How many times have you heard that you just have to be more positive and your dreams will come true? The answer is probably – too many.

Not only do you hear these words from your friends and family who are uneducated on the subject of psychology but these words are also screaming at you from cheesy self-help books represented as real science.

They are not completely wrong. However, it’s not the full truth they make it to be.

Some of them fail to reveal the full truth of how being positive changes your life while some truly believe that positivity is all you need. For positivity to work for you, you need to accept a few things.

1. Be a realistic optimist 

Imagine a teenage girl who wants to be an actress.

She daydreams about it all the time. She truly believes that she will become an actress. She has a positive, can-do attitude about it. She knows it will be easy and all she has to do is believe. However, she becomes an accountant for a firm in her hometown in the end.

Why? Because she was optimistic about it.

Now, while this seems to counter the purpose and subject of this piece, it really doesn’t.

Because that same girl would have become an actress if only she accepted that it’s hard and that it will take her a lot of time to do it. If she accepted that no one will discover her and that she has to put in a lot of work – but that it’s doable.

You see, the mistake this girl made was in just believing and daydreaming instead of putting in some real effort into it.

“A realistic optimist is still an optimist – just a positive thinker whose dreams really do come true. However, a magic force doesn’t make this happen – you do”, – explains Bryan Fenn, a Personal development blogger at Origin Writings.

2. Don’t let the failure stop you – learn from it

One of the biggest mistakes that books and people promoting positivity make is not telling their listeners or readers that they might fail. They say that all you need is positive thinking and that’s why most of us fail.

You see, it’s how we interpret the positivity.

For instance, you have a task to do. If you are a positive thinker, you will say that it’s easy. And then you’ll stop and get disappointed as soon as it’s not.

However, a real optimist will say that the task is hard and there will be some obstacles, he might even fail – but he will not stop.

“Believing in a positive outcome doesn’t do you any good. You need to accept that it’s hard and that you might fail. Then you need to work hard on obstacles and problems. In case you still fail, you need to embrace the failure and learn from it in order to avoid it on your next try.” says Kim Allen, a self-help blogger from Writemyx and 1Day2write.

3. “Watch Your Words, They Become Actions”

That said, you do need positivity in order to achieve your goals. But make it the right kind of positivity. As mentioned, don’t think or say “It’s going to be a breeze” every morning to yourself in the mirror. Say “It’s going to be hard, but I will find a way”.

While you need to do hard work, positive thoughts will help get you there. In the words of Lao Tzu: “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny”.

The WOOP method

Gabriel Oettingen, a motivation researcher with the New York University and author of the book Rethinking Positive Thinking, came up with a method that works, based on thorough research and science.

  • Wish for something.
  • Imagine a positive Outcome.
  • Assess the Obstacles.
  • Make a Plan on how to overcome those obstacles.

Oettingen also writes that positive thinking is not completely useless: “The key is simply not to ask more of our fantasies than they can give us. We would be wrong to jettison our dreams, just as we are wrong to blindly assume that simply dreaming something can make it so.”

Optimism is a choice

The secret is this: what you choose is what you become. If you embrace positive thinking for what it can truly do instead of what you wish it could do, you achieve something.

Believing in a positive outcome is a virtue and something you should always choose – but only when supported by facts and will to overcome difficulties.