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The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking

Researchers in London just completed an 18-year project studying people's financial expectations in life in comparison to actual outcomes. Some people rely on pessimism to lower the bar and ensure satisfaction with the outcomes in life. Others rely on optimism to forecast and create a more hopeful and happy future.

Dr. Chris Dawson said,

Plans based on inaccurate beliefs make for poor decisions and are bound to deliver worse outcomes than would rational, realistic beliefs. I think for many people, (not having) … to spend your days striving to think positively might come as a relief. We see that being realistic about your future and making sound decisions based on evidence can bring a sense of well-being, without having to immerse yourself in relentless positivity.

In the context of the Covid-19 crisis the researchers highlight that optimists and pessimists alike make decisions based on biased expectations:

Optimists will see themselves as less susceptible to the risk of Covid-19 than others and are therefore less likely to take appropriate precautionary measures. Pessimists, on the other hand, may be tempted to never leave their houses or send their children to school again. Neither strategy seems like a suitable recipe for well-being.

Possible Preaching Angle:

Some people rely on positive thinking to give them hope for the future, while pessimists lower their expectations to minimize their disappointment. However, the Christian has bright hope for the future because of the absolute dependability of our God and his unshakeable promises.


University of Bath, "Time to get real on the power of positive thinking," ScienceDaily (7-7-20)

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