I have received a number of questions on how to resolve a conflict between positive thinking and thinking about what could go wrong. As one president of a company put it, “On the one hand, I want to be a visionary leader and talk about abundance and accomplishment. On the other hand, during difficult economic times, I feel it is my responsibility to worry about what can go wrong and make sure we take protective measures. So, I see this part of what I do as a necessary evil, and it concerns me for two reasons. First, if I focus on what could go wrong, is that the reality I create? Second, does it dilute my role as visionary leader?” This gentle reminder offers some practical guidance on how to resolve the conflict and act powerfully, particularly in difficult times.
A first step in self-awareness is to look at underlying thoughts. There are several underlying thoughts in the questions raised by the president above.
If we look closely at these statements, we can see that each one of these thoughts is a self-limiting belief. Each one involves attachment to a meaning, and ultimately, a reality that may or may not be true. These thoughts also involve an underlying belief that two realities cannot co-exist or that two realities must co-exist, which rarely is true. I don’t believe there is a conflict at all. There is a perceived conflict. In other words, it ispossible to think positively and think about what could go wrong.
First, let’s look at the word “visionary.” What is your definition of “visionary?” Does your definition carry the limiting belief that creating and following a vision and thinking about what might go wrong cannot co-exist? Transpiercing vision involves seeing what is, as well what could be, and what can be.
Second, what is your definition of “wrong?” If something happens differently than what you hope or expect to happen or what you think should happen, does that mean it is “wrong?” Has anything ever gone perfectly? And isn’t it the thunder, followed by rain, that causes the seeds you have planted to germinate and grow? Perhaps your definition of going perfectly can be changed to choosing your intention and then, as things happen, simply noticing what is and making the adjustments to move back on course or perhaps even change the course. Remember, spaceships are off course 95% of the time. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Things happen which move them off course; we constantly measure where they are in relation to the course, and make adjustments. Being off course is simply part of the process.
Third, we seem to confuse seeing “what is” or “what could happen” as being negative and “being aware of potential obstacles” as a necessary evil. Being aware of what may go wrong is similar to knowing that winter will come and taking steps to gather sufficient food and prepare shelter. Winter coming is not wrong. It is what is. Thinking “positively” may actually be negative thinking if we are not acknowledging what is and affirming our commitment to what can be. Many would say that not thinking about winter coming is positive thinking. It’s not. I personally do not use the term “positive” thinking and instead use the term “powerful” thinking because many times, “positive” thinking is not powerful.
Fourth, let’s talk about worry. Worrying about what could go wrong is a far cry from observing what is and what possibly may go wrong. And observing what might possibly go wrong is a far cry from obsessing or focusing only on what might go wrong. There is a big difference in acknowledging what is, or what could be in the full realm of possibilities, which are powerful thoughts, and worrying, obsessing or focusing only on what could go wrong, which are weak thoughts.
The thoughts that this president is experiencing are not working for him. They are not powerful thoughts because they do not bring about peace or inspire him. They instead bring him worry, self-doubt, and negativity and prevent him from accessing his higher awareness and creativity and achieving significant results.
As we talk about in the book Managing Thought: Think Differently. Think Powerfully. Achieve New Levels of Success. and in Managing Thought workshops, we talk about being aware of our beliefs, noticing whether or not they are working for us, and asking ourselves what we could prefer to believe instead.
What new thoughts might we practice thinking?
We learn effectively and are in touch with our high awareness and creativity when we are in a state of thankfulness, happiness, vision or possibility. When we are in these states, we are at peace and inspired. Our creative juices flow. This is not so when we are in states of blame, judgment, worry, anger, frustration, overwhelm, being a victim…
Powerful thoughts that work for us, as an individual or an organization, involve:
These thoughts keep us in the state of vision and possibility and bring us thoughts that move us in the direction of what we want, even in the most difficult times. The key is self-awareness – noticing how you feel when you are looking at what may go wrong. If you do not feel at peace or inspired – then there is another way to think what you are thinking. You can make adjustments to your thoughts until you feel that you are in a state of power.
Whether we are serving as the CEO of an organization or of our life, creating a vision and setting direction is indeed part of the process of accomplishing what is significant and of value to us. Taking action is also part of the process. Seeing current and potential obstacles without blame, judgment or being a victim, is also part of the process, as well as adjusting the vision and direction accordingly, and it involves self-awareness every step of the way.
You can powerfully keep your eye on the vision, notice what may go wrong or what is and make the appropriate adjustments (without blame or judgment). When we manage our thoughts, we are at peace and inspired. It is then that the ideas on how to handle or transcend difficulty shine through and we know the right thing to do. It is then that we achieve significant results.
May you achieve long-lasting personal and business success.
Founder and President
This site is best viewed in Internet Explorer 7 or higher/Mozilla 3 or higher