If it works, it doesn’t matter if someone calls it mumbo-jumbo



Over the last few years, I have become intensely aware of the difference it makes in your life how you think about yourself, even how you talk – with yourself, and about yourself.

No one can make statements about what types of challenges other people could face. There will always be people whose condition is such that “positive thinking” may not make much of a difference. But is that reason enough to underestimate the exceptional ability that people do have to make a difference in their lives? Specific people have specific problems, but to dismiss as insignificant good advice that can make an astronomical difference to many people’s lives because it won’t (in your opinion) make a difference to a specific person’s life, does not do anyone favours in my opinion.

I would rather encourage someone to try something than to give them an excuse not to try it. Maybe something doesn’t work. Then you try something else – and you don’t have to feel embarrassed because something doesn’t or didn’t work for you.

I reckon the whole story of positive psychology is more than just a bumper sticker or the straw man some people make of it which they then criticise. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that in many cases positive psychology is the difference between life and death, or the difference between a miserable life and an exceptional one.

Of course, it does matter how you share this type of opinion or advice with people.

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I can’t say I’ve had a Damascus Road experience and now know what the truth is and everything is hunky-dory. It is simply a case of looking at what works for me and looking at what works for other people. And if the results turn out to be positive, I’ll throw more of it in the pot and continue brewing. That’s certainly what most people do, isn’t it? And for the record, I even throw bumper stickers and posters in the pot, and if the bubbling brew doesn’t explode, I add it to the recipe.

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The idea isn’t to restore your health overnight or regain the use of your limbs (as good as that would be). The idea is to do the best you can with the situation you are in, or with the condition you are suffering from. Thinking of yourself as a victim will bring about a dramatically different result from thinking of yourself as a powerful agent of ability and personal transformation.

People like to argue about the accuracy of words or phrases (“Does X really mean Y?”) when they should rather focus on the practical value of an approach or outlook. “How valuable will it be for me on a daily basis?” is the question you should rather ask yourself.


You shouldn’t get involved at all in an argument about the simplicity or not of positive psychology as a factor in one’s life. It’s a bit like someone saying vegetables are healthy for you, with someone else responding with, “But not all vegetables are purple.” To respond with, “But I didn’t say all vegetables are purple. I only said vegetables are healthy for you,” would be a waste of time. It will be to move away from the real point, in the case of positive psychology, the value of positive self-perception, and an acceptance of the astronomical abilities that (most) people have to influence their own well-being.

The whole argument of the simplicity or not of a factor is in any case absurd – not because it is absurd that X can be simple, but about the meaning of the words. After all, what does it mean to say, “It’s not that simple”? First of all, what does Person A mean by simple, and what does Person B mean by that? Second, how sure is Person A that he is not just making a straw man of Person B’s argument, and then attacking the straw man?

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

I would rather overestimate the value of positive thinking, than underestimate it because I define myself or identify myself to others as someone who doesn’t have time for “New Age mumbo jumbo”, and rob myself in the process of the potentially enormous effect positive thoughts can have on my behaviour, on my experience of reality, and on the results I produce every day.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

A reader of the book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E.P. Seligman, makes the following comment in their review of the book on Amazon.com:

“‘Learned optimism’ is based on the idea of ‘learned helplessness,’ or the theory that if a person believes that he/she has no control over the bad things that happen to him/her – that bad things just occur randomly and for no reason – then the person gives up trying to find ways to make his/her life better and as a result he/she becomes depressed. ‘Learned optimism’ is designed to teach a person with ‘learned helplessness’ that while he/she might not have control over life’s events, what he/she does have control of is his/her own thinking about those events.”