The Positive Power of Negative Thinking
|November 6, 2013||Posted by Staff under Uncategorized|
Most people assume that strategic optimists outperform defensive pessimists, because they benefit from confidence and high expectations. Defensive pessimists were more anxious and set lower expectations for themselves. Yet they didn’t perform any worse.
By imagining the worst-case scenario, defensive pessimists motivate themselves to prepare more and try harder.
Strategies that prove effective are often the reverse of what you expect.
We think it’s a good idea to encourage people, but not so fast. Defensive pessimists did significantly worse when they were encouraged. The encouragement boosted their confidence, quelling their anxiety and interfering with their efforts to set low expectations.
When people are anxious, we sometimes tell them to distract themselves. Once again, this doesn’t pay off for defensive pessimists. Taking time to worry helps them generate the anxiety necessary to motivate themselves.
In the U.S., we favor optimists over pessimists. When economists surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. CEOs, they found that more than 80 percent scored as “very optimistic.”
We need pessimists to anticipate the worst and prepare us all for it.
Ultimately, both styles are deadly at their extremes. Pessimism becomes fatalistic, and optimism becomes toxic. The key is to find the sweet spot, the more moderate ranges that combine the benefits of both approaches.