• Elaine Sanders

Stop Positive Thinking

Sometimes things can go south when with a horse. You can be going along fine and then one variable changes and just like that, what was once fine is no longer fine.

I was riding Pecan in the ditch by the highway one evening. Cars were zipping by. Trucks, semis, trailers, campers, boats. Pecan was handling it no problem at all and we were having a great time bounding through the ditches.

But then I heard it. The whining engine. I could hear it before I saw it crest the top of the little hill. Pecan’s nemesis. The motorbike.

I’m not sure if it’s the sound. I’m not sure if she’s had a bad experience with them. But she doesn’t like them. And if she doesn’t like them, I don’t either.

As the motorbike sped closer, she stopped dead in her tracks. She lifted her head as high as she could, staring at the thing, and her back hollowed out underneath me. I could feel her hammering heartbeat rocking us back and forth. I felt pretty small, powerless, and afraid up there on that frightened horse.

“It’s fine,” I said out loud. “We’re fine.” Even I wasn’t convinced.

We weren’t fine. She was terrified, and so was I.

I realized I was lying to myself and to her. They were empty words. Just positive thinking. It wasn’t effective; it did nothing to calm us, prepare us, or get us through the situation.

When situations come up in life, we are often encouraged to “Think positive!” For what? What does positive thinking do? In this case it did nothing.

Think about the last time you did some positive thinking? Did it help? Maybe, maybe not. Does positive thinking about the interview land you the job? Nope. Does positive thinking change the diagnosis? No. Does positive thinking repair the relationship? Nope.

Positive thinking isn’t enough.

So am I saying that I should’ve sat on the terrified horse and screamed, “Oh s#it, we’re going to die!”? No, I’m not saying that at all!

Negative thinking isn’t the answer either. Obviously negative thinking isn’t going to land you the job, change the diagnosis, or repair the relationship either.

So if it’s not negative thinking, and it’s not positive thinking, then what is it?

Positive feeling.

Sitting on that horse and positive thinking got us no where. So here’s what I did instead. I reached down deep and summoned the person that Pecan needed me to be in that moment. She needed me to be alert and calm, ready for the challenge. And when I felt that, I did what I needed to do to prepare. I applied some light contact in the reins, I dropped my heels, shifted in the saddle, and calmly braced with grace and ease for whatever was going to happen.

Which in this case was nothing. The motorbike screamed past, Pecan jigged a bit, blew out a big breath, then looked around for some grass.

But sometimes it’s not nothing. Sometimes we get the job and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes the diagnosis isn’t so bad and sometimes it’s devastating. Sometimes the relationship is good and sometimes it’s tough.

But when we can access that positive feeling of calm but alert, when we can look ahead and see clearly that challenge ahead of us, then we can brace for that challenge - whatever it is - and handle it with grace and ease.

With heart,


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