How Your Thoughts Are Stopping You From Reaching Your Goals

“He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right.” -Confucius

As we enter 2017, I have been thinking about what skill can be developed to help us reach our goals and be more successful. Very often we focus on things that we are not good at. We can be our biggest critic. In recent years there have been a lot of studies done on positive psychology rather than negative psychology. We can change how successful we are just based on the things that we think about.

The Happiness Advantage is a interesting book about how our thoughts change every aspect of our lives. It can change everything from how we feel to how we look to how others perceive us. The author cites numerous studies to prove this point. One of the best is a week long experiment done on 75 year old men in 1979.

In this experiment the men were told to pretend that it was 1959, 20 years earlier, when these men were 55 years old. They were told to dress and act like they were 55, the were even given IDs and newspapers identifying them to that year. It was a world designed to make them feel like they were 55. The lived in that world for one week, and after just that one week, the men were significantly more flexible, had better posture, and even much-improved hand strength. Their eyesight improved by almost 10% as well as their tests on memory. They improved in all these aspects that many believe deteriorate with age. The men lived in a world in which they were 20 years younger, and just that belief changed how their bodies aged.

Other studies have been done about how racial stereotypes affect performance. In one study, a group of Asian women performed better on a Math test when told to think about their identities as Asians rather than as women. Similarly, even though African Americans typically score much lower than whites on intelligence tests, after Obama was elected President this achievement gap virtually disappeared.

The things that we say to other people can influence their performance too.

“We aren’t saving dolphins.” The difference between a calling and a job.

A sales manager once told his team, “ Look, I understand that you are all here at work to make money…So don’t think about this as a session about happiness, think about how these strategies will help you make more money. To be honest, it has to be about money: We’re not saving dolphins here.”

Basically what this guy was saying was, “Saving dolphins is meaningful and has a positive effect on the world, while the job you’re in provides no meaning and worth beyond making you a lot of money.” He pretty much told everybody that they have a job and not a calling. How do you think this effected the team’s performance?

This may seem like some voodoo science that doesn’t really work, and if you believe that then you are probably right. What you choose to believe becomes your reality. The way you perceive a situation becomes your reality. Your brain is the most powerful tool you have to help you reach your goals and become successful. Just remember Confucius.

“He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right.”