influence on achieving your goal.
The elementary principle: the nature of your thoughts, whether positive, negative, or doubtful, influences all your subsequent choices and actions in pursuing your goals.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
GIGO. You know the old computer adage, garbage in, garbage out? Same with your thoughts.
We do not magically attract what we want solely by our thoughts. But we can learn to manage our thoughts so that we connect, recognize, create opportunities, and change our thinking to make choices aligned with our goals.
The foundation for a high probability of success is based on a positivity concept that does not mean the total absence of negative thinking. Productive positivity is the management of the inevitable conflicts between your positive, negative, and uncertain thoughts. The threshold is to achieve a critical balance in which positive thoughts account for the majority of your thoughts about your goal. (See prior post about the critical threshold of 68% for positive thinking).
You don't have to be positive 100% of the time, and normal caution or doubt won't destroy your plans. We have many goals, and the foundation for success is the same for all. Learn to succeed consistently at modest goals, and then you will have built your expertise to pursue larger goals.
The common elements of common-sense positivity and success are clarity of goal, steady confidence, willingness to recognize, learn and adapt, and maintain a predominantly (68%) positive mindset about your plan, often over a long time.
Success is guaranteed to happen, and it happens more often to some people because they know or have learned the systematic steps to achieve success. Statistical probability demonstrates that everything has a probability of occurring, and the familiar bell-shaped curve shows "the normal distribution" of occurrences.
The Manifestation Formula is based on the same probability concept — most people can achieve many of their goals with simple practices. A few people will be extraordinarily successful, and a few will be total failures. I believe most people have a high probability of achieving success, most of the time if they know how to manage common sense positivity factors.
I'm going back to the origin of all science and progress, common-sense observation, with an expanded modern context of common-sense science and psychology.
Notice: I'll address the inevitable critiques of my use of the word "science." At its simplest, science is to have a hypothesis and be able to replicate the results under controlled conditions and have a consistent outcome. But scientific evidence also originates from reliably consistent patterns of observable events and outcomes.
The greatest scientific experiment has been going on for thousands of years.
Millions of people have achieved their goals by following common principles. Add a modern context, and we can create a new formula for positivity-based success.
Why is positivity a foundation of success?
There is a growing academic field of positive psychology to investigate, so my brief and simple answer is this:
You must maintain a consistent belief in what you want.
You must maintain belief in your ability to eventually succeed.
If you can maintain a sufficient level of “positivity”, you will be able to maintain the efforts and motivation to pursue your goal plan.
Positivity can be considered a form of momentum to keep pursuing what you want. In contrast, negativity is fear, doubt, uncertainty. Negative thoughts and emotions usually result in a person changing their mind about goals and techniques, stopping, and starting, losing patience, losing confidence. Losing.
It takes work to build consistent positivity. But negativity feeds upon itself and expands to fill every thought if you allow it to take over. (You can read more in my work or Googling "human negativity bias". Humans are wired for caution, uncertainty, and fear as a survival mechanism. But modern survival is not faced with the same survival threats as in the past).
Modern positivity is dependent on maintaining momentum toward your goal, leading to choices and actions aligned with that goal. Negativity makes you question every single decision and action, and every doubt can set you back to step one. or, worse, end your efforts and dreams.
For the research for my book, The Manifestation Formula, I reassessed numerous people I've known or worked with over the past 50 years. To generalize, most of the people who had notable successes were not using self-help programs or reading dozens of books, to the best of my knowledge. Somewhere along the way, they had been taught or learned the essence of maintaining focus, commitment, and a positive belief that they could achieve a specific goal. I observed the common-sense traits of persistence, practice, confidence, and flexibility. I also saw that the people did not have success in every aspect of their life. But it seemed that a basic positive mindset did flow into the rest of their life decisions and personality. Whatever else was going on in their life, they had an enduring, positive commitment to achieve a specific goal.
Original science was observation, patterns, record-keeping, and applied imagination.
The origins of all science were common sense. Humans have a natural capacity to wonder about everything we observe and understand its nature, meaning, and how to control it.
We've learned to measure the physical world very well. But we have not learned as much about how and why we think what we do.
Physical science. We have at least 3000 years of recorded "scientific" observations. The ancients had no technology other than their eyes and creative ideas. Humans have the innate ability to observe, imagine, analyze, and develop explanations, which are continually challenged, modified, validated and more accurately defined.
But ancient common-sense science was not just about identifying patterns of stars, creating mathematics, or establishing the boiling temperature of water.
The ancient observers were extremely interested in what we now call the psychological and behavioral sciences, understanding how the brain works, consciousness, the origin of thoughts, the interactions of thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
But our understanding of the psychological aspects of humans is primitive relative to our knowledge and theories about the physical world.
In modern times, we have a better understanding of extreme psychological, emotional, and behavioral conditions. However, much of the historical, psychological research has dealt with the extreme dysfunctions, and it was not looking for or teaching the foundations of productive human thought processes.
The self-help industry was born thousands of years ago by philosophers and teachers advising how humans think, make choices and act, and how larger groups of people and societies interact.
Thus, we've had centuries of pseudoscience, metaphysical promises, and every type of imaginative, and even fraudulent, interpretations and proclamations about the nature of our minds and emotions.
My interest is in the pervasive and persistent human interest in figuring out what to do now, tomorrow, and to survive and thrive every day and into the future.
It's a fact: humans have the ability to want things, change things, aspire to something better; it's the entire history of civilization.
The self-help industry and its spinoffs are an enormous multibillion-dollar industry. It ranges from how to be rich, how to be happy, lose weight, and find the perfect mate.
The challenge has been for those who believe they have been less successful to learn how the observable successful were able to achieve their goals and then utilize those principles in their own life.
Are the super successful born lucky, with skills that others cannot obtain? Or, and this is the basis of the self-help industry, do successful people have skills that others can learn?
It's also human nature to want easy, quick, affordable solutions and that do not require too much work. Although many programs stress the need for maintaining a consistent practice, the reality is that positive thinking programs are overloaded with tips and techniques, with little or no personal feedback and are almost impossible to measure progress.
Is there a process or formula that can be easily applied to almost any goal?
I believe there is because I see people succeed with observable traits—common sense.
I also see people who do not succeed, and they also have common traits that we can observe.
The majority of self-help, and a lot of professional counseling, is directed to dealing with the epidemic of perceived or actual failures.
The common elements of common-sense positivity and success are clarity of goal, steady confidence in abilities, willingness to learn and adapt, and maintain a predominantly (68%) positive mindset about your plan, often over a long time.
What will you do with the 1,020 minutes a day you have for your thinking? (17 hours x 60 minutes).
There is a positivity formula, and you only learn by working on it and with a little trial and error.
You likely have obstacles created by your history of daily negative self-talk, so you have to unlearn some bad habits. We have a finite amount of time to think our thoughts every day. Within the time allocated to a goal, how many thoughts will be positive, negative, or uncertain?
There's a lot of informal research that states that people have 60,000+ thoughts a day, most are the same as the day before, and most are some varieties of negative. Only you can change how you fill your thinking every hour of every day.
To achieve a goal -use a process that helps you replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts until you reach a level of productive positivity - that's my 68% positivity formula.
A sincere belief in a goal does not guarantee success. But lack of belief in your ability to achieve a goal will almost certainly result in failure.
Common-sense observation has recognized the inevitable conflicts between positive, negative and uncertain thoughts and emotions. The common-sense advice is that positive thoughts and aligned choices are more likely to lead to success than negative thinking.
One of my favorite and simplest quotes is from Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right."
We have thousands of years of evidence. We observe people who were able to maintain a sufficiently positive mindset as they pursued their goals. If science wants evidence, the number of cases in the patterns of "you are what you think" is overwhelming.
Millions of success experiments. There are endless statements by successful people who offer their common success/positivity principles. I know you are familiar with possibly the most pervasive evidence stated by people who achieve success:
"My mother/father/grandparent/teacher/coach always told me I could do anything I want if I worked hard enough."
Successful people have been telling us, over and over, about one of the foundations of their sustaining positivity for achieving their goals. Everybody may not have had a success/positivity mentor or was born with a naturally positive personality. But for many of us, perhaps the majority of people, we can use our inherent intellectual skills to learn the basics of applied positive thinking to achieve our goals.
The functional problem is that we are not formally taught the simple common-sense approach for how to think positively. So that's what I've decided I can do, both for myself and others.
One of my post-retirement goals was to write a book; I wanted to manifest becoming a writer. And I did. My first book was co-authored, then I wrote two more books on my own.
But I forgot to "imagine" a more elusive goal: write a bestseller, a book that will get widespread recognition and other attributes of a successful book.
"Be careful what you wish for; it might come true." I wished to write a book, and I did, forgetting to wish for it to be a bestseller.
So now I'm expanding my Manifestation/Positivity ideas in my next book about common-sense success. I'm writing it to become a bestseller that connects with people who have been disappointed and frustrated by the traditional approaches.
There, I've said it and made the commitment. I'm going to write a bestseller about the power of common-sense positive thinking.
Richard Spitzer April 2021