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picture of positive power of negative thinking


Randy R Cox

The Positive Power of Negative Thinking by Professor J.K. Norem

There comes a time when we need to recognize and embrace the positive power of negative thinking.  Are you in a Positive rut? Have you been reciting afirmations without any of the promised results? Are you beginning to have doubts about all that positive motivation? Is it possible that it works for others but not you? Maybe you’ve learned how to put a positive front on a deep seated negative conviction that you can’t get what you want?

Maybe it’s time to try a different angle.

Interrupt your behavior pattern

Think outside the box


Randy R. Cox

The power of positive action has become so important in western culture, that few would challenge it.  How about the power of negative action?  There is magic in a positive thought, but what magic can be found in a negative thought?

Negative thinking is just the exact opposite of positive thinking, right?  Maybe!  Maybe not.  It depends on your angle of approach.  You can use negative actions in very positive ways.  The fact that so few consider it, means it is a tool of surprise.  No one expects it; therefore it can be even more powerful than positive action.

power of negative action

Letters From Grandma showing power of negative action

In art, an artist can use negative space  to intensify the positive image.  Negative space in a painting is the part of the paper or canvas that is blank.  Notice in my example here how Michael Atkinson uses the negative space to suggest fog, snow, mist, sand or whatever the imagination can conceive.  The white space is unrestrained in meaning.  It is suggestive.  It hints only enough to get the juices of the viewer flowing.  It is dynamic and lives in the viewer as well as the artist.  It makes a much larger statement than a rigid fully contained detail.  When the detail is explicit,  it may or may not suit the viewer’s taste, but when left to the mind of the viewer, it will be filled in exactly as the viewer wants it to be.  It becomes a conversation of visual art rather than a lecture.

Art is never distinct from life or business.  It always reflects life.  Negative action in life and business can be similar to the experience we have in art.

The Power of negative action is simply the power of not doing of something.  It is common in negotiation for a nervous bargainer to talk too much.  While the more experience negotiator remains silent, the nervous one will tell everything he knows, trying to fill the uncomfortable void.  Silence is a negative action.  Like the white space in a painting, silence can say whatever the listener wants it to say.  A highly skilled negotiator should learn to feel comfort in silence.  It gives one strength.  When two equally skilled negotiators meet, each allowing the other to fill the void with information and nervous talk, a smile soon crosses the face of each as they learn to respect the skill of the other.  A stronger bond can result from silence between the skilled than could ever result in two novices talking over each other and going nowhere.

There is also a place for negative action in the budget.  It is easy to throw money at a problem, but sometimes it is better to not spend money.  Sometimes it is better to avoid the expense by doing nothing than to make a problem worse by spending and spending and spending.  The United States Government could take a lesson here.  No action is often better than bad action.

I tried to quit smoking for decades.  If I asked anyone, smoker or non-smoker if they thought my trying to quit was a positive action, they would all agree.  It was a positive action, but it always had a negative result.  I always started smoking again.

Too tired to take on another  “stop smoking campaign”, I just decided not to smoke anymore.  I didn’t have to do anything.  In fact, after the decision, as long as I did nothing else, I was done.  It was that simple.  It may sound crazy, but that was seven years ago; I’ve never smoked another cigarette since.  The most fantastic thing is I had to do nothing at all to accomplish what I had failed in all those years to trying this and that to no avail.

It was the power of negative action.

As I write this, it occurs to me that I’m almost 30 lbs overweight.  I’ve been eating all the right foods, with the occasional bowl of ice cream, or large pizza, or sugary soft drink to celebrate.  The more I celebrated my diet actions, the more excess weight I’ve put on. I can’t go on this way.  I’m tired.  I think I’ll just quit eating and see what happens.  Let nature do all the work.  Okay, I’ll eat a little, but mostly I’ll just be lazy and do nothing and see what happens.  I’ll give negative action one more test and see if it will work on my eating problem the same way it did for my smoking problem.

The sad thing is that it seems such an astonishing concept.  Negative Action?  To lose weight, just don’t eat.  It seems too easy to be true.  Positive thinking is still important, but we need a little balance in our life.  We need the power of negative thinking.  We need to utilize intelligent negative action.

One more great thing about negative action is that we can add a lot of good negative action to our agenda without crowding out the positive actions.  Most of us have  more on our ‘to do” list than we can possibly get done.  We can add all the new negative things to our list and they will take up zero time except for the time it takes to write them down and moniter them.  We don’t have to do anything, just do nothing and in about 21 days we can call it a habit and mark it as done.

So much attention is placed on positive thinking in our modern culture, we lose the power of  negative thinking because we don’t consider it.  What a mistake?

I tried for 30 years to quit smoking.  I failed so many times, I was disgusted with myself.  One day, I decided to take another approach.  Instead of quitting which is a positive action that requires me to do something and persist with it forever, I decided to just not smoke anymore.  Whew!  The thought of that overwhelms me.  I didn’t have to do anything.  All I had to do was not smoke!  As long as I did nothing, I was finished with tobacco.

The same is true of losing weight.  Diets are hard.  We have to count calories, watch what we eat, when we eat it, and how much we exercise.  If we just stop eating, we will lose weight!

For every positive thought that has value, there can be an inverse application of that value when considered from another angle.   For every positive action, there is an equal and opposite negative action.

You’re not beaten until you quit! That’s what my dad used to tell me.  The fear of failure leads many people to quit before they are truly beaten.  Failure is just the first step of success!  Your enemy can’t beat you.  You can only beat yourself.

You get to choose! As long as you stay in the battle, you are a success.  Think about this before you give up!  Whatever it is you want to accomplish, you are the only one keeping you from your goal.

I have heard a few excuses in my time.  I’ve made enough of them myself to put me in the excuse maker hall of fame, but for all those excuses, I’ve never actually heard a good one.

Excuses are just exit speeches as losers leave the game before it is over.

Edison failed over a thousand times at getting his electric light to work.  Each time he could have made an excuse and moved on, but he didn’t.  He learned from his failure, adjusted his next experiment and tried again!  The fear of failure did not drive him to quit.  He was not beaten; he did not quit!

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Failure is a habit of starting a game and quitting before the game is over.  Make a new habit.  Stay in the game!  You won’t fear failure as long as you think of it as the neccessary step to success.

When I was a skinny kid, I used to fight a lot!  We had big kid that lived down the street that gave some of my friends a hard time.  I would jump in there to protect my friends even though they were often bigger than I was.  That would usually mean a fight!

I remember a  kid that sat on me, pounding my face until his hand bled.  “Why won’t you quit?” the kid begged.  He was tired of hitting me.   I never thought of myself as losing those fights , even though my face lost more blood than their knuckles.

I won those fights because the next time I told one of those big guys to leave me or my friends alone, they remembered their swollen knuckles and how long it took for their bruised fists to heal.  They would usually walk away rather than risk beating me again.

Some people that know me might say I’ve had a lot of failures in life.  They’d say that because I’ve had a lot of big dreams and only a few of them have happened, but I’ve done a lot of things.  Debbi and I have had a lot of adventures.  I can’t call any of them failures because I’m still working on those dreams and loving every minute.

Babe Ruth hit 708 homeruns.  That’s what people remember, but he also struck out 1330 times.  He hit more homeruns than anyone of his time because he was willing to get back up to that plate after each strike out.

It’s important for you to know who is in control.  You are in control! You decide when you have failed.  You’re not beaten until you decide to quit.  The fear of  failure should never be the reason you decide to quit.  There is no failure for those who perservere.

Don’t let anything stand between you and your dreams. You get to decide!  If you don’t quit, you win!  Life is just a continous series of struggles.  They are never over.  Success is just learning how to beat back the fear of failure and move on, struggle by struggle.  You are not beaten until you quit!

How to Finish What You Start


Randy Cox

Would you get more done if you knew how to finish what you start.  You wouldn’t want to fly with a pilot who didn’t have a formal flight plan.  He might not finish the trip you started.  He might finish it, but in a totally different location than the one you wanted.

So the first thing to help you finish what you start is to fix it formally as a goal.  You should have written long term, short term and intermediate goals written somewhere and review them often.  Change them as they become obsolete or better as you achieve them.  Finish what you start!

You want to be successful!  The only way to do that is to have a goal with a plan to achieve that goal.  Next take action!   As your action produces results, pay attention.  If the results are not exactly what you want, change your plan and adjust your action till you get the results you need to finish what you started.

Napoleon Hill talks about the importance of “burning desire!”   A burning desire for the end result drives action, but if the  passion for that end moment causes frustration if it doesn’t come quickly, you can burn out before you get there.

The real beauty and joy in achievement comes from the process rather than the end result.  Consider a gourmet meal.    You wouldn’t want to just set the meal as a goal and then have the whole thing just instantly appear in your stomach.  The joy is in the eating.

Remember this as you work your plan to achieve whatever goals you have set.  Build your  “burning desire” for the process rather than putting all your passion on the end point.  You don’t want the process to become so exclusively important that you never get to the end.  Remember the gourmet meal again.  You want to experience the joy of eating, but you don’t want to eat forever.  Moderation is in order.  Balance your burning desire for the process and the end result in proper time.

You can’t do everything you want to do all at the same time.  You also can’t focus on just one thing until it is finished.  Life requires a variety of maintenance actions, but you can minimize those actions and reduce the numbers of primary goals to a workable number.  One small step after another is how you habitually finish what you start.

You do this the same way to adjust your individual actions.  That’s why keeping a written set of goals is so important.  If you keep them on paper and review them daily, you will know if you are working too many plans to finish them in good time.  Pay attention to the results you are getting and reduce the number of primary goals.  Pull out the most important ones and work them.  Leave the rest of your less important goals for later.  Adjust these to get better results always.

An object in motion tends to stay in motion.  The same is true of actions.  Once you’ve started something, keep it moving.  Create momentum.

Do something everyday.  You should have a list of items or steps that need to be taken to achieve your goal.  Check them off as you go.  The check off process is great for motivation and it is part of the joy of the process.  Develop a  burning desire to complete the steps and check them off.

It helps to visualize your completed goal.  If you are really serious about learning to finish what you start, make a notebook of your written goals.  Fill it with motivational photos.  I wanted a washboard stomach.  I cut out a picture of a young man with great abs.  I used that to motivate me to go to the gym.  Later I found a photo of an older man with the kind of body that I’m working towards.  His picture better suited my reality so I replaced the young guy with the old guy.  That is my future body.

Collect pictures of your dreams and look at them often.  Carry the vision with you and use it to finish what you started.

A decade ago I was deeply in debt.  I got in debt by spending more than I was making.  I figured out a plan to pay off all my debts, worked my plan until I was actually making more than I was spending.  Then I calculated how long it would take in weeks to pay off all my debt.  I put the number on a sticker and pasted it on the underside of the visor of my hardhat.  I was working as an electrician at the time.

I worked every hour of overtime offered.  It was hard and long hours, but while others went home after eight hours, I’d look the number on my hard hat and find the drive to stay another hour.  Week by week those numbers grew smaller.  Some weeks things happened that caused me to add a few weeks.  Other times, I could take extra weeks off the list.

I paid off all my debts in less than two years.  I owe no man!  Everything I own is paid for.  I had a burning desire.  I had a plan.  I implemented the plan, and I adjusted it I went along.  I started my plan and I finished it.  This is how you finish what you start.

Avoid procrastination at all costs.  If you feel yourself putting off what you should be doing, just start doing it.  Even if you don’t feel like it.  Plug away at it.  Once you get started, you’ll find your rhythm. You will forget that you’d rather be doing something else.

Learn to get started, not on a new project but on the old one.  You can not finish what you start if you never get started.

Procrastination is a habit.  If you interrupt your procrastination habit 21 times you’ll have a new habit of not procrastinating.  Put the number 21 on a sticker on your baseball cap and just get started on something you’ve been putting off.  Take the 21 sticker off and replace it with the number 20.

Do this again on the next project that you feel like putting off.  Just do it and change the sticker on your hat.  If you can avoid procrastination 21 times, you’ll have a new habit.  I promise  you’ll like the new habit a lot better than the old.  Procrastination never feels good.

Okay, so you are a busy beaver.  You’ve got yourself organized with goals, you are a self-starter and you finish what you start.  You’ve interrupted the pattern of procrastination enough times now that you have a new habit of getting things done.

Something always comes along that you can not avoid.  Something will stop you!  That is life.  You need to deal with the problem without letting it destroy you.  Just take whatever time is necessary to get the problem behind you, then immediately get back to your original goals.

You must develop a strong ability to divert your present actions to deal with those life emergencies, and then get back to the old action without delay.  This is a habit you can develop the same way you cracked the procrastination habit.  Number them and make note in your notebook.  When you have done this successfully 21 times, you have added depth to your character.  Celebrate it and protect it by not letting temporary diversions become permanent.

The third habit you need to establish is the habit of review.  You have to pay attention to the results you are getting and constantly tweak your actions to get better results.  You have to review your goals every evening before bed or first thing in the morning.  Here you note your progress.

  1. Budget your time so that all the little everyday chores get done, leaving you with some time for the long term goals and major projects.  Do not panic.  Work on this plan a little each day.  If spend just a few moments each day prioritizing and budgeting time between the little things and the big things, it will work out.
  2. Write down the major obstacles that are slowing you down.  Maybe you can eliminate or minimize recurring obstacles.  First you have to define them.  Solutions will come.
  3. Analyze everything, but do give in to  Analysis Paralysis.  Give it some quick thought, then move on.
  4. Keep your written goals updated.  Adjust. Adjust Adjust!
  5. Attend to your physical and spiritual health!  A good craftsman takes care of his tools.  Your body and spirit are the tools of the work of life.  Keep them in shape.

Finish what you start!