Daniel Pink

A lot of the power of positive thinking was not built on any evidence. It was built on beliefs, some of which turned out to be right. But it wasn’t guidance from an empirical perspective. [University of North Carolina professor] Barbara Fredrickson has shown that positivity enhances well-being when it’s in the right balance. She has a three-to-one ratio: Your positive emotions should outnumber your negative emotions by three to one. But if the ratio is above 11 to one, you’re in la-la land.

Studies have also shown that purely positive self-talk—“You can do it,” the Bela Karolyi school—is better than nothing. But it’s less effective than interrogative self-talk. Asking, for example, “Can you do this?” The early proponents of positive thinking would find that abhorrent: You’re questioning your ability? But interrogative self-talk leads to preparation and planning.

Also important is changing the way you explain things. You can ascribe outcomes to internal or external causes. If you lose a sale, it’s probably not entirely your fault. But if you explain it that way, it’s going to be debilitating. If, after a rejection, you say, “Well, this always happens,” that’s just not true. [University of Pennsylvania professor] Martin Seligman’s research has shown that if you adopt an optimistic explanatory style and widen your ability to explain things with accuracy, you’ll be better off.

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