“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” – Thomas Alva Edison
UPDATE: I originally posted this in January 2011, but I think having an optimist mindset is critical to building a successful business so I’m posting it again with a special offer for a FREE book down at the bottom. Hope you enjoy it!
Ever tell yourself:
- I can’t.
- I’m not pretty, handsome, smart, or rich enough.
- I’m so stupid!
- Why can’t I do anything right?
- It’s just not good enough.
Now, some people might think that these criticisms will motivate them to try harder or work better…
We become what we think.
Repeat a thought often enough and it becomes the truth to your brain.
When you repeatedly tell yourself “I can’t,” you’re much more likely to give up or not even bother to try.
Before I went back to school to become a therapist, I’d been pretty successful in my career in sales and marketing, at least on the outside… I regularly over-achieved my quota, won sales contests, got raises, and promotions,
inside I was terrified that people would figure out I was a fraud.
I had a constant fear that there was something I was supposed to be doing, but I had no idea what it was.
Whatever it was though, I was going to get fired when my bosses realized I wasn’t doing it… I was frozen by fear and negative self-talk.
I kept telling myself “I’ll feel confident/successful/smart when_____ happens.” And each time _____ happened, I still felt like a loser.
I spent so much of my time looking for approval from others and external validation, but it didn’t mean anything as long as I didn’t approve or appreciate myself.
It wasn’t until I realized that the only person making me feel like a fraud/loser/”I can’t” was me.
I ignored all of the positive feedback, positive achievements and focused only on the negative. If I’d been able to give myself any kind of praise at the time, I would have given myself an award for outstanding excellence in self-criticism (after all, I’d had a lifetime to practice and improve at it).
So how did I go from Polly Pessimist to Little Mary Sunshine?
It didn’t happen over night, but I finally realized that none of my negative thoughts could be backed up by proof.
Proof became my mantra.
Any time those old negative thoughts and doubts reared their ugly head, I’d ask “where’s the proof?”
“I can’t do at that “ turned into “Really? Because you managed to do that other thing even though you didn’t believe you could when you started.”
“I’m not smart enough” became “You may not know everything you need to know, but you’re smart enough to ask for help and look for answers when you need to.”
When I decided to go back to school to become a therapist, I had no idea if I’d be able to do it.
I could have focused on:
- All of the things I didn’t know about psychology or being a therapist.
- How long it would take (2 years to finish my bachelor’s in Psych, 2 years to finish my Master’s in Psych, 3000 hours of internship, plus two licensing exams).
- All of the more experienced therapists out there who were already working in the field.
- The nay-sayers in my life telling me “it’s hard to make a living doing that” or “you’d be better off staying where you are since you’re not going to make enough money to pay your bills.”
But, instead, I chose (and yes, our thoughts are a choice) to focus on:
- The sense of rightness and inner peace I felt at the thought of becoming a therapist.
- My happiness at finally feeling as though I’d found my purpose.
- How excited I was at the idea of doing something to help people.
- My determination to do this, no matter what.
I reminded myself that I’d been successful in the past, so there was a good chance I’d be successful this time too!
Put one foot in front of the other
If I thought about just the next step, I knew I could do it.
“All I have to do is focus on finishing this class” was a lot more inspirational than “Only 60 units for my BA, 50 units for my MA, and years and years of internship hours to go…”
Believing in yourself is a choice
The next time you find yourself back in negative self-talk land, take a tip from Bob Newhart and “Stop it!”
Try some of these thoughts instead:
- I can do it!
- I’ve done _____ in the past, so I know I’ll be able to do _____.
- Refer back to your list of 200 successes whenever you need a reminder, or some proof, that you CAN do it!
You are awesome!
Are you finally starting to see it?
What are some of your favorite positive self-talk statements? Share them in the comments below.
SPECIAL OFFER: It’s natural to have ups and downs with optimism so it’s important to schedule time every day to do something that helps you maintain your optimistic mindset throughout the day. I make a habit of spending 15-30 minutes reading an inspirational or motivational book every morning. One of my favorites is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napolian Hill. It’s got a ton of great tips and techniques to help you set clear and specific goals and to create the right state of mind to achieve those goals. (If you don’t have 15-30 minutes to sit and read use the time during your commute to work to listen to a book on CD.)
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