“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
In the last post, I told you science has proven that our brains can be wired differently. It doesn’t happen by accident. Like Abe said, we can be as happy as we make make our minds to be.
Since we aren’t born optimistic, why do some people have beliefs that push them towards success while others have beliefs that only help them fail?
It comes from a mindset that develops over time. So where does this mindset come from? It comes from things that you can change starting today.
Your environment plays a role of breeding success or failure
It’s not where you live that’s the main factor. You could live in the suburbs or the ghetto.
It’s the effect the environment has on beliefs and dreams. How does it affect your mindset? If all you see is failure and hopelessness, it’s very hard for you to form the internal images that will nurture success.
If you grow up in an environment that provided examples of people who had overcome great odds to produce a happy life, you’ll believe it’s possible.
That’s why it’s important to take a closer look at the people you associate with the most. They have influence over you that you may not realize. If you’re surrounded by a bunch of lazy and whiny people, it’ll rub off on you.
If you surround yourself with positive and hard working people, guess how that is going to make you?
Think about the environment you’re in. Does it nurture you or bring you down? Do the five people you hang out with the most represent the type of person you aspire to be like?
Environment may be a big factor of fostering optimisim, but it’s not the only one. If it were, we’d live in a world where only the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.
Small or big events can form the beliefs that change our lives
There are some events that we will never forget. Do you remember where you were on 9/11? I’m sure you know and will never forget. I still remember how I found out the news and my initial reaction when I turned on the TV. It shook our beliefs on how safe our country is from terrorism.
Most of us have experiences we will never forget. Experiences that had such an impact on us that they are permanently in our brains forever.
A grandmother lifted a car off her grandson and saved his life. That experience had such an impact on her that it changed her beliefs.
She didn’t like talking about the event because it challenged her beliefs about what she could and could not do. She said, “If I was able to do this when I didn’t think I could, what does that say about the rest of my life? Have I wasted it?”
The story has a happy ending. Because of that experience, she believed anything was possible for her. She went back to college, got her degree, and pursued her passion of teaching geology.
Knowledge grows optimism
A way to gain knowledge is by what you feed your brain.
What you feed your brain comes from reading, watching movies and television and what you decide to focus your attention on. It can have an effect on how you view the world.
If you read about crime, war, the failing economy, and unemployment rates, you’re going to think there is no hope!
Instead use knowledge to break the chains of a limiting environment.
Be more conscious about what you’re reading and watching every day. Decide to feed your mind with positive and inspiring messages. Learn a new skill. Listen to audio CD’s in the car instead of the radio. Cut back on watching television.
It’s up to you if you want to feed your brain with clean water or dirty water.
What you decide to read or watch is decided by you. Think about what you’re giving attention to if you’re looking to change your mindset to a more optimistic one.
No matter how bad your world is you can create the beliefs, through knowledge, that will allow you to succeed.
Results are created through our past results
This one is simple. When you’ve succeeded once, it’s much easier to form the belief that you’ll succeed again.
I had never run a half marathon before almost two years ago, but when I finished my first, I wondered what else I could push myself to do that I had never thought of before? What else could I achieve with deliberate practice and consistency?
I developed one iPhone app. Now, I have the belief that I can do it again. Before I started, I didn’t think that way.
Often we forget that successes we have. When we try to tackle a big goal, we think that it seems near impossible.
If you feel that way, think about the small wins you’ve had. I know you’ve had a lot of successes that you take for granted.
How about learning to walk? Riding a bike? Typing?
Often we take these abilities for granted, but being able to type well and quickly doesn’t happen over night. It takes a lot of practice. Same goes for walking and riding a bike. If you think walking is easy, tell that to someone who had a spinal injury and is learning again how to walk. It’s not easy, but we’ve mastered it.
When you set huge goals for yourself, set up some small ones along the way. You’ll feel great when you achieve them and it’ll propel you to keep going towards your bigger goals.
Create the experience in your mind as it were here now
Just as past experiences can change your internal represenatations and thus what you believe is possible, so can your imagined experience of how you want things to be in the future.
When your current situation isn’t helping you in being in a positive and powerful state of mind, you can simply create the world the way you want it to be.
I like to remind myself “act as if”. Let’s say my goal is to write a non-fiction book. Since I have no experience writing one, nor unsure if I can, I can act as if my book is already published and selling thousands of copies a month.
I’d close my eyes and really feel as if I were a successful author.
How does it feel to have people buying my books? What would I say to myself? What would I be doing every day? What did I do to achieve this?
When you try this, really feel it. Often when visualize what I want to achieve, I feel happy and calm. I’ll often have a smile on my face.
It’s not magic. It’s not voodoo. Just thinking about it isn’t enough to make it come true. But no actions begins without a thought. Those thoughts are influenced by your beliefs.
The more you visualize the success you want, the more your outside world will try to align itself with what you truly desire.
Change begins today
More optimism doesn’t just happen to us. We can control what we believe. We can control our life. We can change.
So much of what you do starts with a belief. If you want to succeed, it’s smart to choose your beliefs carefully, rather than going with what everyone else thinks.
If you feel like your life has been spiraling downward for awhile now, you can start to change that. Remember failure breeds failure. If you’re unhappy with not getting the results you desire for so long, you’re going to believe you won’t ever be able to produce the results you want. You end up doing little or nothing.
Instead if you start expecting that you will succeed, you’re going to begin to activate parts of your brain that will help you achieve your goals. You’re excited. You’re motivated. You expect only success. This time you won’t just try. You’ll work as hard as you can. If you get knocked down, you’ll get back up and say “That’s all you’ve got?”
If you had that kind of mindset, the chances are you’ll produce great results. And what does that do to your belief in your ability to produce great results in the future? In this case, success feeds on success and creates more success. Then momentum carries you to succeed on an even higher level.
Does this attitude work for every goal you want to achieve? No and that’s reality. There is no forumla that will guarantee flawless success every single time.
But if history has proven that if people maintain the belief systems that empower them, they’ll keep coming back with enough action and enough resourcefulness to succeed eventual. Just look at these famous people who succeeded despite failures.
It’s not too late to change your beliefs and be an optimist. You can start right now.