How Successful People Think
There are many pathways to success, but no matter the pathway every single person who has achieved success has one thing in common: They think differently than the average person.
Now, before you write this off as too "soft" of a topic for achieving success, just consider for a moment what famed dictator Adolf Hitler said, "What luck for rulers that men do not think!" So, read on just to make sure you are not in the "don't think" category.
Emotional maturity is the term I use when describing our ability to control our thoughts. The truth is, most of us suck at emotional maturity. Reflect back on the last time when you didn't have to think about anything. Where did your thoughts go? My guess is they went somewhere dark: questions about your competence, worry about a future event, frustration about a mistake. Mankato author Cindra Kampoff calls these ANTs - Automatic Negative Thoughts, and just like ants in our house, there should be no place for ANTs in our minds.
Consider this powerful quote on thinking written in 1979 by author Grant Von Harrison:
Attitudes and desires are formed as a direct result of what we think about. When a person chooses not to use his free will in directing his thoughts, he leaves the dimensions of the mind that control his desires wide open to suggestion. If we do not make an exerted effort to control and direct our thinking, our desires and attitudes will be influenced primarily by the adversary, other people, music, movies, tV, radio, newspapers, etc. So you have the choice of deliberately directing your thinking, or allowing other forces to dictate your desires and attitudes.
I'd like to take a few minutes of your time today to help you increase in your Emotional Maturity and help you think about only the things that you want to think about, not allowing yourself to be influenced by outside forces. Why? Because what we think about we bring about. I know, another sappy cliché, but it is totally true. I thought about purchasing a motorcycle for over 10 years. Guess what? I have a motorcycle. I first put into my mind the idea of being a professional speaker in 2007, the beginning of my teaching experience. I didn't know how, I didn't know what I was going to talk about, and I didn't know my audience but I intentionally kept thinking about this and now, even in the throws of COVID, I am running a successful speaking company.
Even in the little things, our thoughts matter. You might think you are hungry and then you start eating food, you might think you need some sleep and you end up taking a nap, or you might think about calling a friend, and then you call. What you think about you truly do bring about - and this is not just the positive but also the negative.
Researcher Caroline Leaf has found that between 75 to 98% of our mental, behavior, and physical illness comes from our thoughts. If you'd like to argue with me about the power of thoughts, just try to think of anything you've accomplished or purchased in your life without first thinking about it? I can't imagine that you'll be able to come up with much!
So, what can we do to have more control over our thoughts? Allow me to share with you 6 ways in which successful people think differently.
Think Big Picture - Instead of getting bogged down with ANTs, step back and look at the big picture of your life. What do you really want? What do you need to do to get there?
Focus Your Thinking - Too often we simply allow a train of thought to control our thinking, moving from one to-do to another to-do without stopping and really thinking. Find a place in your home or at your office where you can sit in quietness (not your desk) and consciously control your thoughts toward a problem or goal that you have. I call this place my "thinking chair" and strive to spend 10-15 minutes on it daily.
Abort Negative Thinking - If you've got ants in your kitchen, you bring out the Raid. If you've got ants in your brain, get rid of them by telling them the opposite. For example, if the thought "I'm not a creative person" arises, rid it by repeating to yourself the affirmation "I am a creative person."
Use Possibility Thinking - Begin to implant into your mind thoughts that cause you to lose sleep because they are so big. I've got a thought to construct a large conference building in Owatonna, to have several staff members conduct leadership development in the building, and to rent it out to other growth-inspiring events. I've even named it the Southern Minnesota Leadership Center (SMLC). Is this way out there? You betcha! But it's a whole lot more fun to think about than imagining my business being dissolved because of COVID.
Ignore Popular Thinking - Did you know that you can swim right after you eat, that cutting a worm in half kills it, and that the rotation of the earth has nothing to do with toilets flushing the opposite direction on the southern side of the hemisphere? These are all beliefs we were taught as truths when we were young, yet they are all wrong. Popular opinion does not mean truth. So, if everyone is screaming doom and gloom, you don't have to buy into that. If you feel like there are haters all around you, recognize that they are all wrong. Stop giving so much of your thinking life to others.
Think Unselfishly - Ultimately every single ANT that enters into our mind is centered upon ourselves. One of the best strategies to bring out the Raid is to start thinking about others more. Remember, what you think about you bring about. So, when you start thinking about how to help out the poor and needy in your community…you'll start doing something about it. Or, when you consider actions you can take to boost friends, family, and others in your circle of influence, you'll start doing so. Just look at me. I had an idea that I wanted to help people improve their thinking and now here I am writing this blog. Ralph Waldo Emerson explained this by saying, "Life consists of what a man is thinking about all day."
What really makes the difference between average and successful? It's our thinking, as Cindra Kampoff explains "High performers don't hope their thinking will work for them; they make their thinking work for them. They are intentional and purposeful with their self-talk."
Ladies and gentlemen, we are the only living beings that can actually think about our thinking. Let's take control of this and make it our desire to control our minds so well that the only thing we think about are things that we want to think about.