The Magic of Thinking Big covers a wide range of ideas on what contributes to success. At a high level, the ideas split into two categories: 1) mindset, 2) behavior.
Success Requires Believing in Yourself
Success means something different for all of us because we all have different goals. But regardless of the goal, successful people have one thing in common: they believe in themselves. Disbelief in your own abilities makes failure a self-fulfilling prophecy. In contrast, believing in yourself generates the energy to achieve your goal and overcome obstacles.
What Does Thinking Big Mean?
“Thinking big” means not limiting your possibilities — knowing you are capable of reaching lofty goals and achieving success. There are four key strategies to thinking big:
Stop Making Excuses
Unsuccessful people make excuses about why things haven’t worked out. They blame their health, or say their age is holding them back. They blame their lack of intelligence or luck.
Big thinkers don’t fall back on these common excuses. Instead, they focus on what they can do, not what they can’t. They don’t let circumstances hold them back, and use setbacks to propel themselves forward.
Build the Confidence Habit and Kill Fear
Everyone faces fear at some point. Fear in all its forms — worry, tension, embarrassment, anxiety and panic — can be crippling, blocking you from reaching your goals.
Successful people know that confidence is the antidote to fear, and confidence is a habit anyone can develop. Big thinkers first isolate their specific fear and pinpoint what exactly is making them afraid. Then they take some form of action to conquer that fear.
Other techniques for conquering fear include thinking positively, gaining an understanding of people, making moral choices, and showing confidence even if you don’t feel it.
Big thinkers don’t just amass knowledge. They think creatively. Creative thinking is about finding innovative solutions to problems. There are six steps to develop creative thinking:
By Default, Take Action
There are a lot of great ideas and plans floating around out there, but if you don’t act, nothing will happen. Successful people take decisive action on their ideas. Action-takers understand that:
Find a Victory in Every Setback
Highly successful people use setbacks as fuel and motivation to move forward. Successful people handle setbacks productively:
Set Specific Goals for a Motivating Target
Goals are energizing and motivating. They give you a target to work toward, and you work harder than if you’re aimless. Big thinkers set and achieve goals with these key strategies:
Create a Magnetic Attitude
Your facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language all convey your attitude. Other people pick up on your attitude; if it’s negative, you drag yourself down and look bad in the process. Successful people convey three attitudes:
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What is success? It means something different for all of us because we all have different goals. But if you look at people you view as successful, regardless of their goals, you’ll see they all have one thing in common: They believe in themselves. They believe in their abilities. They believe they can accomplish their goals, no matter what obstacles arise.
Believing in yourself isn’t about wishful thinking, though many people confuse the two. You can’t simply wish yourself into a promotion or a bigger home. You can, however, fuel yourself with an “I know I can do it” attitude, which creates the energy needed to propel you forward. With the right attitude, you’ll observe how other people succeed, and you’ll see all the opportunities for yourself to succeed. The “how” comes naturally if you believe you can do it.
When you’re talking with someone who has failed, you may often hear, “I had a feeling it wouldn’t work out,” or, “I wasn’t really surprised it failed.” From the very beginning, these ventures were seeded with failure.
When you start out with a mindset of, “I’ll give it a try but it probably won’t work,” you’ve already given up. You have a subconscious will to fail. Because you don’t truly believe, you find more and more reasons to support your lack of belief — more reasons to give up. If you believe you can’t do big things, you won’t do big things. If you believe you’re worth little, you’ll receive little. Disbelief causes our opinion of ourselves and our possibilities to shrink.
This also affects how the world sees you. Others see us as we see ourselves, so we shrink in the view of others. If we don’t think we can do it, others certainly will agree. This makes it harder to attract other people to you.
Here’s what happens when you believe in yourself and adopt an “I know I can do it” attitude:
Use this exercise to replace a “defeat” mindset with a “triumph” mindset.
Think of an area of your life where Mr. Defeat tends to run your thought process. What does Mr. Defeat say in your head?
Unsuccessful people have a tendency to make excuses about why things haven’t worked out. But if you look at successful people, you find they may have experienced those same roadblocks, but they don’t dwell on them. They don’t make excuses. The roadblocks weren’t even a factor.
The author calls the tendency to make excuses the “disease of excusitis.” Like a physical disease, excusitis can get progressively worse. At first, the person might know the excuse is just a convenient lie - but the more she repeats it, the more she believes it. Soon, she uses that excuse to justify every problem in her life, instead of taking responsibility and solving the problem.
People tend to make excuses centered around four areas: health, intelligence, age, and luck.
We’ll look at each area in detail, but the pattern is this: people use personal traits they can’t change as excuses for not trying. To overcome this, invert your attitude: don’t waste time regretting what you don’t have; instead, make the most of what you do have.
A disadvantage with the right attitude will beat an advantage with the wrong attitude.
What it is: You surrender to your health woes and use an illness or condition as an excuse to stop reaching for your goals. “I’ve now got this disease - my life will never be the same.” “I don’t have the energy/health to do what I really want to do.”
Why this thinking is flawed: There’s no such thing as a perfect human specimen. We all have, or will have, a physical limitation. It’s our attitude about our health that matters. We can dwell on our ailments, falling victim to “health excusitis,” or we can keep a positive attitude and keep moving toward our goals.
You can imagine someone with heart disease who puts his life on pause and becomes depressed. Contrast this with another person who recently had a pacemaker installed who is bursting with energy and vitality, ready to pursue his dreams, grateful to get a second shot at life. The first person surrendered to health excusitis, while the second person remained optimistic...
Stop using excuses to limit yourself. Use this exercise to vaccinate yourself against excusitis.
What excuse do you use often to justify your own lack of success? Describe what goal you want, and what excuse you use to explain why you haven’t succeeded.
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Fear in all its forms — worry, tension, embarrassment, anxiety and panic — is crippling, paralyzing you from taking action and blocking your success. Fear is real, and no amount of advice such as, “Don’t worry,” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of” will cure us of fear.
Why is fear so self-defeating? Think of an infection in your body. If left untreated, it spreads unabated, causing more physical harm and pain and damaging more and more areas of your body. Fear is an infection of the mind, and when it spreads it stops you from taking chances and jumping on opportunities. It blocks your chances at success. Fear stops you from speaking up when you have something to say, and its incarnations such as anxiety and stress can actually make you physically sick.
So how do we treat this mental infection of fear and stop its spread? Confidence is the antidote to fear, and the good news is that confidence is a skill you can develop. No one is born totally confident. Confident people acquire that confidence over time — and you can too.
There are five steps to take to build the confidence habit:
This step has two parts. First, isolate your fear. What exactly are you afraid of? Describe it in very specific terms.
Next, take action. There’s an action to counterattack any type of fear. Prompt, decisive action conquers fear. Postponing and procrastinating is like pouring fertilizer on fear, helping it grow.
Think of a sales executive terrified of losing her job amid plunging profits and a tenuous company atmosphere. She may think there’s nothing to do but hope for the best, but hope is not enough to change the situation or remove her fear. Instead, she could take action.
Use this exercise to pinpoint a fear and begin to replace that fear with confidence.
Think of a specific fear you carry. Pinpoint it. What exactly is making you afraid? What are you worried about?
You are bigger, more important, more capable and worthier than you think. Where success is concerned, being “big” isn’t measured in inches or degrees or family background. Rather, it’s measured by the size of your thinking. How big do your ambitions get? How confident are you in your abilities?
Unfortunately, many people can’t see themselves as the boss, or in that big house, or in that career. They settle for less and sell themselves short.
What’s wrong with thinking small? When you think small, you miss out on opportunities.
When you think too small, you become focused on your inabilities, and you don’t seem to recognize your abilities. (Being aware of your inabilities is healthy, it’s fixating on them that’s problematic.)
When you think big, you are fully aware of your abilities. You have the self-respect and confidence to know you’re worthy of the job, the relationship, or the promotion. You know your possibilities are endless.
Five strategies to help you think big:
It’s easy to fixate on your weaknesses and ignore your strengths. This can be self-limiting, if you feel less capable than you really are.
To accept your full worth and stop selling yourself short, try this fun exercise. It helps you do a reality check and realize just how capable you really are.
Learn how to think bigger about yourself.
Write down your five best “assets.” Pick things that your trusted friends and colleagues would agree with.
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Creative thinking is about finding innovative solutions to problems, employing new and improved ways to do something.
Too often people associate creative thinking with something major, such as writing a novel or inventing some new world-changing device. But give yourself more credit. Anytime you figure out a way to make something better, you are creatively thinking. Stopping an argument before it starts, finding a new way to save money, or streamlining a business task are all examples of creative thinking.
Here are six ways to develop creative thinking.
If you think something can’t be done — liking a person, solving a work problem, creating world peace — your mind goes to work for you, bolstering your arguments and beliefs that this problem is impossible. Your brain shuts down thoughts of a possible solution.
If you truly believe something can be done, your mind also goes to work for you — only this time it finds ways to help you prove a solution is possible. Belief releases creative powers, enabling constructive thinking and bringing inspiration. You find ways to like the annoying coworker, fix the sales problem, or send your child to college.
Here are two tips to help you develop creative power through belief:
Traditional thinking is the belief that there is one, proven way to get something done, and that’s that. When you think like this, nothing gets innovated because you do the same thing...
Use this exercise to stimulate your creativity.
What is something you want to do, but think it’s impossible? Describe it. Then write down a list of reasons it could be possible (even improbable wishes are fine). Reflect: does it now seem more possible?
Have you ever noticed that some people seem to walk around commanding respect from others? Doors are opened, salespeople hover, and coworkers listen to every word. Other people, however, don’t get the same treatment. They can walk around virtually ignored or simply tolerated. What’s the difference?
The author proposes a simple answer: thinking. If you believe, deep down, that you’re not worthy, you’ll act like an unworthy person. This basic feeling of inferiority and lack of confidence will shine through no matter how you to hide it, and others will react to you without a high level of respect.
If, however, you truly believe you are an important and valuable person, you’ll act with importance, carrying yourself with confidence — and others will react to you with respect and deference.
To gain the respect of others, we must first show a high level of self-respect and self-confidence. There are four specific ways we can increase our self-respect so that others can see us as a self-confident and important individual.
Your appearance says volumes about how you feel about yourself and how others perceive you. If you present a careless, slovenly appearance, especially in a job setting, you’ll be perceived as a non-entity. Your appearance is telling others, “Don’t mind me. I’m used to being pushed around.”
If, however, you look your best, you’ll be perceived as someone who is important and capable. Your appearance is saying, “I’m used to being treated with respect.” Others will fall in line and treat you with the respect you're commanding.
Your physical outside influences your mental inside. When kids wear a costume, they start acting the part, whether it’s a superhero or a princess. As adults, we shouldn’t think we’re immune to this effect. If you’re an executive, dressing like an executive makes you feel like one.
Dressing differently also influences how other people perceive you....
Create your own commercial to market yourself to you.
What are your greatest assets? What sets you apart from other people? List up to five.
We’ve all heard the old expression, “you are what you eat.” This means that our well-being is tied directly to the food we use to fuel our bodies.
The author proposes that your mind is also a product of what it is fed, and what feeds your mind is your environment. The people you surround yourself with, the clothes you wear, the neighborhood you live in, and the food you eat all shape you into the person you are.
Most importantly, the size of your thinking, your attitude, and your goals all are the products of your environment, particularly the people around you. If you are surrounded by petty, negative people, you will likely pick up the habits of negative, petty thinking. If you are surrounded by positive, ambitious people, you will begin to reflect those traits, as well.
Your environment changes how you think. Improve your environment to improve how you think.
There are three aspects of your environment to change: your internal environment, your social environment, and your physical environment.
The biggest obstacle to success is thinking you’re just not cut out for any major accomplishment. “Big things are just not in the cards for me.” Too many adults are conditioned toward this sense of mediocrity.
Children don’t dream of someday getting by in a dead-end job. Kids set high goals and fully expect to do exciting, important things. But as they grow up and gain responsibilities, these free-thinking children often become short-sighted adults. They’ve likely been bombarded with the advice of others to “quit dreaming,” and “be practical.” They’re told they’ll never get ahead because they don’t have the luck/money/connections/character traits.
Some people surrender completely to this input. They settle for a job they don’t love and rationalize themselves into a rut from which there’s little chance of escaping.
Others surrender partially at first, holding out hope that someday big things will happen. As time goes by, however, this group loses their fight and decides that greater success isn’t worth the...
Is there a negator in your life? It’s time to lose that negative influence.
Think of a person in your life who is often negative. What kinds of things this person say or do?
It’s time to up your success game by going first class with your buying decisions.
Think about something low-quality and cheap that you own, and something high-quality that you own. How does each make you feel when you use it?
Our facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice betray our thoughts and attitudes. A co-worker sitting slumped at his desk sighing radiates boredom and unhappiness. Another co-worker sitting up, alert, engaged in a discussion conveys energy and interest in what she’s doing.
The second a customer service agent picks up the phone, his tone of voice can convey sincere interest in helping you, or pure disinterest and annoyance.
Our attitudes speak for us, broadcasting disinterest and boredom, or energy and success.
Successful people hone three specific attitudes to help them lead people effectively:
Being activated means being enthusiastic. You have to be enthusiastic if you want anyone else to get excited about your cause. Students will tune out a monotone, unengaged teacher, but an enthusiastic, activated teacher will capture their interest. A fundraiser who is truly passionate about his cause will generate more donations than someone going through the motions.
You want other people to look at you favorably as someone who’s alive, purposeful, and enthusiastic.
You can develop the enthusiasm skill in three ways:
Boost your enthusiasm toward an aspect of your life you’re lukewarm about.
Is there something in your work or personal life you’re just not that enthusiastic about — but there’s no avoiding it? What is it?
Your success in any endeavor depends on the support and acceptance of other people; you’re not going to achieve your goals alone.
To gain this support, you have to be likeable. Likeability is a factor in all aspects of your life, particularly your career. If have the technical skills for a new job but you’re deemed unlikeable, you won't get the position. You have to fit in with other people to achieve success.
Likeable people like other people. They show genuine friendship and kindness to others. You can’t fake likeability or bribe your way into others’ good graces; you’ll end up just creating contempt in the people whose support you’re trying to gain.
To cultivate likeability, successful people:
When you take the initiative to introduce yourself to other people, you build more friendships and relationships, gaining more support.
Successful people go out of their way to meet people and put others at ease. There are six ways to emulate this:
Average people wait for others to introduce themselves. Successful...
Learn to tune into “Channel Positive” instead of “Channel Negative.”
Think of a common situation in your life, whether work or personal, where you tend to tune into Channel N, getting your feelings hurt or becoming angry. Why do you think you react this way?
There are two types of people: Mr. Activationist and Mr. Passivationist. Mr Activationsist is a “doer” who accomplishes big things. Mr. Passivationist is a “don’ter.” He postpones things until they are no longer a viable option.
Mr. Activationist plans a vacation and then takes a vacation. Mr. Passivationist plans a vacation but ends up postponing it indefinitely because the timing isn’t right. Mr. Activationist wants to start a new business venture, so he does. Mr. Passivationist also wants to start a new venture, but talks himself out of it before he ever gives it a shot.
Successful people are Activationists; they have developed the habit of taking action. Mr. Activationist adopts these action-oriented mindsets:
Many Passivationists want to wait for everything to be perfect before they take action. But conditions, timing, and other people are never going to be perfect.
Build the habit of taking immediate, decisive action.
Think of something you’ve been putting off. What is it?
Everyone meets with opposition and setbacks. Unsuccessful people allow these setbacks to defeat them. They use opposition as an excuse to throw in the towel and say it just can’t be done, whether it’s buying a house, starting a business, or getting a promotion.
Successful people, in contrast, use setbacks as motivation to move forward, more determined than ever to reach their goals.
There are three keys to handling setbacks constructively:
Setbacks can be upsetting. Our first impulse is often to quit or react with anger. But reacting emotionally robs us of a chance to learn from that setback.
Successful people pull a small victory out of every defeat. They find the lesson and apply it, learning what went wrong.
“A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in on the experience." - Elbert Hubbard
Similarly, don’t see a setback as a permanent condition that destroys a path for you forever. Learn from it, get better, then try again.
Successful people take detours in stride. They keep going, even if they have to find a new path toward...
Salvage something from a recent failure.
What’s a recent setback that you’ve had? Describe it.
Switch up your approach to an old problem.
Think of a goal, whether work or personal, that you are dedicated to and persistent about, but that is not working out as successfully as you’d hoped. What is your current process?
Without goals, we stumble around, surviving day to day but never truly knowing where we are going. Goals set a specific target for you to aim toward. You know where to direct your effort, and you aim for concrete results.
If you walked up to an airline ticket counter and said, “Give me a ticket,” the agent wouldn’t know how to help you. You can’t buy the ticket until you know your destination. It’s the same with your life goals. You can’t get started until you know where you want to go.
Think of yourself like a business. Businesses plan ahead, researching and developing new products and services, keeping an eye on changing trends. They have a plan for how to respond to new conditions, and they set goals to target.
Successful people are like businesses, with talents and skills as the products. Success depends on developing yourself, producing product, and marketing yourself. Like a business, you need a long-term plan to do this effectively.
When you set goals, don’t be afraid to be ambitious. Don’t be intimidated by your past or where you are today. Don’t think small thoughts like, “look at where I am now - there’s no way I can reach my goal.” Your current situation don’t matter when you set a goal. What’s important is where you want to go.
Here’s how successful people treat goals:
No matter how big or small, goals have incredible power. Focusing on a goal immediately boosts energy, cures boredom, and unleashes physical power. Think of a weekend morning when you wake up with nothing to do. Sounds nice, but on days like this we accomplish...
Think big picture about what you want 10 years from now. Picture your most successful possible self.
Work: What kind of work am I doing? How much money do I want to make? How much responsibility do I want? How much public recognition do I want?
To meet your big goals, start by setting smaller goals. Create a 30-day self-improvement plan to gain positive new habits and break old, negative habits. After you set these, commit to doing them for the next 30 days.
What negative habits do you want to break? Write down two to four.
Success and the ability to lead others go hand in hand. You don’t find success alone; rather, the support of others helps lift you to success.
There are four important principles of leadership. When you master these tools, others will respond to you as a leader and support your ideas.
If you want to gather the support of others, you must look at the world through their eyes. Ask yourself, “What would I think of this situation if I were the other person?” Consider what other people care about. This will give you the key to convincing them.
Consider these situations of seeing through the eyes of people you want to influence.
Constantly ask yourself, “If I were the other person, how would I react to this situation?” Then take the course of action that would connect with you if you...
Become a better leader and set a good example for those you lead.
Think about something you have to convince another person of. Put yourself in that person’s mind. What do they care about? How would they react to what you’re saying? How can you change what you say to be more convincing?
We’ve covered a lot of concepts and suggestions. They’re not easy to remember in the moment when you need them most. Here are a few specific situations that might require you to think big.
When other people try to bring you down:
When you don’t believe you have what it takes:
When you get dragged into an...