Thoughts Matter

Consider these quotes from a diverse group of successful thinkers from the past:

  • Our life is what our thoughts make it. – Marcus Aurelius Antonius
  • If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought. – Peace Pilgrim: peace activist and spiritual leader
  • We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible. – Vince Lombardi

It’s clear, from both studies of human psychology and the observations of great leaders and philosophers, that what we think largely affects what we get in life. For many people, the greatest single step they can take is to work on, and change, how they think. Once that’s done, everything is downhill from there.

Thinking right, which involves consciously, intentionally directing our thoughts, is essential to self-directed accomplishment and is a key trait of leaders. Leaders are not merely people who have the right title or who have appointed themselves an authority. Leaders are those people who are self-directed, who start by leading themselves in their thoughts and actions, and thereby reap the benefits of internal leadership as well as providing a proper example, or more, to those around them.

If one of your goals is to become a better leader or manager, I suggest you check out this website Leadership With You. It includes some good resources and ideas worth reading to provide direction and suggestions for how you can develop the skill of leadership, for yourself as well as for others.

Thinking right requires that we consider our beliefs, and identify those which are false, without merit and in many cases self-defeating. If you ever have thoughts like “Oh, I’m such a loser”, or even more subtle yet equally dangerous ideas like “they’re all against me”, “I don’t think I can do this” or “this always happens to me”, you’re swimming in the sea of not just bad, but destructive, thinking.

What to do? One of the key concepts in cognitive behavioral psychology is the idea that we consciously battle unhealthy or unproductive thoughts. The objective is not to try to fool or lie to ourselves. That would never work. We can, however, check our thoughts to be sure we aren’t lying to ourselves in a defeating or destructive manner, or coming to negative conclusions about ourselves which simply aren’t true, or are vastly exaggerated or overstated.

We need to identify the basic premise of our though (e.g. am I capable or qualified to do this?), then determine what we do think (I can’t do this, it’s too hard, what’s the point, etc), and finally see if there’s a more rational, and accurate, thought (I can do this, if I have the right training, assistance or mentorship).

Along with catching and correcting flawed thinking, there’s evidence that action precedes emotion. By this I mean if you behave in the manner of an achiever, you begin to develop the attitude, thoughts and beliefs of an achiever. If you start walking tall, acting confident, behaving like someone who’s confident and a leader, those actions have a positive and beneficial effect on your thinking.

Don’t believe me? Consider the following observations from Mahatma Ghandi about the power of our thoughts to shape our lives.

Life Is What You Think

Let your thoughts be positive
For they will become your words.

Let your words be positive
For they will become your actions.

Let your actions be positive
For they will become your values.

Let your values be positive
For they will become your destiny.

Our actions influence our thoughts even if we don’t completely believe them, which can change our thoughts and produce different results. This is not pie in the sky, hokey “feel good” new age philosophy. This is information that’s been known, practiced and advocated by successful people for thousands of years. The question is will you follow their advice and example?

Here’s another key point to be sure you understand in considering improving your thinking:

    “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” – Henry David Thoreau

    Don’t forget: Actions influence thoughts, and thoughts + actions = outcome

    The first step in changing our outer world is to start by changing our inner world, i.e. our thoughts.