What Nick Saban Thinks of Positive Thinking

Nick SabanExtensive studies by psychologists suggest that people who embrace a positive attitude are going to be happier, healthier, and more successful than those who don’t. Our own personal experiences confirm that when we maintain a positive attitude we’re more productive, we feel better about ourselves, and life tends to go a lot smoother for us—both personally and professionally.

However, “positive thinking” is often misunderstood. Some people hear the phrase “positive thinking” and immediately think of “wishful thinking.” They think of self-help gurus forcing smiles or naïve Pollyannas pinning their hopes to unrealistic expectations. People who view positive thinking this way are missing something key.

Nick Saban has already established himself as one of history’s greatest college football coaches. And while no one would accuse him of exuding a happy-go-lucky, smiling-all-the-time persona (he’s better known for his no-nonsense persona), Coach Saban is a big believer in the importance of having a positive attitude. Here’s how he sees it…


Your attitude is critical to success.

Having a positive attitude can have a tremendous effect on how you react and respond to challenges, successes, and failures. And attitude is directly affected by your expectations.

If you expect things to be difficult, it will always be easier to solve problems, overcome adversity, and have an enthusiastic energy about how you go about and enjoy your work.

Take a moment and think about the challenges you faced in your life just in the last week. How did you react?

Take the example of Bob and Mike and how they react to a day’s challenges.

Their cars needed repair and went into the shop for a week; both must now take the subway to work. Bob sees it as a major inconvenience and gets upset every morning as he takes the train. Mike sees it as an opportunity and catches up on last week’s newsmagazines and even makes a few business contacts on the subway.

At work, both submit business proposals for their bosses to review. Neither boss is satisfied. Bob immediately blames his boss, pointing out that “he doesn’t know a good proposal when it’s right in front of him,” and sulks as he attempts to make it better. Mike, however, asks for constructive feedback and sees the evaluation as a chance to improve. He stays late at the office, before catching the train, to create a vastly different, and improved, plan.

Bob and Mike both faced the same challenges, but their attitude toward them made all the difference.


— Nick Saban, from his book How Good Do You Want to Be?

It may seem odd to hear a proponent of positive thinking suggest that you should “expect things to be difficult,” but Saban points out the crucial difference between positive thinking and wishful thinking.

Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you delude yourself into expecting everything to be perfect all the time. Quite the contrary. It means that you fully expect to encounter adversity, but you choose to believe that you have what it takes to overcome whatever adversity may come your way.

When something bad happens, you can’t be blindsided by it and let yourself fall into a negative, “why me?” type of attitude. Instead, you have to find the positive in the situation and completely believe that you will find a way to turn things around.

It’s this type of can-do positive thinking that leads to victory in any endeavor.

Positive thinking isn’t some sort of magical protection against anything difficult ever coming your way; it’s the fuel for overcoming the difficulties that most surely will come your way. Understand this crucial difference.