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How to Make the Power of Positive Thinking Work for You


There’s no shortage of positive thinking theories out there, but the one that has resonated with me comes from—no surprise—Brian Clark’s newsletter Further In his July 6 newsletter, he writes “Positive beliefs can spark a placebo effect that helps us succeed. Conversely, negative beliefs and the accompanying thoughts can keep us “in our heads” and away from a state of optimal performance. 

How do we get ourselves into that state of optimal performance?  Brian references Steve Magness’ new book Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness.  

We have to change "I can't" to "I can"

Magness makes the case that when we’re stuck in our heads, we often end up performing a type of self-sabotage. Our limiting beliefs are actually a way to protect our egos. In other words, we create ways to justify our failure ahead of time so we’ll have an excuse if (and now likely when) it happens. 

Brian then goes on to quote Star Wars Jedi Knight Yoda, who says there is no such thing as trying to succeed.  When Luke Skywalker tells Yoda he will try to lift his X-wing fighter out of the swamp with his mind, Yoda says, Do or do not.  There is no try.”  

luke skywalker and yoda from star wars

Look past the big ears. Yoda knows all.

More poignant, though, is Yoda’s response to Luke when he says that lifting a spaceship is “completely different” from the stones he’s been practicing with: 

“No different! Only different in your mind.” 

Brian then gives us three tips for getting out of our heads:  

  1. Let Go of Perfectionism

Perfectionism is the enemy of mastery — and it can also be used as an excuse to not strive in the first place. 

  1. Develop a Quiet Ego

This means creating a better mental balance by turning down our sense of self so we don’t view failure as a mortal threat.   

  1. Adopt the Right View of Failure

The more we experience fear of failure, the more ingrained in our brains it becomes to avoid it like the plague. According to Magness, “our behavior shifts from approach motivation, where we are ready to take on a challenge, to avoidance and protection.”   

The next time you’re faced with a daunting challenge where you question your ability to succeed, get out of your head and into the belief that success will be yours.  Develop a plan and then start taking action to achieve it, with small steps toward your goal. As you do this you’ll begin to believe you can be successful. And you will be. Yoda says so.  

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Last Updated: 12/5/23