Positive Thinking: Its Benefits and Limitations

pink sky

We often hear the mantra that positive thinking is a key to our success and happiness. – It is true that thoughts are of crucial importance in shaping experiences in our life. But, what do we actually mean by positive thinking? When is positive thinking helpful and when is it a hindrance?

What Positive Thinking is Not.

1. Expecting that thoughts alone can bring success.

Good thoughts are important for success. But, Edmund Hilary didn’t climb Mount Everest, just by thinking about it. Combine positive thinking by taking practical steps. Don’t just dream – Act.

2. Ignoring our Weaknesses

We need to develop self confidence and belief in our capacities. But, this should not be mistaken for pride and arrogance. If we feel that we are always right, this is a real mistake. This is not so much positive thinking as arrogant wishful thinking. We need to combine self-confidence with a quiet humility.

3. Expecting People will Behave in a Certain Way

Positive thinking should not assume that we can change someone’s nature just through positive thoughts. We should avoid magnifying people’s weaknesses, but, it is a mistake to feel that we can change someone’s nature through positive thinking. In practise we will always be disappointed. Positive thinking can be used to offer goodwill to others, but, do not expect fundamental change from others.

4. Desire for Great Riches through positive Thinking

George Bernard Shaw said there are 2 tragedies in life “One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it” If we feel positive thinking is repeating a mantra like ” I will be rich, i will have loads of money” – Maybe we will get money; but, is this what will give us abiding satisfaction? Positive thinking should be used for our self improvement and not our self aggrandizement

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What is Personal Development?

blue boat

Personal development is our conscious self-improvement and self-transcendence. It is the aspiration to realise our higher self

The process of Personal development involves several aspects:

  • Transcending our Negative Qualities.

We all have negative qualities such as pride, anger and doubt. Personal development is a conscious effort to reduce and minimise these qualities by focusing on the positive aspects of life.

  • Controlling Our Thoughts.

Control of our thoughts is essential for our own development. If we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of our own thoughts, we cannot hope to minimise our negative qualities and bring our good qualities to the fore. Meditation is the best way to cultivate a silent mind.

  • Self-Transcendence.

Self-Transcendence is the art of going beyond our own self-imposed limitations. This means we aspire to reach new goals and not to be satisfied with what we were in the past.

  • Intuition.

Personal development means we learn to listen to the inner voice – our inner pilot. The messages of our inner voice can only be heard with a silent mind. This inner inspiration comes not from our ego, but our Soul.

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How to Deal With Problems

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Problems cannot be avoided in everyday life. When we do not have difficulties, the human mind has a tendency to create extra problems. To deal with problems that arise we should not seek to avoid them. We need to look at them as an opportunity to improve our nature. By overcoming problems we can strengthen our will and learn valuable lessons.

Here are some tips for dealing with problems:

1. Don’t Feel Miserable

The existence of a problem does not mean we should feel miserable or guilty. True, the problem may be the result of our previous mistakes, but, regretting the past will not help us deal with the issue at hand. Also, quite often problems arise through no fault of our own. To feel guilty for problems created by others is to make a double mistake.

2. Opportunity not a Problem

Often what we see as a problem is really an opportunity to learn something or overcome a certain weakness. We will never invite problems into our life, but if we are able to have the right attitude we realise that by overcoming them we can learn something quite valuable.

Our goal is not to have
A problem-free life.
But to conquer all the problems
As they appear
Along our life-road.

Source: No Unreachable Goal, by Sri Chinmoy

3. Be Resolute

If the problem is stemming from other people, we have to be steadfast in not allowing the problem to enter into us. We should try to build an invisible barrier to stop the negativity entering into us. For example, if others are very stressed, they will subconsciously try to pass their anxieties onto us. If we are not strong these anxieties will enter into us. However, if we can detach ourselves from their worries and stress we will remain unaffected.

“Courage consists in equality to the problem before us.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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8 Ways to Deal with Worries

You woke up an hour late, just when you have that important business meeting this morning. In the bathroom you discover that you’ve run out of toothpaste and your only clean shirt has a bad crease in it running right through the middle. You burn the toast, drop the sugar container and burn your tongue on the boiling hot coffee. All your alarm bells are ringing and anxiety rushes through your veins like a mad, unstoppable current. With all the ingredients for a disastrous recipe at hand, how to stay cool in the midst of an erupting volcano of worries and anxieties? Here are eight tips.

1. Use common sense.

Ask yourself just one question: is worry going to help you even one bit in sorting out the chaos you’ve just landed into? No. An unmistakable no. On the contrary, worrying about the situation will only make things worse. And you thought it couldn’t possible get worse? Wrong again. So don’t worry. Be happy.

2. Take a few deep breaths.

When anxiety hits you your breathing becomes shallow, irregular and restless. You’ll be amazed how breathing in deeply, fully and calmly will restore your peace of mind. It may come as no surprise that during our deep sleep our breathing is always deep and completely relaxed. Practise belly-breathing as often as possible, also during stress-free hours.


3. Better stay away from that cup of coffee!

Too much caffeine overstimulates the nerves, making you more susceptible to anxiety. Green and black tea also contains caffeine. Go for a tasty fruit juice or herbal tea instead. Your nervous system will be grateful.

4. Think of the ocean.

Strange as this piece of advice may sound, when you think of something vast and limitless, like a vast body of water, your mind becomes relaxed and peaceful. Anxiety traps your mind in a tiny little room and binds it there. That’s why you feel like you’re suffocating. Free your mind again. Make it wide, broad and vast. Like Mark Twain said, “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.”

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When Silence is the best Philosophy


Silence, unmoved and rising,
Silence, unmoved and sheltering,
Silence, unmoved and permanent,
Silence, unmoved and brilliant,
Silence, broad and immense like the Ganga,
Silence, unmoved and increasing,
Silence, white and shining like the Moon,
Silence, the Essence of Siva.

– Sivavakkiyar

There was a young aspirant who wished to learn the meaning of life so he travelled to meet the most famous philosophers of his age. The first philosopher gave a very great and lengthy explanation on the meaning of life. The aspirant was suitably impressed and awed by the magnificence of his deliberations. However, straight away this theory was criticised by another philosopher. He cogently pointed out many deficiencies in his system; instead he pointed out another philosophy, which he argued was far superior. Like this several philosophers came to argue their case for having the best philosophy. Some said truth could not be discovered in this life, others said that truth was in a particular book. However, with so many conflicting philosophy’s the aspirant just became confused.

The aspirant decided to travel deep into the forest where he came across a yogi deep in meditation. His face expressed a countenance of deep equanimity, peace and, contemplation. Eagerly the aspirant asked the yogi what was the meaning of life. To this question, the yogi did not flicker even an eyelid, but continued in his deep meditation. The aspirant was disappointed, but remained inspired by the consciousness of the yogi. The next day he came back and his repeated question, the yogi maintained his silence. It was then that the aspirant realised the meaning of life could never be explained in words.  At this point he began to learn meditation himself.

In my deep silence I never become a victim to ignorance,
the greatest calamity that can befall any human being.
In my growing silence I am convinced that even as a man on this earth I shall be able to reach heights, transcendental, divine.
My glowing silence alone can accelerate my
Godward march.

– Sri Chinmoy

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