Column: Aspire Unplugged, by Cheryl Patterson
“A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes.” -Mahatma Gandhi
What do you want? It’s a simple question that is easy for some people to answer…money, house, car, relationship… Others may be a little stumped because it’s not something they often ask themselves, or because they’re so focused on what they don’t want.
What is it that seems to magnetize our thoughts to the opposite of where we want to be – adversity? You would think that in light of the basic rule for thoughts – positive in equals positive outcomes; negative in, results in unhappiness – would be a precursor to positive thinking. However, ruminating about problems can become a regular preoccupation, which is funny, when you think about it.
Imagine being on a sports team and your coach says, “Ok… I want you to imagine failing…” Or even though you dream of success, you focus on struggling and on things you think you can’t do…” Talk about self-sabotage.
In contrast, research suggests that a positive focus is empowering and has a positive impact on our goals and success, in addition to emotional state. So, it’s a no-brainer…we want to get preoccupied with what we want, and the following are some tips to help you do just that.
Have a plan in place to switch your thinking to things you want, when you’re negatively ruminating about what you don’t. Personally, using a mantra is my go-to for re-directing my thinking to my goals when my mind wanders to negative territory. Create a one-line saying as your reminder throughout the day about what it is you want (.i.e. “my life is filled with…peace…love, etc., or “greater achievements…success, etc., are coming my way.” Use whatever words relate to what you want). I found that the more I did this, the more it kicked in naturally, and now it’s my automatic reaction to negative thoughts.
Carve out daily time for fun and meaningful activities. This gives you something to look forward to, reinforcing an inspired mindset, geared toward things you want.
Practice thankfulness. This helps maintain the mindset of what’s important to you and nurtures a sense of fulfillment. I find that writing things I’m thankful for daily causes me to notice and appreciate many things throughout the day.
Challenge self-doubt. The past is behind you, and the future is wide open for new choices. If you’re discouraged about either, and are in the throes of self-defeating thoughts, you can challenge them with alternate views and actions that support progress. Positive psychology researcher, Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that when self-doubt creeps in, “turn it into a time for growth to challenge yourself in the area you’re worried about.” Figure out what strengths can help you with a particular situation that you’re concerned about (i.e. Are you a good problem solver or resourceful at getting information?).
Also, acknowledge your daily achievements, as encouragement to inspire more.
Put your energy into situations that inspire a positive focus and action, and that encourage you to want more for yourself.
Practice a religion or spiritual beliefs. Research supports the link between faith and well-being. Practicing a religion or spirituality keeps you inspired by maintaining your focus in a positive direction.
Our lives unfold in proportion to our thoughts, for better or worse. Or as Winston Churchill simply put it, ““The empires of the future are empires of the mind.”