I’ve gotten used to early morning wake-ups lately. The sun pouring through my window and the birds chirping excitedly.

But today I was awakened by a different sound. Loud truck beeping and the clanging of shovels. I rolled over to see a paving crew slowly roll down our road pouring asphalt into the potholes.

I felt sorry for them wasting their time on a project in vain.

There’s nothing wrong with filling in a pothole. The issue comes with the fact that our road is a dirt road. Way back in the day, it was paved. But years have eaten away at it and since it’s a private way it’s not been maintained by the city. So every time they pour asphalt down, it slowly crumbles apart because there is nothing to hold it in place. So they roll by and make the same repairs on a regular basis instead of addressing the condition of the road itself.

As I watched the crew shovel asphalt into a puddle it reminded me of Dr. Cheryl Thompson’s TEDxUTSC talk on Why Positive Thinking is not Enough.

(As someone that has used real-life scenarios to relate to mindfulness practices for the last decade, my brain actually works like that).

Just like pouring asphalt onto a dirt road, positive thinking is ineffective for real change.

It’s one of the subjects clients consistently think they need to improve – “I need to figure out how to have a more positive outlook so I can feel better.” We are conditioned to believe that all things challenging in our lives will be magically fixed with a better attitude. And while I’m not downplaying the power of gratitude and being present to what is good in life, it’s no less important to take in the full picture and acknowledge it.

Pouring positive mindset onto burnout or exhaustion or procrastination does nothing but create guilt and more energy drain. When your system is depleted, no amount of thinking good thoughts is going to magically create happiness.

As Dr. Thompson says: “Your thinking does not define your level of success – it’s the questions you ask yourself along the way.”

I would ask questions like: How are you feeling? How much sleep have you gotten? When was the last time you moved your body? Did you eat lunch? Have you spent nourishing times with friends? When was the last time you got outside?

And when it comes to your work life, get clear- why are you working the way you are working? What are you trying to achieve?

Many of us have no idea why we push ourselves the way we do or why we work the way we work. Most people have no clue that their systems are stressed, only that they don’t feel like themselves.

Do you know how to connect to yourself and your goals in a way that feels doable and achievable? Do you know how to refuel your system when it’s been drained to depletion?

If you’re not quite sure how to answer those questions, take some time an space to explore them. Do some journaling. Take a walk and contemplate them. Add your findings into your life slowly. And if you’re still having a hard time making headway, it’s a great idea to hire a coach to help you out! No positive mindset needed.

I encourage you to take in the big picture today. Zoom your lens out a little more and take your whole holistic self into consideration. You may learn some incredible, wonderful, and hilarious things along the way.