Our thoughts determine the quality of our lives, whether we are sad, happy or content. The zing in our system resulting from happy, optimistic, positive thoughts, emotions, and feelings allows the blood to flow freely and the heart to beat joyfully.
Our feet are sprung into action when we see them. We must never forget the age-old saying that the mind – thought – can move mountains. In contrast, pessimistic, sad and gloomy thoughts create inertia and keep us bedridden.
In this article, we’ll look into how your thoughts and attitude matter to success and what you can do to transform both for success.
How to Develop Ambition
Ambition is a critical component of achievement. In order to pursue one’s life goals, one must first become ambitious. This means breaking out of the comfortable familiarity of routine termed the “comfort zone.” But how does one get ambition?
Steven Scott describes the process of developing ambition in terms of an “awakening”: realizing that we have been “programmed for mediocrity” and then realizing that this prior programming does not doom us to continuing to abide by this mediocrity.
As Sarah Breathnach argues in her book Simple Abundance, perhaps ambition is already within us:
Ambition is achievement’s soul mate. Action is the matchmaker that brings these affinities together so that sparks can begin to fly and we can set the world on fire. Just as electricity can be life-enhancing or destructive, so can ambition. What ambition really needs is a new press agent. The only time we ever hear about her is when she’s blamed for somebody’s downfall. But what if we are supposed to be ambitious? What if our refusal to channel our ambitions for our highest good, the highest good of those we love and the rest of the world, is the real corruption of Power? Think of all that could be accomplished if women cherished their ambitions and brought them into the Light where they belong. Think of how our lives could be transformed if we respected ambition and gave grateful thanks for being entrusted with such a miraculous gift.
According to Breathnach’s theory, we can assume that if we are lacking ambition, then it has been suppressed. The challenge then is to bring to light the ambition that is within us. This ambition may be difficult to find, as it may have been squelched for many years. Often, however, all it takes is for you to give yourself permission to bring it up.
As a success quote says, “Most people fail in life because they major in minor things.”
In order to counter the common tendency to think of ambition, or drive, as a negative characteristic, you should consider ambition as a positive attribute – a gift – when used for good, in the pursuit of your goals. Once your ideas about ambition have been transformed into a positive framework, you may find you encounter a motivational breakthrough.
Developing healthy ambition is often about finding a balance. Optimistic thinking has proven to be a major factor in self-motivation. Nonetheless, most of us know people who are over-optimistic and over-ambitious. These people are often called “dreamers” or “serial enthusiasts.” They move from place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship, hobby to hobby, each time announcing that “THIS IS THE ONE!”
People who are too ambitious often have over-ambitious goals as well as over-ambitious timelines. They only feel good if they achieve large goals, so they lose sight of the smaller goals. They are too impatient to work on the smaller sub-goals and the often, tedious steps involved in getting to the larger goals.
This is why they are constantly changing directions. As soon as the process begins to get difficult, or frustrating, or seems to take too long or is too much work, they move on to the next “great idea.” Do you often find yourself stopping progress on a certain goal because “I’ve changed my mind?”
If that seems to happen repeatedly each time you are striving to reach a particular goal, you need to assess if what you are really saying is, “It got too hard,” or “It’s taking too long.”
Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
— Harper Lee
Optimism vs. Pessimism – Why the Big Deal?
On the other hand, pessimists worry about doing things perfectly and never seem able to make a move. They continually use their imagination to visualize worst-case scenarios and then conclude that those scenarios are so probable, and the effects are so hopeless that there is no cause for action.
On a continuum between overly optimistic and overly pessimistic, there is a healthy medium. Healthy people who find themselves thinking too optimistically or pessimistically will challenge their own thoughts.
They will look at both sides of the coin and debate them until they feel they have a realistic idea of how to proceed. If this course of action does not achieve the desired results, they will alter or modify it until it does.
It is important to become a realist, to get to a point between over-optimism and pessimism where you can debate the pros and cons of various actions and assess likely outcomes.
Ambition usually does not spring up automatically. Often, you must use self-discipline rather than depend on intrinsic (internal) motivation in order to begin a task. But, if you can develop the discipline to begin, motivation will often follow. External (extrinsic) motivation can be internalized, and with the passage of time, as you adjust to new tasks and become pleased with the results of new successes, intrinsic motivation will develop.
One way to develop ambition and motivation is to first act “as if.” When you start acting and behaving like the successful person you want to become, the feelings tend to follow. Acting “as if” causes you to create new habits, and soon you will find that they are natural to you.
You may soon find other people commenting on your new habit, such as “how patient you are.” You know that it took years of practice, of acting “as if” for you to develop that trait, so you may respond, “I haven’t always been this way – it took a lot of hard work.”
Acting as if you were already what you want to become and knowing that you can become it is the way to remove self-doubt and enter your real-magic kingdom.
— Wayne Dyer
Controlled Focus is Your Laser Beam to Success
Tony Robbins, one of the greatest contributors to motivational thought transformation in the self-help movement, writes, “In order to succeed, you must have a long term focus.” He believes that in order to gain any valuable, long term pleasure, one must break through some short-term pain.
This begins with the decision to overcome the discomfort of short-term pain. Robbins speaks of the principle of “concentration of power” or “controlled focus.” He believes that people can achieve more than they realize when they focus their intentions on their goals. His delineation of the thought transformation process involves three steps:
- Raise Your Standards: Decide what you will accept and what you will not accept for your life.
- Change Your Limiting Beliefs: Develop a sense of confidence that you can, and will, meet your new standards.
- Change Your Strategy: The best strategy is to find a role model, someone who is already getting the results you want, and tap into their knowledge.
“Your life changes,” says Robbins, “the moment you make a new, congruent, and committed decision.” Brian Tracy reiterates Robbins’ point about long term focus in Secrets of Success and goes on to emphasize the feelings of confidence, mastery, and self-esteem that ensue when one achieves sustained concentration.
The famous entrepreneur and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie believed strongly in “controlled focus”, although the term was not coined until long after his death. After his family moved from Scotland to the United States, he went to work as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill at the age of thirteen. He later established his own business enterprises, eventually organizing the Carnegie Steel Company. At the age of 65, he sold the company for $480 million.
His thoughts on “focus” can be seen in his quote on ultimate success. “Here is the prime condition of success, the great secret – concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery and know the most about it. Finally, do not be impatient, for as Emerson says, ‘No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.’”
Another way to stick with your dreams is to saturate yourself with information about your dreams. For example, if you desire to become a famous actress, read everything you can about acting.
Get every book and subscribe to every magazine you can find on the subject. Watch every television program on how famous actors got where they are. Read every biography you can find on famous actors. Go see as many actors in person as you can. Go to their websites and study them. Attend their “chat sessions” online. Read their blogs. Follow them on social networks. Take as many acting classes as you can. The more you know about your goal the more it will feel like a part of you. The more it feels like a part of you, the more confidence you will have that you can do it.
Along this line, it is important to mention practice. A famous athlete once said, “Those who love their craft, love the practice.” If you don’t love practising, you will probably never be that good at it. So practice, practice, practice!
When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
— Harriet Beecher Stowe
Your Words are Your Power
Your word is the power you have to create. Your word is the power you have to motivate yourself. Words can literally change our beings and actions. In her book, The Right Words at the Right Time, Marlo Thomas provides a wonderful expose of the words that motivated a variety of people who have achieved great things.
She discusses how words have a tremendous impact on us. They can either serve to move us to action or to keep us down. For example, she quotes:
Muhammad Ali responded to a teacher’s assertion that he ‘ain’t never gonna be nuthin’. Billy Crystal, Walter Cronkite, Katie Couric and Kenneth Cole also received words of discouragement that goaded them on to achievement. The right words moved Al Pacino to pull out of a downward spiral. Paul McCartney’s words came in a dream; Steven Spielberg’s came from Davey Crockett. Chris Rock’s words, like mine, came from his father; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s from her mother-in-law on the eve of her wedding. Rudolph Giuliani, Cindy Crawford and Gwyneth Paltrow heard the words that changed their lives during a moment of crisis.
Some positive self-statements come to us naturally, and some are much more difficult to fuse into our being. One of the words I often use is “intention.” The intention is what we want to have to happen – our primary objective – our true aim.
When I wake up in the morning I think about how I want my day to go. I say “My intention today is to be safe, happy and healthy, and to complete one chapter in my book.” My day usually goes according to my intention.
However, sometimes it seems the whole world is conspiring against my intention. Lots of distractions come up, people don’t do what they are supposed to do, things are delayed for reasons beyond my control, things break down and I have to stop and fix them, etc. I have to be flexible and patient during these times.
Usually, however, what stops my intentions are my own refusal to set limits with others. People distract me and get me off my course by either asking for my help or attempting to engage me in THEIR problems/crises/dramas.
This is where I am weakest, as I am by nature a people-helper. So what I have learned to do (when possible) is to tell (not ask) others what my intentions are, and that after my intentions have been met, I will be available to them. By the time I’m ready for them, they have usually solved their own problem!
Sometimes, with certain people, I have to change the word “intend” to “insist.” Sometimes it’s okay to insist that things go your way. As long as you are not stepping on anyone else’s toes, or harming anyone else, or neglecting to care for those who really need you, you have the right to insist on doing your own thing, i.e. getting to your appointment on time or completing your goal on time.
You can use the list of words in the following exercise as “reward words” to yourself. For example, if you have just accomplished something that was a challenge for you, pat yourself on the back and say “Wow, that really took perseverance, but I did it.” It is very important to remind yourself often of how far you’ve come in your journey.
Life is a rush into the unknown.
You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or stand up tall as you can, show it your teeth and say ‘Bring it on, Baby, and don’t be stingy with the jalapenos!’
Exercise: Words as Motivational Tools
The following are useful words to incorporate in thought transformation with examples of how to use them. After each example, write your own positive affirmation related to each word. Then think of more words you can use to describe yourself on your journey of goal achievement.
Focus: I am focused on my driving so I will not be distracted.
Concentration: I have the excellent concentration for 90 minutes at a time.
Intention: My intention is to lose 6 pounds within three months.
Willpower: I use my willpower to exercise daily even when I don’t feel like it.
Dedication: I am dedicated to completing this job and I will not give up on it.
Persistence: My persistence in getting a promotion will eventually pay off.
Perseverance: I can persevere through setbacks and challenging times.
Commitment: I am committed to making this happen and getting others to support me.
Determination: I am determined to get my degree, no matter how long it takes.
Courage: I have the courage to continue, even when it seems hopeless.
When you change the way you look at something, that something will change the way it looks.
— Wayne Dyer
Exercise: Replacing Negative Self-Statements
Think about the self-deprecating, counter-productive statements that you tend to say to yourself, such as “I’m bored,” “This is too hard,” or “This will never work.”
If you can consciously shift your thought to more positive ones, you are more likely to stick with projects and feel good about your involvement in them.
Research has shown that people who think more positively tend to accomplish more goals and stay healthier. So, when you catch yourself thinking negative statements, stop the thought and immediately replace it with a positive one, such as “I’ve already made progress, and if I stick with it, I know I can succeed.”
How to Change a Negative Statement to a Positive Statement
Example: “I can’t take karate because I’m out of shape and it’s too hard to get to the studio three times a week,” changes to, “I can choose to take karate. I can’t get in shape as I go. I can schedule a time to go when I really commit to it.”
Turn your “test” into a “testimony” and turn your “mess” into a “message.”