You Don't Need to Be Positive to Succeed

You will often read or hear someone say that in order to succeed you must visualize your goal and believe it will happen. You must have a positive mental attitude in order to succeed.

I've often come across examples in my own life and in the lives of others that contradict this premise. Although positivity may help, and certainly a totally helpless defeatism will not help, and giving up will guarantee failure, great things can be accomplished without a positive attitude.

The reason I think this is important is because many of us, including me, find it difficult and unnatural to be positive all the time. If you feel that way too, take heart. You can still accomplish your goals without being perpetually cheery. I just watched a true story of survival that demonstrates this principle very well. The movie is Touching the Void, a story about mountain climbers who experience tragedies and danger during a climb.

Although it's a movie, it is interspersed with clips of interviews with the real people depicted in the movie, letting you know what they felt inside and what was going through their minds at the time. One of the men did something that should have been humanly impossible, and he tells you what he was thinking.

The most important thing he said was, "You have to keep making decisions." He was in situations more than once during the ordeal where he had to make difficult decisions in order to move forward. He didn't have all the information he needed and there was no way for him to get that information before making the decisions. But if he made no decisions, he would have died. If he put off making a decision too long, he would have died.

That's true for us too. We may not die, but if we don't make any decisions, we will fail. And if we put off decisions too long, we will fail. And sometimes we don't have all the information we need. We have to keep making decisions anyway.

That's the necessary ingredient to succeeding: Keep making decisions and keep moving toward your goal. If you have a positive attitude, it's a nice bonus. It might make your trip more enjoyable. But luckily, it isn't essential for success.

Adam Khan is the author of Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot, Principles For Personal Growth, and Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought.

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