You cannot climb uphill by thinking downhill thoughts.
Last week I wrote about the choice you have to make each and every morning — to rise and shine or rise and whine. I suggested a number of ways to stop negative thoughts from coming into your mind and taking over.
But you must be prepared for resistance on the part of your mind. It will not automatically let go of the control it is used to having.
Your mind will even try to deceive you. Your mind will say your new positive attitude won’t really work. It’s only a passing phase, and you aren’t the positive type anyway.
When that happens to you, just remember the wise old saying, “You cannot prevent the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building nests in your hair.” In other words, you can’t always prevent the negative thoughts from coming your way, but you can keep yourself from hanging on to them. And every time you renounce a negative thought, it will grow weaker.
When you’ve mastered those skills, you must go on to the next step. You must develop and master some positive thinking skills.
And few things could be more important in life than being a positive thinker. Dr. Martin Seligman found that positive thinking is “the” hallmark of successful people. Successful people think twice as many positive thoughts as negative.
In addition to your “higher power,” a lot of your power comes from your attitude. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the “father” of positive thinking, said, “Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.” And philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.”
If you’re not a positive thinker already, you’ll need to develop some new habits. Your old approach to life simply won’t work. As Bernhard Haldone wrote in his book, How to Make a Habit of Success, “Every great advance by man has been the result of a break with tradition.”
Developing new thinking habits isn’t so difficult. It’s just a matter of practicing the fundamentals. That’s what great coaches and winning teams do.
I remember watching a special on TV about the National Football League. One of the teams they featured was the 1972 Miami Dolphins. For an entire season they went undefeated. They won seventeen games in a row, a perfect season. No one could beat them.
The announcers attributed Miami’s success to the coach, Don Shula. He constantly emphasized the basics of the game. Over and over again, he had his team practice the fundamental maneuvers rather than the fancy plays.
And that’s what you need to do if you’re going to be a positive thinker. You’ve got to practice the fundamentals until they become habits you’re using all the time.
I’ve developed a “7-Day Mental Diet” that helps you do exactly that. Of course, I can only give you the highlights here, but perhaps you’ll attend my Peak Performance Boot Camp some time in the future so you can really dig into the process. In a nutshell, here’s what you do.
Day 1, FILL YOUR MIND WITH THE POSITIVE. Instead of living your life on autopilot, letting any and all thoughts come into your mind, consciously feed your mind positive input. Do this on the first day of every week, and do it throughout the day. Read inspirational books, listen to uplifting music, or call an upbeat person. Spend a few moments meditating on your dreams. And by all means, avoid the cynics and gripers. They’re not going anywhere, but you are.
Starting your week with the positive will give you a huge release of power. It’s like the phenomenon that happened in Texas a while ago.
There was an area of Texas where almost no rain had fallen for seven years. The ground had baked to the point where deep cracks formed in the earth. And on the surface there was noting but powdery dust in which nothing could grow.
Then it rained. In twenty-four hours, seven inches of rain soaked the dead soil. The sun came out, followed by more rain. Finally, that beautiful flower, the blue bonnet, began to come up, and the earth was covered with flowers.
There was power and beauty in the earth all the time, but it took the rain to bring it out. The same is true for you. Flood your mind with positive input at least once a week, and you’ll be amazed at all the good things that come out of you. You’ll achieve more and feel better.
On Day 2 each week, SEE ALL THE GOOD AROUND YOU. Find something beautiful in nature, for example, and just take a moment to appreciate it. Dr. David Bouda, assistant professor of oncology at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in Omaha, said, “I’ve never heard anyone looking at a rainbow say, ‘Gee, I wish it had more blue and a little less red’.”
You could keep a journal and write down 50 wonderful things that happen to you on Day 2. Include even small things like finding a quarter on the sidewalk or a stranger greeting you with a cheerful “good morning.” Dr. Susan Jeffers, author of End the Struggle and Dance With Life, says, “After awhile, you’ll realize that most things that happen are positive, and you don’t have to dwell on the negative.”
On Day 3, THINK ONLY GOOD THINGS ABOUT PEOPLE. Don’t allow ill thoughts to enter your mind. Look for something you like in everyone you meet. One person might have a great smile, and another one might be extremely dedicated to his work. You can always find something you like.
I remember the time I was playing the game of Candyland with my daughter Rachel. She was about five at the time, but unfortunately for her, she lost six games in a row. Every time she lost, she would clap her hands and cheer for me. She would say “Good job, Dad. You won! You won!”
Of course I wished she had won a few games, but most of all I was confused by her response. Most kids don’t cheer the opposition, and many kids have a hard time with losing. So I complimented her on being such a good sport. She simply said, “Dad, what do you expect? I’m a positive thinker.”
Obviously, she had mastered Day 3 of my mental diet. She was thinking only good things about other people. And Rachel was living proof of Wilfred Peterson’s comment in The Gift of Loving, “Happiness is not what happens outside of you but what happens inside of you.”
On Day 4, THINK POSITIVELY ABOUT YOURSELF. Reaffirm the fact that you have the knowledge and you have the ability to do what needs to be done. Remind yourself of past victories. Congratulate yourself on the good you have done and will do. And refuse to let any self-doubt enter your mind. Just tell yourself over and over, “I am filled with confidence, and I am competent.”
Positive self-thought might also include laughing at yourself. In fact people who can’t laugh at themselves are almost always negative thinkers. They’re the people who have a hard time with change, and, as some physicians suggest, may be more susceptible to cancer, stroke, and heart disease. So laugh. Lila Green, author of Making Sense of Humor, says, “When you laugh at yourself, you don’t break — you bend.”
On Day 5, SPEAK ONLY POSITIVE WORDS. Speak hopefully about everything — your job, your customers, your manager, your children, your health, and your future. Go out of your way to talk optimistically about everything.
You may have to talk yourself out of thinking and uttering negative words. If, for instance, the man at the front of the company cafeteria line seems to be holding up everyone else, you’ll be tempted to make a snide remark to the person next to you. Don’t do it. Stop yourself.
Ask yourself why you’re making such a big deal out of a short delay. Afterall, there’s still plenty of food left. And maybe you can force yourself to make a positive comment about the situation. Tell the person next to you, “It’s kind of nice not to rush every single minute of the day.”
On Day 6, DO THE POSITIVE. Do some good outside your normal work and family routine. You might even imagine that this is the last day of your life. How would you spend it? What would you do? Get angry or seek revenge against your enemies? I doubt it. You’d probably bestow a kindness or share your love with someone special.
That’s what Michele Heisner did in her quest to become a positive thinker. She was a legal secretary in San Francisco who offered her services at a community center in the city’s tough mission district.
The center needed a tutor in English, so that first night Michele found herself in a room with three Mexican children. She spoke no Spanish, and they didn’t speak any English. All they could do was point. Six months later, forty-seven children and adults were taking Mrs. Heisner’s course, laughing, learning, and sharing.
Finally, on Day 7, DO SOMETHING NEW. Go to a museum. Sneak into a lecture being given at a nearby hotel. Walk through a new neighborhood. Eat at a new restaurant. Monotony destroys optimism. Dr. David Bouda, who I quoted earlier, says, “If you don’t use your brain and body in different ways occasionally, then you will get old very quickly.”
Margaret Rawson, an internationally recognized dyslexia researcher, a woman in her 90’s, said, “I have new projects ahead of me all the time. There’s a lot I want to do and find out about, so I guess I’ll just have to live another 100 years.” She took up flying at age 72, learned to use a computer at 80, published her third book a while ago, and the list goes on and on. She’s obviously mastered Day 7 of the diet.
I don’t know if you’ve mastered positive thinking. But I do know THE FIRE OF ENTHUSIASM WON’T BURN FOREVER UNLESS YOU THROW SOME FRESH LOGS ON IT. I’ve given you seven fresh logs in today’s Tip. Now go out and light a match.
Action: Do you want to be a positive thinker all the time? Then give my 7-day diet a try. Do it for a week, and then repeat the process, week after week until positive thinking is as easy and automatic as breathing.