A lot of what we read about these days when it comes to happiness and self improvement has to deal with positive thinking. I’m certainly not against positive thinking and I believe that it is very important once you figure out your thought patterns.
It seems what a lot of people miss is the part where they actually have to DO something.
Yes, in order to achieve sustained improvement, thoughts alone aren’t going to create that. This applies whether your target improvement is physical, mental, or overall well being.
We have to DO in order to BE
If we want to BE in great physical shape we have to DO the work of eating a balanced diet and exercising.
If we want to BE one of the top heart surgeons in the country, we have to DO the work of going to medical school and practicing medicine for many years.
We certainly can’t think our way to a great body or think our way into graduating summa cum laude from medical school, right? Most would agree that sounds ridiculous. Why then, do so many of us believe changing our thoughts alone will lead to radical self improvement? It’s because everywhere we look we see the quote “change your thoughts, change your life”! It’s not that it isn’t true, it just isn’t true on it’s own.
People see quotes like that and think “I get it now, I just have to change the way I think and everything will be good from there.” Brrrnt, wrong! Changing your thinking is only the beginning and most people don’t even realize how hard that part is to do.
It’s hard because you actually have to do things differently as part of the change your thinking process.
Why can’t I just think my way to success?
Because you can’t fool yourself. The deepest parts of you know exactly what is true for you no matter what falsehoods you try to portray on the conscious level.
For example, say you’re using positive, present tense affirmations such as ‘I am eating healthier and exercising more each day’. That can be the mantra you say to yourself a hundred times each morning. However, if you then have fast food for all three meals and your only exercise is walking up the stairs when it’s time to go to bed, you’re only fooling yourself.
In fact, your positive thinking exercises are probably going to make you even more upset because they are so far from reality and the needle isn’t moving. There is dissonance between what you’re saying and what you’re actually doing. The result is you think the affirmations are pointless and all the positive thinking stuff is garbage.
Align your actions with your thoughts
Do things that show you really believe what you’re telling yourself.
If you’re struggling with trying to change something and positive thinking alone isn’t helping, try being very intentional about doing things that are in line with your positive thoughts.
The net effect of doing both will be positive momentum on both sides. You’ll see results, which will naturally cause positive thoughts. You’ll have stronger belief in those thoughts which will inspire more positive behaviors.
Here are some examples:
- To increase confidence you might tell yourself “I am becoming more confident each day”. Combine this with finding ways that force you to be uncomfortable. A simple thing would be to commit to speak to one stranger each day.
- To become healthier you might tell yourself “I am becoming healthier and more fit each day.” Combine this with some sort of new activity even if it’s taking a half mile walk each day and/or replacing one sugary snack with a fruit or vegetable.
- To become more knowledgeable in your field of work you might tell yourself “I am becoming more of an expert in my field each day”. You could back that up with committing to read 3 to 5 articles about emerging trends in your industry per week.
There are countless other examples that might be more specific to you as an individual. The point is to define what you want to improve, create some positive statements to tell yourself, then go out and do things that are in alignment with those statements.
You might call this the ‘thought > word > deed’ continuum.
All three are necessary for true self improvement and each is more difficult than the previous one. Saying something out loud is more difficult than just thinking it and doing something is more difficult than just talking about it. Even though the doing is the most difficult part, it is also the most beneficial. Don’t get stuck at just thinking and talking. Do something! It WILL be uncomfortable but it WILL be worth it!
Need some additional motivation? Check out these 10 must read books on habits. Applying the principles found in any one of them has the power to potentially change your life.