“Anybody can do just about anything with himself that he really wants to and makes up his mind to do. We are all capable of greater things than we realize.”
“Throw your heart over the fence and the rest will follow.”
Norman Vincent Peale was a minister and the author of the famous book The Power of Positive Thinking. That book and other works from Peale went on to sell tens of millions of copies. During the depression he, JC Penney and Thomas Watson – of IBM fame – spent time on philantrophy. Peale also had his own radio show for over half a decade.
Here are 7 of my favourite tips from Peale.
1. Focus on today.
“Don’t take tomorrow to bed with you.”
Focusing on this day today and on tomorrow when it arrives can save you a lot of stress and improve your focus and performance. Of course, you may need to plan for tomorrow. But thinking about it compulsively will just shatter your focus and ensure that you won’t be able to concentrate on what’s in front of you today. You can – over time – build a habit of spending more time in the present and less time in imagined future scenarios or old memories. You may do this through things like focusing on just your breathing for a few minutes to reconnect with the present moment again.
2. You may be surprised if you just step up and face your obstacles.
“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”
“The “how” thinker gets problems solved effectively because he wastes no time with futile “ifs” but goes right to work on the creative “how.”
It’s very easy to spend your time thinking and imagining all the horrible things that may happen if you stand up and face your obstacles and troubles in life. But if you actually do that those negative images seldom come into life. They are just huge monsters that you build in your mind. Just like you did when you were a kid and imagined monsters in the closet or under your bed.
When you actually stand up and face your obstacles you may find that the experience isn’t as bad as you imagined. Sometimes it’s actually a bit anti-climatic. You think to yourself: “What?! Is this it?”.
So, after having done some thinking, research and planning on how you can accomplish something just stop thinking. Don’t fall into the trap of overthinking and monster-building. Just go and do what you need to do instead.
3. Understand to overcome.
“Understanding can overcome any situation, however mysterious or insurmountable it may appear to be.”
Talk to people, do some research – in books, online, etc. – and the mist of anxiety and fear often vanishes. A situation may seem scary because it’s not understood and undefined and so your mind projects your worst fears upon that scary looking mist. It can seem like just about anything may jump out of it and attack you.
So understanding can be useful. Overthinking, as mentioned in the previous point, not so much.
4. Find the upsides of the problem.
“Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.”
“Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles, they toughen and make strong.”
Problems can provide insights and give lessons in how you can grow. So don’t be totally discouraged when running into a problem. Realize that there are usually one or more opportunities in what you perceive as a problem. Doing that regularly makes it easier to not take your problems overly seriously because you aren’t seeing them as totally negative experiences anymore.
So when facing a problem, ask yourself a question like: what’s awesome about this situation? Or ask yourself: what can I learn from this situation?
5. Check your phraseology.
“Watch your manner of speech if you wish to develop a peaceful state of mind. Start each day by affirming peaceful, contented and happy attitudes and your days will tend to be pleasant and successful.”
“Never talk defeat. Use words like hope, belief, faith, victory.”
There is a good amount of power in what words you use. If you use negative words you tend to feel more negative and find more negativity in your world. If you use positive and uplifting words you tend to feel those emotions. This may sound a bit corny or silly, but when you get into the habit of actually using more positively charged words you find that it affects your mood and outlook on things.
6. Don’t go too fast.
“To go fast, row slowly.”
It’s tempting to go fast. But if you go too fast your boat may tip over. You may stumble unnecessarily and make mistakes that you wouldn’t have done if you had just kept a slower pace. Or you may be tempted to grab on to the next big idea, the next “magic pill”, instead of steadily keep going on your current path. To actually get where you want to go a slower pace may be more useful and effective than a hurried and quick pace.
7. Learn not only from your mistakes.
“We’ve all heard that we have to learn from our mistakes, but I think it’s more important to learn from successes. If you learn only from your mistakes, you are inclined to learn only errors.”
“Check what you did right and don’t get lost in basking on your glory. It will make it easier to repeat whatever you did that created the success.”
I thought this was an interesting reminder. Our mistakes are interesting because they can often teach us something valuable if we just take a closer look at what happened. But, of course, the successes are really useful to analyze too.
It is here we can find perhaps a crucial detail or something that we did that we missed the other 10 times we tried.
So, as Peale says, don’t get totally lost in basking in your glory. Or make the mistake of seeing your success as just having a bit of luck for once. Take a close look at what happened and what you did right. Preferably sooner than later as memories can quickly become a quite fuzzy. And write down what you come up with to prevent that the conclusions become fuzzy.