There’s an important qualifier to positivity; if, that is, you want it to really work for you

There’s an important qualifier to positivity; if, that is, you want it to really work for you

Many years ago I read a great book, in fact a book about greatness.

Jim Collin’s “Good to Great” covered numerous topics relevant mostly to businesses, but many of which could also easily be applied by an individual. In short, he provided a number of research based answers to the question … why do some companies go from good to great (and, therefore, why don’t others)?

Not surprisingly, there’s not just one answer to this question but there is one factor upon which I want to focus today. And that is, a form of optimism or positivity. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Collins found that being the most optimistic wasn’t necessarily the most successful strategy. In fact, he discovered a paradox related to “optimism” which he named after a story that illustrates his point.

Collins named this concept after James Stockdale, who, during the Vietnam War, was held captive as a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was one of the highest-ranking naval officers at the time.

During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured and had no reason to believe he’d make it out alive. Held in the clutches of the grim reality of his hell world, he found a way to stay alive by embracing both the harshness of his situation with a balance of healthy optimism.

Stockdale explained this idea as the following: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end, which you can never afford to lose, with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

You can read more about this story and concept HERE but in short, Stockdale found that amongst the prisoners, unconditional optimism could backfire, in that when unrealistic hope was not met, disappointment and heartbreak followed. In contrast, more realistic expectations maintained hope and positivity, whilst still being grounded in reality. 

And herein lies the message we can all try to apply in our lives. By all means, focus on all that’s going well and all you want to go well, but focus, also, on the cold, hard realities of the day. This balance, is what could be called realistic optimism and it’s realistic optimism that will ultimately lead to real and meaningful happiness, happiness that will endure and maintain during even the most difficult of times.