We Become What We Think About

For the better part of a decade I have been interested in personal development information. I literally think about personal development on a daily basis. Often I listen to audio programs as I walk and sometimes I read personal development while I’m at work. One personal development work that I want to touch on today is Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret.

The secret is simply 6 words: We become what we think about.

This certainly isn’t a new idea, in fact Earl clearly admits he learned it from Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich. And this isn’t a unique idea either. There are plenty of books that have expanded on the concept.

Nevertheless, the idea is a profound one.

Few people would argue that thoughts control our decisions and actions and that our actions largely control our results. If you think about going shopping and decide to follow through on that thought, your body soon follows suit, and pretty soon you acquire the results of going shopping. It all begins with what you think. But what people often don’t realize is that we have the power to consciously control our thoughts. Instead of just letting our brains randomly cycle through the same thought over and over again, we can actually spend time taking conscious control over our thoughts. And if we do that regularly, our actions will change and we will acquire new results.

Thoughts are like seeds. If you want different results in life, you have to figure out which thoughts are capable of growing those results and which aren’t. Then you have to fill your mind with correct thoughts and weed out incorrect thoughts.

For example, if you want to start your own business, I can tell you which thoughts are the right seeds and which are the wrong ones. Among the wrong seeds, you will find the following thoughts:

  • Starting my own business is very risky. I have a family to support.
  • There’s a good chance I will go broke.
  • I don’t have enough money yet.
  • I have no idea how to start my own business.
  • I’ve got a safe and secure job. Why would I want to mess that up?
  • I’m not ready to start my own business yet, maybe next year.

Now I’m not saying these thoughts are objectively wrong…just that they’re the wrong seeds for starting a business. These thoughts will not help you get the results of starting a successful business. A business isn’t going to grow in the soil of the thoughts above. But these are the right seeds if you don’t want to start your own business; these seeds will grow the tree of being a lifelong employee. So chances are if you harbor thoughts like those above, you find yourself an employee right now. There is nothing wrong with being an employee if that is what you actually want. On the other hand, if you’re an employee right now and you would like to start your own business, but your dominant thoughts about that idea are similar to those above, then you have a problem. Those mental seeds simply won’t grow a business, just like if you plant tomato seeds, you will never grow a watermelon.

So what kinds of thoughts are the right seeds for starting your own business?
Here are some of them:

  • Sure it’s a risk, but I believe in myself, and whatever obstacles come my way, I’ll overcome them.
  • I’d rather spend my life working hard to build my own business than to build someone else’s. If I’m going to build a business no matter what, it might as well be my own.
  • I love the freedom of being my own boss. I can only imagine what it must be like to be able to decide how to spend my time every minute of every day.
  • I can only make so much as an employee, if I want to get rich; I must build my own business.

Now just because thoughts like these above might be the right ones for building a business, that doesn’t mean that planting the right seeds is enough to grow the whole plant. Just like plants need water and sunshine, it takes a lot of hard work to build a business. But the right thoughts are the first step. I’m just using the starting of a business as an example here. I can just as easily use quitting smoking, losing weight, getting married, etc.

The main point here is that if you find yourself in a situation where you want new results in your life (i.e. something other than what you are currently experiencing), then the first step is to examine your dominant thoughts to see if they are the right seeds to grow the results that you want. The odds are better than 95% that if you aren’t making progress, than you’re probably not thinking the right thoughts. You must replace those thoughts with new thoughts. For example, you won’t become a non-smoker by thinking thoughts like “Quitting smoking is hard.”

A key concept to understand here is that shifting your thoughts is a conscious and deliberate activity. You don’t just say to yourself, “Ok, I’ll think about starting my own business. Sounds good. Next….” You have to be a lot more productive than that. You have to set aside an hour and be totally alone, sit with pen and paper, and figure out the correct thoughts/seeds you need to be thinking, and then consciously ram those new thoughts into your head, over and over again until they become dominant over the old thoughts. And if you really want changes with your results you must do this every single day.

You might find the above exercise very difficult at first. When you first think new thoughts it’s normal to feel doubt about them. So if you think about starting a new business, the initial images wont seem very good. Then you think about quitting your job and the negative reaction you will get from your boss, the office politics you have to deal with on a daily basis and you suddenly realize you are back to thinking the wrong thoughts again. That’s normal, but use your imagination to push beyond the doubt and keep working on it. See that new reality working out wonderfully, even if you have no idea how it could possibly work in the real world. It’s going to be sloppy in the beginning. But it will get easier over time. After about 2-3 weeks of repetition, you will actually believe these new thoughts. And that’s when you will feel the urge to start taking action. But in the beginning you will still be too full of doubt to act. That’s fine – it’s important to reach the point of belief first. So just give yourself some time, and let your imagination guide you. As Albert Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

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