Wishful Acting: Make Yourself A Better Leader

Positive thinking is perhaps the most overused idea in the leadership literature. Countless self-help books have been written about how positive thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading you to accomplish what you believe you can accomplish. So, what about positive thinking? Is it truly a key ingredient for success, or is just a bunch of baloney? Here’s what I think…

Positive thinking, by itself, isn’t enough. You are deluding yourself if you thinking you can achieve something just by wishful thinking. Without hard work—a genuine effort in accomplishing your goals—all the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to do you any good. If you are hoping that, simply by viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses, it is magically going to change colors, you are sorely mistaken. Adopting that kind of perspective is a surefire way to become a leader no one wants to follow–a leader who is viewed as unrealistic, naive, and delusional. So, no, I don’t believe that positive thinking will lead you to success; it will only make you feel better about failure.

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So, if wishful thinking doesn’t work, what does? Wishful acting. It is not the power of positive thinking that makes a leader successful but, rather, the power of positive action. In other words, how does your perspective shape what you do? If you adopt a positive mindset about what will happen to you, it isn’t going to amount to much. However, if you adopt a positive mindset about what you are capable of doing, you can accomplish wonders.

Another way of saying this? Being optimistic will help you become a better leader to the extent that such a mindset strengthens the influence you believe you have on shaping course of your life. If you believe you have control over the direction your life is headed, you will act as if you have that control, and you will do things that improve your life. Therefore, your mindset will become a self-fulfilling prophecy—leading you to success because you believed you were capable of achieving it. So, it’s not because you believe that the stars will align for you that they actually do; it’s because you believe that you have influence over how the stars will move in the sky and, because of that believe, you actually put forth the effort that moves those stars into alignment.

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Now, think about this in the context of business. Our industry is one full of speculation about the future. How are interest rates going to move? What new regulations are likely to arise? What new technology is going to displace the current business practices? If you only think of these issues in terms of what is happening to you, merely hoping they will change in a direction that is preferable for you, isn’t going to accomplish anything. However, if you think instead about how you can respond to these issues in order to improve your organization, and you believe that you can improve your business with that response, the positive mindset you hold can buffer you against an uncertain future.

So, as you push on into 2015, don’t just think positive; live positive. Don’t just hope that things will get better; put forth the effort that makes them better. It isn’t wishful thinking that will lead you to success; it’s wishful acting.

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