Ambivalence

January 21, 2007 — Leave a comment

Think Happy Thoughts
– Go To Your Happy Place

– There’s No Place Like Home

– You’re Good Enough, Smart Enough, and Gosh Darn it, People Like You

In popular culture as in life, we are constantly admonished to think positively. A friend told me that his dad use to coach him to practice “positive self-talk” when playing sports. If memory serves me correctly (and the chances of that are slim), the purpose was to focus on playing well instead of dwelling on the mistakes that had been made. Good advice. So much so that it’s become a catch-phrase at work to help us get through some tough days.

The fact is all of the above is probably good advice. Thinking positively and focusing on the good things in life is a much better alternative than focusing on the negative. However, as recently reported by Business Week (scroll down), it actually might be better to not think positively. Not that the authors suggest that we should think negatively. Instead, recent research suggests that people are happier when they practice ambivalence; when they are content with the outcome because their expectations are reduced. Thinking positively means that you are looking for good things to come your way. Ambivalence means that you take life as it comes – and deal with the results. It may not qualify you for working at Disneyland, but it may make dealing with life outside of the happiest place on Earth a little easier.


Practicing ambivalence isn’t meant to be equated with a lack of care. Instead it means recognizing that just like good intentions, positive expectations have little actual impact. Heightened expectations means that you have a heighten awareness of when they are unfulfilled. Choosing to experience life rather than expecting something from it, might be the better way to go.

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