Change the Way You Think

woman-1148923_640As a young professional, I used to listen to motivational guru Zig Ziglar. He was a top salesman turned motivational speaker who published a number of books and other materials regarding the keys to success. During my long work commutes in Nashville, Tennessee, I would often forgo the radio in favor of an audio book by Zig or one of his contemporaries. They always used to fire me up and put me in the right frame of mind for a successful day at the office.

Zig Ziglar used to say “If your thinking is stinking, then so is your business.” His point was that your mindset has a huge impact on the course of your work. The way you think determines, to a great extent, the outcomes you experience. Stinky thinking involves focuses your mind on negative things – failures, problems, worse case scenarios. Ruminating on these things causes you to unconsciously encourage them to come about.

I’ve seen this play out in my own life. The days where my mind is occupied by negative thoughts are my worst days. The more I let my mind drift into stink thinking, the more my mood suffers, and the more bad things happen. Conversely, when I consciously decide to focus my mind on positive things, my mood is better and good things tend to happen.

Mental health is a lot like physical health in that what you choose to put in determines what you get. If you want to feel better and be more physically fit, you have to eat the right kinds of food and participate in the right kind of exercise. Doing so prepares your body to move in ways that are beneficial vs. harmful. The way you approach your mental diet and exercise is, I believe, just as important.

As I prepare for the new year, one thing I plan to focus on is the way I think. I stopped making resolutions a long time ago. Instead, I make a list of three personal challenges. I write them down and post them on my mirror where I can see them every day. This helps me stay committed throughout the year.

My first personal challenge for 2017 is to change the way I think.

I’m going to picture success. Too many days find me in a bad mood before I even hit the office. My mind is picturing a confrontation with someone who cut me off on the drive in. I’m anticipating a heated debate regarding a controversial issue. I’m dreading a meeting that I don’t want to attend. These are symptoms of stinky thinking and I need to address them before they take root.

Before tackling the day, I’m going to try and create a mental image of a successful day. What will my meetings sound like? How will the various interactions unfold? What will I have accomplished by the time I go home that signals a good day? By envisioning the future that I want, I will be taking the first step toward making it a reality.

I’m going to focus on what’s possible. How often do you find yourself worrying about things beyond your control? There are times when I spend valuable mental energy griping internally about other people who don’t think the way I do or act in ways that seem counterproductive. I waste time waiting for others to get engaged or decide to move on projects I feel are important. These are also symptoms of stinky thinking and I need to redirect my thoughts in a sweeter-smelling direction.

I’m going to train my mind to zero in on the actionable steps that I can control instead of the things I can’t. What forward movement can I take, however small it may be? How can I prepare for opportunities that might lie just around the corner? What can I do with what I have, where I am, right now? By keeping a forward focus, I’ll be able to identify specific ways to contribute to my success.

I’m going to seek out positive inputs. My mental diet over the past several months has been horrendous. I’ve consumed a steady stream of negative political ads, name-calling, bickering, and general doom-and-gloom based news. Everything from my television to my Facebook feed has trended negative. This can’t possibly be good for my own mental outlook.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to seek out sources of positivity. I’ve already taken steps to block social media friends who post nothing but negative news or attacks on others. I plan to identify some constructive podcasts and excuse myself from gripe sessions when they start up around me. When what I listen to, watch, and even participate in is stinky, my thinking starts to smell as well. It’s up to me to fix it. By inviting more constructive things in, I’ll leave little room for the negative.

I’m confident that purposefully addressing the mental part of my game will have significant benefits for me in 2017. I’m curious to know what your mental diet looks like. What does your image of success look like? What do you do to keep yourself focused on the right things? Where do you find positive inputs to exercise your mind constructively? I invite you to share. Next week, I’ll share my second personal challenge for the year.


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