Is it possible that "positive thinking" can actually backfire in certain situations, and that negativity can be a good thing? That’s the question posed in a recent article that appeared in the New York Times in August. A prime example was the report that 21 people had received burns from walking on hot coals during a "positive thinking" exercise.

Another example cited was a research study in which subjects were dehydrated, and then told to visualize cool, refreshing water. Those that did so saw their energy levels drop, while those who engaged in negative or neutral fantasies fared better. It is possible that imagining that you have already conquered a challenge may provide a sense of relief and deprive you of the actual need to act.

Affirmations and goal setting are also discussed in the article. Can telling yourself you aren’t fat when you see your body in the mirror really help you lose weight? Can focusing on a goal with extreme fervor lead to corner cutting and ethical breaches?

Can it be that a totally positive, “thumbs-up” approach to such acute business challenges as the pending financial crisis in 2006 prevented executives from dealing with it and thus exacerbated the resulting recession in the following years? Instead of focusing completely on a positive outcome, would we be better off to balance our perspective – and use the power of negative (i.e. sometimes reality-based) thinking to solve problems, no matter how daunting they may be?