Expect the Best: Belief Unfolds Opportunity

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you consider yourself an optimistic person? Do you always bank on the best possible outcome even if all odds are against you?

The basic factor of succeeding in anything is learning to believe it’s possible. William James summed it up with this famous quote: “Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that ensures a successful outcome.”

Here is how expecting the best can actually draw the best to you.

Believe It’s Possible

When you expect the best in life, you get the best. When you expect the worst, that’s what you get. When you change your mental habits to a state of constant belief instead of doubt, everything becomes possible.

Peale contends that expecting the best and believing it’s possible triggers the Law of Attraction, and you draw the best to you. But when you expect the worst, you’re actually releasing the power of repulsion—pushing away the best outcome. 

Another possible explanation for the Law of Attraction is that people who expect good outcomes are simply better prepared for them, compared to people who don’t think a good outcome is possible. 

For example, a 10-year study of “luck” concluded that optimistic people seem to attract good luck because they’re more open to unexpected opportunities. Pessimists are less likely to recognize or pursue those opportunities. 

Create a Belief Mindset

Peale says that we can use The Bible to enhance our faith, expect the best in every situation, and put our whole hearts into whatever we want to accomplish. 

His technique begins with reading the New Testament and noticing how many times faith is mentioned. While reading, choose about a dozen statements about faith—whichever ones appeal most to you. Next, memorize each of those faith statements. Say them over and over again, allowing them to sink into your subconscious mind. As a starting point, he suggests Matthew 17:20: “If you have faith, nothing will be impossible to you,” and Matthew 9:29, “According to your faith, be it unto you.”

Peale says that, when you’ve fully absorbed these faith tenets, you’ll have the strength of belief and willpower to get what you truly want from life. 

Peale’s faith statements are, in essence, Christian mantras: Phrases that you repeat over and over to ingrain them into your mind and your belief system. 

There’s scientific evidence that mantras may help boost people’s moods, concentration, and optimism. A group of doctors in Ireland performed a systematic review of studies that claimed to show the effectiveness of mantras and meditation; they concluded that mantras may offer “minimal to moderate” mental health benefits.

Give It All You’ve Got

When your heart isn’t in your endeavor, you are easily defeated; but when your heart is fired up, you’re free from self-doubt. Peale says that faith power works because it allows you to put everything you’ve got into what you want to accomplish.

Faith and belief unleash the ability to go after your dreams wholeheartedly. Faith allows you to bring physical, emotional, and spiritual resources to your endeavor, which is incredibly powerful. 

According to Peale, we prevent ourselves from living and acting wholeheartedly because of doubt. His solution is to overcome doubt with faith. 

The self-help book Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown, suggests another possibility: We hold ourselves back because of shame, and we must overcome shame through vulnerability. 

According to Brown, shame is an internalized feeling that you’re not “good enough,” and that you don’t deserve to have all that life can offer you. She urges you to identify those feelings when they arise, and to think about where they’re coming from. Once that’s done, share your experience with someone you trust. You’ll be revealing part of your internal shame—you’ll be leaving yourself vulnerable and seeing that you aren’t hurt by doing so. 
Brown promises that, once we overcome our fears and our shame, we’ll be able to bring our full attention and energy to everything we do—to live wholeheartedly.

Know What You Want

Peale insists that to achieve what you want in life, you have to clearly define your goal. Belief, faith, and expecting the best can only happen when you have a clearly defined objective. Too many people go nowhere because they just don’t know where they want to go—no objective means no end result. 

Specificity is important in faith power; great things don’t happen for some people because they’re not being specific enough. Use your faith power to attract the one thing you need in the moment, or to attack your single greatest obstacle. 

In The Secret, Byrne warns that the Law of Attraction—another term for Peale’s “faith power”—doesn’t consider whether something would be good for us or not; if our thoughts are negative, angry, or hateful, we’ll attract more negativity, anger, or hate into our lives. 

Therefore, in addition to making our thoughts clear and specific (as Peale says), Byrne adds that we should be careful what we think about. Make sure that you’re thinking only about things that you actually want to attract.

Doubt Blocks Faith

Don’t allow doubt to creep in; doubt chokes off the flow of faith power. Never speak or even think about a poor outcome. 

To eliminate doubt and boost your faith power, Peale suggests telling yourself every day that God gives you the power to achieve what you want. Repeat many times daily that you expect the best, and that God can help you get it. This conditions your thoughts toward the best outcomes and will guide the best to you.

Again, The Secret helps explain this concept in more depth. According to Byrne, there are actually two ways that doubt interferes with the Law of Attraction:

You’re not sure what you want. If your wishes are muddled and doubtful, you won’t be sending clear “signals,” so your powers of attraction will be much weaker. You’re not sure that you’ll get what you want. If you don’t fully believe that you’ll receive what you’re asking for, the universe won’t believe it either. Again, this means that your powers of attraction will be much weaker than they could be.
Expect the Best: Belief Unfolds Opportunity

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  • That there is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith, positive thinking, and prayer
  • The practical techniques of applied Christianity
  • How to take control of the events in your life rather than be directed by them

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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