Last week I ran into an old acquaintance who is now a new friend. We played that how-do-I-know-you game until she realized we knew each other back in our high school days (and she even texted me a picture as evidence). Shelly Coray is now a success and peak performance coach and owner of The Winner’s Edge. In a conversation we had, she said, “positive thinking is a habit and a choice.”
I love that so much — I think it deserves its own chalkboard sign. Seriously though, many people don’t realize positive thinking takes consistent effort.
The truth is, we are wired to negotiate life based on our thinking patterns. Our previous experiences and thought processes navigate us, especially our subconscious thoughts. It’s like a global positioning system, or GPS, for our life. These thought patterns are like the software that directs the GPS.
We establish patterns
I’m fortunate to live close to extended family, and on most Sundays we travel 25 minutes to my parents' home for Sunday dinner with my siblings and their families.
Several months ago, I remember a moment one Sunday afternoon when I looked down at my (too smart) android phone and noticed the Google app on my home screen was telling me what time I needed to leave and how long it would take to get to my parents' address. This startled me because Sunday dinner has never — not even once — been on my Google calendar. But after months of my GPS system tracking me and where I was going, my phone knew that in 3½ hours I would travel 14 miles north, stay there for a few hours and then turn around and come home. When I made this discovery, I was quite concerned by my mobile device tracking my every move.
Our thought patterns are no different than this sneaky stalker I carry around in my front pocket. Our thoughts literally drive our lives and predict our patterns just like my GPS was predicting my patterns based on my previous actions.
Negative thoughts lead to negative situations and experiences. Positive thoughts lead to positive situations and experiences. So what then do we do if our GPS is written with bad code or glitches?
We get to choose
In “The Law of Happiness,” Dr. Henry Cloud teaches, “the reality is that every single day happy people are thinking thoughts that help them to be happy and unhappy people do the opposite. This is one of the most documented realities in all psychological research: our thinking affects our moods, anxiety level, performance and well-being.”
The great thing: We get to choose if we are going to use negative thoughts or positive thoughts to program our mind.
What do you choose? Positive mental programming or negative mental programing?
Dennis R. Deaton, author of “The Book on Mind Management,” makes it pretty clear how important positive thoughts really are. “You are inseparable from your thoughts. Mastering them is the greatest of all quests, for you are mastering yourself.”
Here are a few pointers to help you increase your positive thoughts and steer yourself in the right direction.
1. Be your biggest fan. Do you use positive self talk or is the negative voice in your head your very own voice? When you see yourself in the mirror, what do you say to the reflection? I know these questions seem basic, but loving yourself is the foundation to thinking positive thoughts about the other areas of your life.
2. Focus on your thoughts. Are you aware of your negative thoughts? Do you make an effort to think positive thoughts? Last year I tried a little experiment with a clicker from Hillary Weeks' Billion Clicks organization. Just as Weeks suggests, I clicked my positive thoughts and was surprised at the difference it made each day.
3. Avoid end-all statements. When we use phrases like, “I hate cooking” or “this is the worst day ever,” we leave no room for positivity. These all-or-nothing statements are usually false anyway. Was my day really the worst ever? No. If I can rephrase my statement to “I hope tomorrow is a better day,” I better position myself to find happiness, even in the hard moments.
4. Write it down. Maybe I just love this tip so much because, even with technology, I still find something enchanting — even powerful — about a pen and piece of paper. And I’ve also found that the quickest connect between my subconscious and conscious mind is through journaling. I suggest taking a minute each morning to write down positive thoughts about the day before you. Or keep things simple and end the day with a short list of the things for which you are grateful.
Nicole Carpenter is CEO of MOMentity.com and creator of the Define Your Time training program. She is a speaker and author of "52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family," available in January 2015.