Ready for some positive paranoia?

Chances are you’ve heard the rather bleak joke that observes, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”


You may have come to realize you’re one of the many, many people who find it easy to expect the worst and then—because your expectations are so strong?—to get exactly what you feared. That’s an example of the counterproductive power of a negative self-fulfilling prophecy.  And once you experience those unhappy results, it’s way too easy to use them as “proof” that you were right to expect the worst, isn’t it?

Can you say “downward spiral”?

What if, instead, you choose to develop a raging case of positive paranoia? In other words, how would your results and your life be different if you started expecting everyone to be out to help you?

Whoa! Radical thinking. And very exciting.

Let me be clear: I’m not advocating that you approach life from a demanding, self-centered perspective of gimme-gimme-gimme. However, I am encouraging you to start acting as if people truly are willing to help—especially once you (a) ask for their help and (b) are willing to accept it when it’s offered.

I’ve been aware of this “positive paranoia”concept for a long time and have worked to incorporate it into my life and business. I often find it’s a real challenge, though, because there are a lot of messages, from individuals and the media, that contradict even the possibility of expecting the best from people:

So what are some things you can do to start shifting your beliefs from “they’re out to get me” to “they’re out to help me”? I’ve found the following two questions to be really helpful in making this shift.


Expectations rule outcomes.


“What if…?”

This simple and flexible phrase opens your mind to possibilities, gives you permission to think in a different way, and lessens resistance to new ideas. You can finish this question with any phrase that moves you toward expecting the best instead of the worst. “What if the prospect wants to contract with me right now? What if the corporation wants a whole series of presentations rather than a single one? What if she arranged this meeting so we could put that harsh misunderstanding behind us?” You get the idea.

“I wonder…”.What outcomes do your thoughts create?

Think about what I said regarding “What if?”and apply it to “I wonder.” This phrase allows you to play in the realm of infinite positive possibilities, rather than negative ones. In addition, “I wonder” enables you to uncover and take advantage of the inherent playfulness and creativity you tapped so easily as a child.


What sort of great outcomes have you experienced when you went into a situation expecting the best?

Or have you been so caught up in the nuts-and-bolts of building your business that you haven’t had time to really think about the outcomes you want and get into how good it will feel to experience those outcomes? If that sounds distressingly familiar, maybe I can help.

My clients know they can rely on me to show them the way to break free of the endlessly undone To Do list and start focusing on only those activities that are most likely to have a serious payback. We create step-by step action plans that enable them to make BIG strides toward their important goals, and I hold them accountable for implementing those plans.

If that sounds like heaven, maybe we should figure out if we could do good work together. The easiest way to do that is spend 30 or 40 minutes getting acquainted with each other by phone, and the easiest way to set up that call is to email me with “I wonder….” in the subject line. (If you want to move a little faster, you can always call me at 319-270-1214 to arrange our get-acquainted call.)

Whether we decide we’re a great fit for each other, or a poor one, or a great fit down the road, we’ll both be confident we made the right decision. I wonder what conclusion we’ll reach?

(By the way, thanks to diana MARGARIT for the image of her little sister; she posted it in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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5 Responses to Ready for some positive paranoia?

  1. Pingback: You're as important as anyone else. | Stepping Into Big

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