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How to Stay Focused on the Positive Without Living in Fantasy

goalSummary: How can you stay focused on the positive when negativity is real?

Research suggests that focusing on positive outcomes correlates with self-esteem, but it would be foolish to deny that negative outcomes are possible. What’s the solution?

According to an article titled Low Self Esteem published by Simply Psychology:

Research has shown key differences between individuals with high and low self-esteem. For example, people with high self-esteem focus on growth and improvement, whereas people with low self-esteem focus on not making mistakes in life.

If you suffer with low self-esteem, you may be focusing heavily on avoiding the negative aspects of yourself or your life.

Of course, you want to avoid negative outcomes. However, focusing on not getting a negative outcome is different than focusing on a positive one.

For example, let’s say your goal is to focus on green. And it’s best to avoid red.

You could be so focused on avoiding red that it consumes you. Don’t think red, don’t think red.

What color appears in your mind when you’re trying to avoid thinking red? Red!

To avoid thinking red, it’s more effective to think green. Thinking green, you’ll be reaching your goal and avoiding what you don’t want.

Not to complicate things, but…

Of course, there are obstacles and negative outcomes in life. None of us is perfect and we do need to be aware of what could go wrong. Otherwise, we’re just deceiving ourselves. One day, the fantasy will crash down all around us.

Imagine driving through town pretending all the lights are green…

Right? It’s not even safe.

So, what are you to do to stay focused on the positive and not undermine your confidence by living your life trying to avoid mistakes?

Here’s my answer, in two parts:

1) Become consciously aware of what could go wrong and acknowledge it.
2) Focus on the positive outcome you want from there.

For example, if my goal is to eat healthy all day long, I would do as follows.

1) At the beginning of the day, make a list of the times and place where you may be vulnerable to making mistakes. For example, mid-morning in the break room if there are donuts. Mentally decide you will pass on the donuts.

2) Make a specific plan to eat healthy all day, including a menu and where/how you’re going to eat. Stay focused on implementing your plan the entire day.

You’re prepared for potential negativity, so you don’t need to focus there. You have a specific, positive plan to follow. Do it!

What if you can’t let go of the negativity?

This is where you need to go deeper into negative psychological attachments. These will prevent you from letting go of negativity, even when you’re prepared for it. Attachments represent a new paradigm for growth when common sense strategies such as the two steps mention above are not sufficient.


Silverstone, P. H., & Salsali, M. (2003). Low self-esteem and psychiatric patients: Part I–The relationship between low self-esteem and psychiatric diagnosis. Annals of General Psychiatry, 2(1), 2.

Low Self Esteem | Simply Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved from

How to Stay Focused on the Positive Without Living in Fantasy

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2016). How to Stay Focused on the Positive Without Living in Fantasy. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Sep 2016
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