Oliver Burkeman is a writer for The Guardian based in Brooklyn, New York. His new book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, explores the upsides of negativity, uncertainty, failure and imperfection. Each week in "This Column Will Change Your Life" he writes about social psychology, self-help culture, productivity and the science of happiness, and makes unprovoked attacks on The Secret.
From his Q & A with Sarah Scire:
SS: The “Goal Crazy” chapter of the book was particularly fascinating because there’s a lot of motivational literature out there based on the idea that success means ignoring the naysayers and charging full steam ahead. When does “fatal magnetism” to a goal evolve from dedication to doomed delusion? Doesn’t wanting to be a writer or artist or tech entrepreneur involve a certain amount of self-deception and positive thinking?Learn more about the book and author at Oliver Burkeman's website.
OB: The Antidote is definitely all about restoring a balance between positive and negative, not eliminating every trace of positivity—if that were my argument, I’d just be committing the reverse fallacy. But I think we’re generally very imbalanced towards positive thinking, and goals are a great example of that: the idea of “holding your goals loosely” seems completely alien in many quarters, especially American and British corporate culture. The “fatal magnetism” idea—I’m borrowing here from a management scholar called Chris Kayes, who has used this to explain the Mount Everest disaster of 1996—is that once a goal becomes part of your identity, many dangers arise. You start interpreting negative information, about why you should call off the plan, as a positive reason to commit even harder to it. You can be ambitious as a writer or an entrepreneur, I think, without being rigidly committed to particular outcomes, or deluded about your chances of success. Indeed, the less...[read on]
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