Eternal Sunshine of the Optimist’s Mind

“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:

Girl Jumping by Anna Cervova

  • 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.)

Get a FREE copy of Think and Grow Rich here (all you have to do is pay less than $5.00 for shipping):

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Leave A Reply (24 comments so far)

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  1. Great post! The only thing I could add SEEMS negative but it’s not meant to be… :) it’s when I learned to not just take advice but to LOOK AT THE ADVICE GIVER in the context of their life vs mine. Yes, a lot of your naysayers were right, FOR THEM. THEY could not have done it all therefor they thought you couldn’t.

    I’m also getting some of the negativity for wanting to enter the therapy field. But I have put those folks in the context of what they are going through with their mindset, career histories, and all the sudden they just seem plain silly! They are the ones trapped and constricted, not me!

    • katieg
      5 years ago

      Good point! A lot of people give advice/feedback on what’s right for them or their own fears. It’s really important to put the naysayers into context – it’s usually not a reflection of your abilities, but more a reflection of the person making the comment. :)

  2. Cherry Woodburn
    5 years ago

    Thanks for a good post. I’m not a therapist but work with women to identify their limiting beliefs and assumptions about women and themselves. As you point out we learn so much about ourselves by the language we use when we talk to others or to ourselves.
    I like David Burn’s 3 column approach from his Feeling Good book to become aware of their assumptions or all-or-nothing thinking etc. and how to change those thoughts. Cherry
    Cherry Woodburn recently posted..Is It Divisive To Talk About Gender In Leadership

    • katieg
      5 years ago

      I love David Burns’ books. I recommend Feeling Good and 10-Days to Self-Esteem all the time to clients and my therapy interns/students.

      Thanks for commenting and tweeting Cherry!

  3. Jen Gresham
    5 years ago

    “Believing in yourself is a choice.”

    You bet it is! This is a great story of triumph, and I’m happy to share it. I find it’s the one-two whammy of fear and hard work that makes people shuffle away from their dreams. Glad you proved there’s another outcome.

    Thanks, Katie!
    Jen Gresham recently posted..5 Ways To Shine Through A Weakness

    • katieg
      5 years ago

      Thanks Jen! It was knowing that I was capable of hard work that helped me get over the fear :)

  4. Dawn Lennon
    5 years ago

    Not only do you share a wonderfully positive message but your words create the rhythm that lets us feel it! I’m such an advocate of your call to throw off the weight of self-doubt and replace it with the can-do that’s in you! Thanks so much this terrific post…it’s great to have found a kindred spirit! ~Dawn

    • katieg
      5 years ago

      Thanks Dawn! I really appreciate the feedback and having found such an inspiring person like you, too! Self-doubt can be such a burden, but once we realize we’re the ones choosing to carry the weight it’s a lot easier to put it down.

      Go team positive, can-doers!

  5. Linda
    5 years ago

    Well, I’m so glad you decided to become a therapist Katie!

    It really is all in our heads, isn’t it?

    My favorite positive statement is “You’re highly capable, and unafraid of hard work and toil, so put one foot in front of the other and get to steppin.’”

    It’s sad that it takes many people so much time and heartache to realize their worth. That’s a huge challenge I find in being a therapist–the non-integration of the brain and body.

    It’s one thing to know on a cognitive, rational level that you’re competent, but only when the inner life catches up is the concept integrated.

    I guess we all change the negative scrips and core beliefs when we’re ready, right?

    Thanks for another awesome and enlightening post:).
    Linda recently posted..Why Unleashing Your Inner Jackass is Sexy

    • katieg
      5 years ago

      Thanks Linda! (I’m glad I became a therapist, too!)

      I think that sometimes we need a little more time to gather more “proof” that are negative self-talk doesn’t fit reality. That way when we’re ready to change our negative core beliefs we’re armed and dangerous against any reoccurrence.

      I really like your positive statement: “You’re highly capable, and unafraid of hard work and toil, so put one foot in front of the other and get to steppin.’”

      • Irene Savarese
        5 years ago

        I made myself an affirmations I used everyday when I started up my private practice. Here it goes: When I treat myself as a capable and valuable woman, I will get stronger and I will reach my goals!

        • katieg
          5 years ago

          Thanks Irene! I wanted to share this because I know so many people feel this way and think they’re the only one… It IS possible to accept yourself, believe in yourself, and have the confidence to live your dreams!

          Love your affirmation: “When I treat myself as a capable and valuable woman, I will get stronger and I will reach my goals!” So true!

  6. Athena Staik, PhD.
    5 years ago

    Yes, it is, and you say it with such heart awakening energy, speaking authentically from your own experience! Quite powerful, I’m confident this will inspire your readers. Thanks!

  7. Laurie Wallin
    5 years ago

    Well, you took the words right out of my mouth! I really struggle with the same things…. that sense of not being prepared enough. One of my coaching clients revealed she’s a NICU pediatrician during our first session and I instantly want to “go there” again and feel really insecure. But the truth is, she sought me out. I just had to keep focusing on that. And it’s really helped me get out of my own way in helping others.

    So glad to meet you via Linda Esposito. Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!
    Laurie Wallin recently posted..Tag Youre it! So go ahead- play a little!

    • katieg
      5 years ago

      Thanks Laurie.

      I love how you turned “she’s a NICU pediatrician” from something that made you feel insecure into “she’s a NICU pediatrician who sough YOU out” – it’s all how we look at things :)

      Good to meet you and looking forward to reading more from you in the future, too!

  8. Irene Savarese
    5 years ago

    WOW Katie, I thought you were writing about me. I am sitting reading your post with my mouth open. What a great piece and how important that people read this.

  9. Tammy
    5 years ago

    Great post! I think we’ve all had those those thoughts go through our minds at one point or another. And once we push them out, they can often seem to squeeze their way back in. I love how you worded it- that our thoughts are also choices! You are what you think!
    Tammy recently posted..Opportunities to Connect- Acknowledging Your Spouse’s Efforts

  10. diana
    5 years ago

    YAY! Oh yeah! I totally agree. You commented on my post over at Momentum Gathering, and now I found you here.

    I could take this post and write a comment for each line that begins, “Oh, I know! You’re right! You know what happened to me?…..” HA. But I will just say this: Believing in your own deepest sense of what you need to do and going with it is right. Knowing there are always options out there is right. Touching and embracing who you really are? RIGHT. And if you do it and it does not get you where you thought it would? Well, it will get you somewhere else where you need to be.

    xoxox Lovely to meet you!

    • katieg
      5 years ago

      Thanks Diana! “Believing in your own deepest sense of what you need to do and going with it is right. Knowing there are always options out there is right. Touching and embracing who you really are? RIGHT. And if you do it and it does not get you where you thought it would? Well, it will get you somewhere else where you need to be.” So true!!

      Your post at Momentum Gathering was so beautiful and inspiring (I can imagine myself relaxing, walking the grounds of your inn)

      Lovely to meet you, too!

  11. Katie,

    I love the simplicity of this approach. In essence it takes one word – “proof” – and builds a whole new reality around it. People need simple methods in these complex times. This is a perfect one!
    Sandra I Always Well Within recently posted..What Is True Happiness

    • katieg
      5 years ago

      Thanks Sandra! I wanted to show that it can be a simple thing (like looking at the proof) that starts to make the shift.

      It’s so easy to get overwhelmed, but just taking one step or making one small change can have a huge impact.

  12. Tess The Bold Life
    5 years ago

    I know exactly what you mean. It took me 9 & 1/2 years to finish my bachelors degree while my four daughters were growing up. Then I got my masters in two years because I finally knew what I want to do! One foot in front of the other…works every time.

    • Katie Goode
      5 years ago

      It took me a really long time to get my Bachelors degree also. I kept starting and stopping because I was listening to the “shoulds” once I figured it out, I finished my BA and went straight to my MA. It’s amazing what a difference finding your right path makes. Thanks for visiting Tess.

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