Positive thinking without action is like a car with a full-tank of petrol but no wheels – it doesn’t go anywhere. The idea that we can magically manifest our desires by just thinking about them does sound kind of wonderful, but it hasn’t worked for me (unless you count when I’m asleep and dreaming).
I’m kind of glad the whole ‘manifesting your desires by the power of thought alone’ thing isn’t effective for me. It would make my life incredibly dull and predictable. It comforts me to know that the universe doesn’t work on the same principles as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. I wouldn’t like it if the only thing determining my success in life was my ability to find my way around a vision-board.
I certainly haven’t given up on positive thinking, but I’ve stopped looking for handouts from the universe. I want the satisfaction of achieving my desires by my own efforts. It gives me a real sense of purpose to have something to work towards – I need to be challenged to feel alive. Without this purpose, I wouldn’t have such a great reason to leap out of bed each morning for another day of battle.
The Dangers of Magical Thinking
The universe is a very mysterious place, and I’m certainly willing to consider the possibility of unseen forces guiding my life. It gives me comfort to think of such things, but it would be a huge mistake for me to rely on a force like this to fix my life – I know this because I’ve already tried.
If there is an intelligent force guiding the universe, it is obvious that this entity prefers to reward those of us who take action. We come pre-packed with the resources we need to succeed, so there is no need for us to rely on divine intervention. It seems a bit unfair to expect special privileges when there are people in the world dying of starvation.
I think prayer is a marvellous tool. I’m agnostic about God, but I’m not ashamed to say that I do occasionally pray. This conversation with the universe can produce effective results but only when I pray for the inner-resources to fix my own problems. I also use vision-boards, affirmations, and positive visualizations but only to increase my motivation.
The rewards of magical thinking are depression, hopelessness, and disappointment unless I take positive action to improve my life. If the universe wants to help me with a bit of supernatural support, I’m certainly going to be grateful for it, but I’m not going to depend on this type of support.
A Parable About Magical Thinking
There is a nice parable that sums up the dangers of magical thinking. I don’t know who originally came up with this story, so I can’t give credit to the author.
There was once a man who had a very strong faith in God. One day his neighbours came to warn him that he should leave the area because floods were on the way. The man refused to leave because he had faith that God would keep him safe.
The next day the floods arrived at this man’s house, and he became trapped inside. A canoe came along to bring him to safety, but he refused to get inside – he said that he had faith that God would save him.
The waters continued to rise and he had to move to the second floor of his home. In the evening, another canoe came along but again he refused to get inside because of his faith that God would save him.
Eventually the waters became so high that the man had to climb up on his roof. A helicopter came along and sent down a rope ladder, but he refused to climb up. He insisted the his faith in God would save him. He drowned later that night.
Our hero dies and wakes up in heaven. He tells God how he can’t understand how he could be allowed to die despite his strong faith. God admits he can’t understand it either because he sent a rescue party, two canoes, and a helicopter.
The lesson of this parable is that even people who believe in God shouldn’t wait for something magical to fix their life.
Positive Action Leads to Happiness
The reason positive action is so important is that this is where some of the real juicy-goodness of life is to be found. I get more satisfaction out of working towards my goals than actually achieving them. Taking action is exciting and it gives me a sense of mastery over my life. Magical thinking is going to be of little value to those of us who are serious about radical self-improvement.