The (Probable) Power of Positive Thinking

I’m a big fan of positive thinking. Why? It feels good. It’s as simple as that. However, I’m only a fan of teaching others about positive thinking if it’s done the right way. Unfortunately, I don’t consider most of what I see these days as teaching it the right way. So let me give it a shot. After hearing this explanation, I haven’t had one person say they used positive thinking less or less effectively, and the majority of people have actually been relieved to hear this view of positive thinking.

There is no doubt in my mind that positive thinking feels good; however, there is one catch. We aren’t always capable of it. Sometimes we seem to be tethered to a type of low mood or mindset. This is inevitable and not to be feared. Momentarily being incapable of positive thinking is a completely normal, natural state.

Now, I hope you are asking a question: Why wouldn’t we be capable of it? Two reasons. One, positive thinking simply isn’t in our thoughts all the time. Occasionally, we are preoccupied with something else. It’s inevitable. Two, sometimes we can think of something positive, but we have a hard time believing it. In other words, we don’t trust the positive thought or we are momentarily trusting a negative one more.

For many people, they hear about the power of positive thinking, and they go out and try it. Sometimes it works great right off the start, and other times it doesn’t work for people. For those who find it works right off the start, they are often let down later and become confused when it doesn’t always work. I have found that this is especially true if they’ve been taught, “It’s really easy. All you have to do is think positively, and all your dreams will come true!”

Often when people believe the power of positive thinking is always supposed to work they believe they are broken or weak if they can’t use it all the time. This belief that they are broken or weak feels terrible, and they often resort to what I call kicking their own ass for being weak or broken. Kicking ones own ass for believing oneself weak or broken feels even worse than just being weak or broken.

Now, in future posts and (hopefully) videos I want to explain more about why the power of positive thinking is variable, but for now, I hope it is enough to say we aren’t always at our best mentally. This is normal. The up and down ebb and flow of thought is completely normal and inevitable.

Sometimes a good positive thought simply won’t occur to you (just as sometimes you lose your keys, forget a name, etc.). When the capability returns, and it will return, you will be back to feeling better.

Other times, you will simply be down and won’t even believe the positive thoughts that appears in your thoughts. Some people have learned to stick with it in this situation and fake it until they make it, but I have found that for me the best I can do is to understand that the down period of my thinking won’t last. It never does. My capability to put positive thoughts in my head and believe them always returns. Always. Knowing that the power of positive thinking will return is freeing and reassuring even in my lowest moments.

Finally, one last observation on positive thinking. You do not need to be capable of your best thinking to be an excellent performer, and this is true even for mental tasks. Performance is deeper than positive thinking alone, and if you understand that you can perform excellently under less than optimal positivity, you will gravitate toward higher levels of consistent excellence. If you doubt that you can perform excellently even when experiencing negativity, keep this in mind: Because we are all susceptible to the ebb and flow of thought, the only alternative to this belief (that you can perform excellently even when experiencing negativity) is to spend time believing, “I can’t do it now. I really can’t.” I doubt if too many high performers spend much time dancing with this thought. High performers understand that they are truly capable of greatness even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment.

Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting you turn toward chronic negativity, just don’t sweat it when you aren’t momentarily thinking at your best. You can still be great.

In summary, use the power of positive thinking when you can, and don’t kick your own ass when it momentarily doesn’t occur to you or doesn’t work for you. Trust that it will return. It always does. And trust that you can be great even when momentarily down. If you understand this, you will maximize the effectiveness of your possible positive thinking.

The Ego Climber

I found this quote almost 21 years ago when I was 23 years old. It was written well before that , but it so accurately described my sense of urgency at the expense of living in the moment that I almost thought Robert Pirsig wrote it for me. I think it is a beautiful description of a tension we all experience at times, and for me it is a reminder that my goal is internal and within reach.

I’ve had different favorite parts at different stages in my life. Currently, I think my favorite part is that I realize what I want is all around me.

Thanks for reading and sharing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be here. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.

By Robert M. Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Grit: A Different Label for Rising and Shining

Grit seems to be all the rage these days. It’s a popular word, and it is – and always has been – an important concept. Call it grit, perseverance, tenacity, stick-to-it-iveness, whatever you want, it’s good to have. So let’s think about it more.

Some folks think grit is a characteristic some people have and others don’t. I don’t think that’s accurate. To be sure, some of us show grit more often than others, but that doesn’t mean there is a population of people who have no grit. More than likely, we all fluctuate in our own understanding of our personal grit, and some people simply think in ways that keep their natural grit hidden or covered up.

If you think about it, grit may be an aptly named but misleading term. Grit is a term we apply to people who excel through all of life’s dirt and grime. So on one hand, it certainly appears aptly named, at least for onlookers gazing at gritty individuals.

To the individual, grit often appears very different. Someone who is gritty has become aware of illusions of control and resists them (see Be Aware for more on illusions of control). They have begun to see that the outside world of circumstances has no power over them, and they understand they are free to think and feel as they can, as they feel they must. In essence, they are shining with their inner brilliance and fire despite the appearance of what we call the dirt and grime and life. When we realize the dirt and grime is just a filter, a label if you will, created by one’s own belief system, we are free to rise and shine.

The gritty individual appears to rise above the circumstances of her life. The truth is, we all live above the circumstances of our lives. Only some of us realize it.

There is one sure way to have more grit, persistence, and mental toughness in your life: Be aware that the conditions/situations of the world have no control over you.

To put it another way, nothing outside of us can make us think or feel any certain way. We think and feel certain ways about things. We project our mindsets (and the thoughts churning within them) onto the world in front of us, and this creates our experience of the world. The more we realize this process is free from external control, the more freedom we gain. The more freedom we gain, the possibility opens up to us.

I want you to imagine for a moment that the dirt and grime of the world is not controlling you. Sure, you can feel badly about it. There’s no blame to be cast your direction for feeling down, sad, anger, or fearful, but never lose sight of the fact that you are free to evolve when you are ready. When you realize you are free to do so, when you realize you live above those situations, you will naturally rise and live a life of greater possibility (see Be Awake for more on possibility). You may also see that despite negative feelings and thoughts, you need not act in a negative way, and indeed you may realize you are quite capable of greatness even when not feeling your best.

So my question to you is: What will you do when you awaken to your freedom and possibility? What plays will you make with your newfound sense of grit, or as I like to call it: tenacity, perseverance, mental toughness, shining, brilliance?

As you make plays today, please share with me if you like. Use #madetheplay as your hashtag.

As always, thanks for reading, and I greatly appreciate all your shares and spreading the message.

Lose Your But

Being awake to opportunity is one key to making plays consistently. It works hand in hand with another key I wrote about yesterday, being aware of illusions of control.

In keeping with this week’s theme of the light inside (your inner fire, burning desire, etc.), I want to note that so many people I work with understand that they have a passion for certain things, but they buy into illusions of control that they believe prevent them from acting on those passions. Their belief in the illusion puts a type of glass ceiling on what they think is possible, and this thought keeps them from acting on those passions.

So often when I talk to people, I am clued into their mental limits when I pay attention to their buts.

I would love to write a book, but…..
I want to be more loving, but…..
I want to make more money, but…..
I would love to change careers, but…..
I suppose I can be pretty good at talking to people at times, but…..

To awaken to opportunity, simply start paying attention to your buts. See if you can stop your sentence before your but. Understand that anything that comes after your but is an illusion of control. None of your buts control you. You have influence to overcome them and persevere in a relentless pursuit of your passions.

After you awaken to the illusion of control that resides behind your buts, see if you can awaken to new possibilities. Simply see if you can start a new sentence with your can. I can……..

I would love to write a book. I can start by writing a journal or a blog.
I want to be more loving. I can say I love you more. I can ask people what they would like from me. I can do nice things for my family without any reason other than that I love them.
I want to make more money. I can work a little extra. I can start my own part-time small sales business. I can spend less and keep more.
I would love to change careers. I can start by figuring out how much money I need. I can start with small steps toward gaining new skill and knowledge.
I suppose I can be pretty good at talking to people at times. I can be clear with my thoughts. I can communicate my ideas very well, even if my point isn’t always perfectly clear or accepted by others. I can begin reaching out more in an effort to grow my network and influence.

Once you gain freedom by eliminating buts, you will find mental clarity more often, and a steady stream of possibilities will occur to you. After the possibilities occur to you, it’s as simple as realizing what you can do and acting on it.

Keep in mind, we aren’t defying the laws of physics here. I am not suggesting you say to yourself, “I would love to fly. I can jump off my roof and flap my arms.” You need not throw all caution to the wind. I merely want you to be aware that even physical limitations can be overcome.

We travel across the world’s sky every second of the day because the Wright Brothers refused to buy into assumed human limitations. They showed us we can fly. You can be safe and physically practical without limiting your possibilities. Indeed, sometimes tackling the assumed impossible is necessary when awakening to possibility.

Your inner fire is always blazing and ready for action at any moment, even if you aren’t aware of it. Do not limit your possibilities. Be awake and seize the opportunity available in the moment.