Beyond Magical Thinking


magic wand

I’d like to offer a solution to those of you who have tried positive thinking to no avail.

What Negative Thinking, Standardized Testing, Sales Quotas, and Lost Productivity Have in Common- 

This post is about productivity. It’s about taking sustainable actions that produce good results because the underlying principles–or laws–that govern a given system, are abided by.

The point of this is to demonstrate why positive thinking–my hottest topic on my website and primary in all my teachings–doesn’t work without an understanding of, and an abiding by, the underlying principles of how positive thinking affects the brain. Outcomes depend on how good our brain function is, because it’s our brain that is either open, partly closed, or shut to opportunities that allow us to expand our lives in a good way.

My intention is to offer a solution to those of you who have tried positive thinking but still struggle. I had this issue for most of my life (occasionally still do), so I’m giving you this information because I know how frustrating it can be and how easy it becomes knowing this one thing you will learn here today. But first I must digress and cover why we thought we could repeat positive affirmations and have them work, only to be disappointed. This will serve to further enhance your understanding of the underlying principles, which will help positive thinking work for you!

law books

It’s a Catch-22. If we don’t understand the underlying principles, or laws, of how positive thinking affects the brain, and how that leads to good life outcomes, then we can’t believe it will work for us, and it won’t.

You can only sustain that which you believe in

We often hear leaders in the self-help industry tell us we have to first “believe it and then we will see it,” meaning we have to believe things are working out well for us regardless of the evidence. What they are saying is true, but there’s an obvious catch: We have to first believe positive thinking works in order for it to work. By the end of this post I think you’ll logically understand how it does work, and be able to start immediately working on your goal of manifesting more of what you want while averting what you don’t want!

Our ability to manifest what we want depends on the beliefs that reside in our subconscious mind. Our conscious responses and actions are fully dependent  upon what we believe. We don’t take appropriate, productive action unless our subconscious beliefs are in agreement with our conscious intentions. And our subconscious mind is mostly dedicated (by about 80%–see my Help Starts Here page) to have us believe the worst! In order to change our subconscious beliefs that are holding us back and even causing us to sabotage ourselves, we have to have some conscious logic to feed our subconscious the new beliefs that will inspire us to act in new, self-benefitting ways.

Beliefs and behaviors

I’d like to give you two huge examples of what happens when understanding and compliance with underlying principles are lacking. These come from two of the world’s most prevalent industries: education and business.

scanning-test-1243138Teachers complain they have to “teach to the test” by dispensing a quota of information in time for standardized testing. In the push and rush, students are often stuck, having become lost somewhere “back there” without understanding. They may be able to regurgitate and pass the test for now, but it won’t work in the long run (it’s unsustainable) as their studies progress or they end their education (often prematurely because of this problem). Standardized testing, thankfully, is finally on its way out.

Meanwhile, young people have gone out into the world to try to make their lives work without the complete skills that would have come from understanding the underlying principles that form the basis for ongoing learning. Their ongoing productivity, satisfaction and potential has often been hindered by what they don’t know, not to mention the frustration they and their employers experience.

Ongoing learning is what makes our work truly and satisfyingly productive. If key elements of a topic are missing, learning something new that our subconscious mind doesn’t quite understand (and therefore does not quite believe) is frustrating. Without enough time to grasp new information, productivity, value, and meaning are hindered. Is it any wonder that many students and employees take shortcuts (e.g., substance abuse and cheating) to make their way a little easier or more tolerable? Yet we all know such shortcuts are not sustainable.

The economy of accounting

In business, we’ve seen plenty of examples of not understanding–or more aptly put, ignoring–underlying principles and taking shortcuts. Mortgage derivatives and the Great Recession that began in 2008 were based on ignoring the underlying principles of accounting and economics.  Recently a similar example has been all over the news because of what a big bank apparently did to apparently extort money from its customers.

quota graph

There is no sustainability in excessive testing, meeting excessive quotas, or in expecting the brain to work to help us improve our lives when we set up fake, regurgitated, meaningless accounts of what we want to be real! That’s magical thinking.

As the story unfolds, it seems thousands of employees at Wells Fargo Bank set up millions of additional accounts for its real customers. Problem is, these accounts had nothing in them. Apparently, these mostly young salespeople were encouraged to meet quotas this way to keep their low-paying jobs. The extra accounts apparently brought in extra fees to the bank, which then apparently funded huge bonuses for the men at the top.

Just like the shortcuts in education, it didn’t work in the long run. The fake accounts were blamed on the employees and in a phony show of righteous indignation Wells Fargo fired 5300 of them. The economics of 2 million phony, empty accounts didn’t stand up to the scrutiny of the customers who bore the fees. Not only the phony accounts were not sustainable, but the bank’s phony stated accounts that it was the fault of the employees is also not sustainable.

Apparently, one phony account leads to another

There is no sustainability in excessive testing, meeting excessive quotas, or in expecting the brain to work to help us improve our lives when we set up fake, regurgitated, meaningless accounts of what we want to be real! I’m sure education and business aren’t alone in being fraught with faulty systems that involve ridiculous, unrealistic, unsustainable pressures, a.k.a. “Magical Thinking.” 

We need to slow down and not gloss over the places where we get stuck. We need a full understanding of the underlying principles of any given subject in order to carry information forward in a meaningful way and live more productively. This applies to information about how positive thinking affects the brain. We need to understand the underlying principles before we can apply thought in a way that will improve our lives. This especially holds true if we are to “believe it before we see it.” It starts with having real information, real data and real accounting, and consciously feeding new logic to the subconscious. 

shiny brain

To “believe it before we see it,” we must have real information, real data, and a real accounting of the laws that cause positive thinking to work.

Neuroscience and the brain

So here’s the accounting in regard to the brain on positive thinking: Independent studies by several independent neuroscientists concluded that when people notice a negative thought and override it with three or more positive thoughts, brain function improves.  They watched study participants’ brains on scanning machines as they overrode negative thoughts with positive and saw their brains light up, indicating improved functioning. At the same time, participants reported feeling joy. Later on, participants who made a habit of noticing their negative thoughts, and purposely overrode them with three or more positive thoughts, reported that outside the lab and in the field of life their relationships improved.

When you override your negative thoughts with positive, your brain functions well, you feel joy, your relationships improve, and you become more appropriately emotionally responsive. The added bonus is that, with a better-functioning brain, you more easily find solutions to your problems.  Not bad for simply thinking positively on purpose at a ratio of three or more to every negative thought!

Quality relationships = quality life

More important than all that information is understanding why having good relationships is the most crucial element that comes from positive thinking. That’s because our relationships are what actually manifests the good stuff in our lives.

Look at it this way: When we are appropriately responsive, we are nicer people while standing in alignment with serving ourselves, i.e., we are not a doormat nor are we aggressive. We are simply assertive while smartly considering all involved. Nicer people have better relationships because they are likely to be fair, honest, and respectful while aggressive people do and say mean things. We trust nice people, and we want to do business with them, work with them, work for them, or have them work for us. Get the picture? Good relationships not only are satisfying in their own right, they lead to more economic opportunities. And we all know that having opportunities can lead to a richer experience of life. After all, we don’t make money or have our best life experiences while living in a vacuum.

Good relationships are triggered by positive thinking, but we need to remember it’s not the positive thinking or good relationships alone that cause successful life outcomes or achievement of goals. It’s the optimal functioning of the brain that makes us socially and emotionally smarter and able to take sensible action that leads to achieving our goals. It’s not magic!

Let the brain pull you to success

Get the brain to pull you to success!

Linking what positive thinking does to improve relationships, which in turn increases economic opportunities, can inspire you to notice your negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts consistently. As your brain experiences working smarter, you can consciously tap into positive thinking more and more easily and consistently experience better brain function, thereby improving your problem-solving abilities and reaching more of your goals.

Final thoughts (pardon the pun)

Positive thinking works, but there is a real formula to it. It starts with developing a habit of monitoring your thoughts. Then it boils down to thinking enough positive thoughts to override any given negative thought. So whenever you feel bad, take note of the thought that caused the bad feeling. Then override the negative thought with positive thoughts at a ratio of three or more to one. (Because you just read the underlying principles of how the brain responds to , you’ll do this knowing and believing that it works.) I named this process The 3:1 Override.© There is much more detail to The 3:1 Override than the room on this page allows for, but now you have the basics. I encourage you to play with The 3:1 Override because although it can always be done more effectively, it generally can’t be done incorrectly.

Once I understood the mechanics and principles of the brain as known by neuroscientists, positive thinking had real meaning to me. Now the saying, “Believe it and you’ll see it” is logical and true for me. You can learn why the brain has a propensity for negative thinking by clicking on this link to my Help Starts Here page.

Have a wonderful life, one thought at a time!



  1. Ben

    I know of a similar saying to believe it and you will see it. There is a saying from the ancient Jewish mysticism teachings “Think good and it will be good.” Now I understand it a little better — you can’t sustain anything with a negative attitude.

  2. Hey there =)

    This post was so relevant for me at this time because I have been looking into the science of how positive thinking can effect our brains and ultimately our lives in the best possible ways.

    This was such a fascinating post to read!

    I could of kept on reading =)

    Keep up the positive thinking


    • Lawrence, I am so glad you enjoyed the article. Your comment shows me that you get it: Our life outcomes depend on our relationships, which depend on our brain function which depends on our mood. Thanks for your comment.:-) RoriO

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