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 believe that your thoughts can shape your reality? How do thoughts influence one’s life outcomes?
Positive thoughts create positive outcomes, and negative thoughts lead to negative outcomes. Thoughts can even contribute to illness or health. If you’re unhappy with your current circumstances, you can remake your life by getting rid of your old, negative thoughts and filling your mind with new thoughts that reflect faith, creativity, love, and goodness.
Learn how to develop a positive mindset and think your way to success.
Think Your Way to Success and Happiness
Your thoughts are powerful; they dictate the type of life you lead, the kind of person you are, and the experiences you have. Your thoughts can create or change the conditions around you. You can think yourself into or out of a situation.
|Whether or not you believe that your thoughts can literally change the world around you, there’s no denying that your thought patterns have a major impact on your happiness and mental well-being. |
A major lesson of Stoicism, which Aurelius teaches in Meditations, is that outside forces cannot harm you. Aurelius insists that you don’t get hurt or upset by what happens to you; you get hurt or upset by how you respond to it. For a Stoic like Aurelius, controlling your thoughts isn’t about removing hardships from your path, but rather making yourself immune to those hardships.
Aurelius also believed that physical pain was meaningless, and the only thing that could truly hurt you was something that hurt your character or your sense of self. He’s not claiming that you can make yourself immune to injury or disease, just that you can toughen yourself mentally so that physical pain doesn’t stop you.
Imagine and Succeed
To start thinking differently, form a positive mental picture of how things should be—don’t just accept the way things are.
Hold that mental picture and believe it deeply; pray about it, and do what you can to make it a reality. This process will unleash creative thinking, helping you realize the outcome you want.
|Tony Robbins’s book Awaken the Giant Within suggests another way in which imagining the outcomes we want can be a powerful tool for reaching our goals. Robbins believes that we often limit ourselves by using experience, rather than imagination, as our reference point for making decisions. While using past experience to predict what might happen sounds reasonable, the problem is that we apply our past experiences far too broadly. |
For example, someone who does poorly on a math test might conclude that he’s a bad student, rather than recognizing that he was just struggling with one subject. Instead of applying his experience with that test to all schooling, Robbins would suggest that he imagine what other subjects he might do well in and how exciting it could be to learn new things.
Techniques for Changing Your Thoughts
Here are some practical techniques to help you change your mental attitude from negative to positive.
- Speak positively: Try optimism for 24 hours. During this time, speak optimistically about all aspects of your life, health, and future. After speaking optimistically for 24 hours, try next for one week. Then give yourself a day or two off to be “realistic.” You may see that what you used to think of as realistic thinking is actually pessimistic thinking.
- Think positively: Feed your mind positive thoughts. For example you can read Bible passages about faith. Though this will take time, think of how much time you’ve spent becoming a negative thinker. Say prayers of thanks for all the wonderful things God is giving you. The idea is that God wants to give you great blessings, but he can’t give you anything greater than what you can believe in. So believe big.
- Spend time with positive people: Determine which of your friends are positive thinkers and which are negative thinkers. Stay closer to the positive thinkers for a while, then go back to the negative friends; you’ll be able to share your positivism without absorbing their negativism.
|Tony Robbins: How to Develop a Positive Mindset|
In Awaken the Giant Within, Robbins suggests an approach that addresses these negative thoughts more directly: changing the way you talk to yourself.
Robbins says that thinking is just asking yourself questions and then answering them. Therefore, the questions you ask yourself form the foundation of your thought patterns.
For example, if you ask yourself negative questions like, “Why can’t I do anything right?” you’ll force yourself into harmful, disempowering thought patterns. However, by asking yourself positive, empowering questions like, “What went well?” or even, “What can I do better next time?” you’ll put yourself into a more confident and practical mindset.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Power of Positive Thinking summary:
- 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