“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein
How does the way you think about the world affect your happiness and success?
When I first read about the following experiment (from Feel the Fear and do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers) to explore the power of the mind, I thought it sounded like a joke, so I tried it with a friend.
Please feel free to try it yourself:
- Find a friend to work with
- Ask your friend to hold out their right arm horizontally to the ground and keep it as rigid as possible
- Now try to pull down their arm to their side
- Now reset the arm and ask your friend to repeat out loud 20 times “I am weak”
- Now try to pull down their arm again
I was amazed at how much easier it was to pull down the arm the second time. To test this, we did experiments where I’d leave the room and my friend would choose to say “I am weak” or “I am strong”.
Sure enough, the effect on the arm was obvious each time.
This experiment shows that our thoughts certainly influence our outlook on the world and our ability to perform successfully.
In this case, it shows that our unconscious is pretty gullible. It will believe anything it is told, regardless of how logical or truthful the statement.
Clearly we don’t get stronger or weaker in the 10 seconds it takes to repeat a phrase, however our mind and body act that way.
Knowing this made me realize that being aware of what is going on in our minds so important – it has so much influence over how we feel about life and how we approach things.
What is going on in your head?
I’ve written before about the voices we get in our head that tell us we can’t do something, that we’re not good enough, that we shouldn’t even bother trying.
Given the experiment, our unconscious mind seems to listen to and believe these messages.
I know that in the past for me, each time I let these gremlins go unchecked, my confidence, self-esteem and ability to successfully achieve goals seems to be diminished a little more.
Many proponents of positive thinking also claim that the opposite is true. When we repeat positive messages and visualize our goals, our world is more likely to be filled with happiness and success. Certainly I know that many top athletes and performers often use visualization and positive thinking to enhance their performance.
Change your thoughts – Change your world
“We have control over one thing in our lives – our thoughts” – Napoleon Hill
Being a sceptic, over the last two weeks I decided to put positive thinking to the test. I was fascinated to see what impact if any it would have on the world between my ears and how I felt about life.
What did I do?
- I developed some positive affirmations (these are usually in the present tense) – “I am powerful”, “I am successful”, “I am focused and productive”, “I am physically strong” and the really important “Whatever happens, I can handle it”.
- Every morning for a few minutes before getting out of bed, I repeated these sayings
- Every day when walking or going for a run, I repeated the affirmations over and over again
- Every time I heard a negative thought or gremlin, I repeated the opposite mantra 20 times
I have to say I’ve been won over. I’ve felt happier, more confident and seen life as an exciting experience.
Amazingly, I’ve felt more productive, energetic and seem to get more done. I’ve rapidly advanced my new website project and even seen an uptick in new coaching clients.
It feels like I’m more in control of life and my gremlins don’t come up so much any more.
Sometimes I feel like a Pollyanna for repeating these mantras, but frankly as long as I feel the benefits I’m going to keep thinking positively.
Over to You
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- If you’re interested, try following the same positive thinking regime for a week and see how it works for you.
- What are your thoughts on positive thinking and affirmations?
- What techniques do you use to control your thoughts and emotions?
Photo credit: Jessica.Tam (Flickr Creative Commons)