It’s not what you think – it’s how you think. The way in which we approach things mentally decides our success. And right now, with the talk of economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that we think our way to success.
Did you know that most of us are presented with between 60,000 and 70,000 pieces of stimuli or impressions every day, yet we consciously only notice around 3000 of them? What we tend to notice are the things that are important to us, which are mainly things aligned with the values we hold and the image we have of ourselves.
For example, you may not pay a lot of attention to the types of cars on the road but if you decided to buy a new car, suddenly you will notice all the models, colours, brands and styles around you. That’s because it’s now important to you and has aligned itself with what you’re thinking about.
It may sound strange, but we don’t see with our eyes or hear with our ears. We see and hear with our emotions, our values and our beliefs. What we see in the things we observe around us is evidence supporting those values and beliefs, whether it be good or bad.
So if you believe that times are tough, the economy is bad and customers are not going to buy as much, you will start to see evidence of that around you. The things you notice support your belief. On the other hand, if you believe that despite the situation your business will flourish and grow and that you will find opportunity among the adversity, you will also see evidence of that.
Everyone has what is referred to as a pessimistic or optimistic explanatory style – the way we explain the things that happen to us. For example, someone who – when a setback occurs – says to themselves: “see, this always happens to me,I am never successful at anything” has a pessimistic explanatory style.
For them, the situation is evidence of something permanent and pervasive. An optimist, on the other hand, will say: ”OK, we lost a customer but we know how to find new ones and we learnt a lot from the experience” . To them, the setback is temporary and isolated. Conversely, optimists see good things happening as permanent and pervasive whereas pessimists see them as temporary and isolated.
Time to think successfully
Paying attention to your explanatory style is critically important to your success. Notice how you explain things to yourself and if you find that it tends to be on the pessimistic side, change it.
Using sophisticated technology, scientific research has been able to work out what happens when we think. Neural networks in the brain are strengthened every time we think the same thought over and over again, to the point where we don’t even know that we are thinking that way. So if you keep thinking that the economy is bad, not only will you continue to see evidence of that around you, but you will also strengthen those thought patterns and keep thinking that way.
Instead, you can train yourself to think differently. It takes a conscious and deliberate effort, but you can literally change the results you get in life by changing the way you think.
4 tips to get you started
Whenever you experience a situation or an outcome you don’t like, notice what your internal response was. Did you lean towards the pessimistic or optimistic explanatory style?
Consciously and deliberately take a few moments to think about the potential good that can come from that situation. Then picture that outcome in your mind. Mental imagery is extremely powerful in changing outcomes.
If you can’t see the good in a particular situation, think about where else in your life things are really working. It creates balance and avoids the ‘permanent and pervasive’ nature of the pessimistic explanatory style.
And, most importantly, whenever you catch yourself saying things like “I’ll never get out of this” or “I always seem to mess up these client meetings”, stop and think of several times that you have handled a difficult situation or managed a client meeting really well. Then play that thought back to yourself in your mind to remind yourself nothing is permanent or pervasive.
So believe what you want, look for evidence of it and chances are much greater that you will see it turn up in your life.
Hans Wrang is a coach, consultant, presenter and author at The Positive Lane. He has more than 15 years experience in performance coaching, the last five of which have been teaching people how to improve their results and experience of life by applying the principles of Positive Psychology. Hans runs regular seminars and workshops, contributes to blogs and other publications and appears regularly on TV and radio programs in Australia and overseas.