I came across this article in the New York Times awhile back that really excited me. Finally! I thought. This is proof that I’m not just a “pie in the sky” thinker! I know some of my clients chuckle about my advice on positive thinking and not allowing negative self-talk in a personal training session. (No Matt Foley comparisons please. I do not live in a van down by the river). The big excitement for me about this article was that a study done over 30 years ago showed that what and how one thinks and behaves can have a direct impact on one’s body. This study showed that a group of retired men in their seventies actually experienced significant physical improvements after living for only 5 days as if they were 20 years younger. Ellen J. Langer, the social psychologist who performed the study, has since written the book Counter Clockwise, where she discusses the study and the power of opening our minds to what’s possible.
I have come to see that there is great power in our thoughts and spoken words. You likely have heard the quote by Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” It’s not just a quote. I am going to be so bold to say it is a downright fact. It isn’t simply positive thinking. When you believe you can do something, you see the opportunities to make it happen; you muster the perseverance to keep pushing until you achieve it; obstacles become something to overcome which then spur you on toward your goal.
Below are common things I hear from clients and others and the impact of these statements. Under each negative thought is a replacement thought and its potential impact.
Thought: I can’t do that.
Impact: You give up before being able to do that; and, as Henry Ford says, “You’re right!”
REPLACEMENT THOUGHT: I’m going to do that!
Impact: You attempt your goal and find ways to get it done. Even before you accomplish your goal, you have gained new abilities and learned new things, and have become stronger along the way.
Thought: I’m too old for this.
Impact: You use this as an excuse to not try something that may be challenging and, thus, you miss out on the great feeling that comes with accomplishing something difficult.
REPLACEMENT THOUGHT: My age does not dictate what I can and cannot do.
Impact: You try new, challenging things. In turn, that gives you feelings of anticipation, enthusiasm, excitement, and accomplishment. Sounds pretty youthful to me!
Thought: I don’t belong here. I’m too out of shape.
Impact: You will avoid the gym (and getting in shape), because you have just labelled yourself as an out of shape outsider.
REPLACEMENT THOUGHT: I’m going to join this gym and get into great shape!
Impact: You open yourself up to the opportunity to achieve what you want for yourself.
Thought: These people are judging me, because I’m fat.
Impact: You are judging others by thinking you can read their thoughts – and you assume they are thinking negative things about you. This is not a good way to make new friends.
REPLACEMENT THOUGHT: I’m impressed with all these fit people. I plan to learn a thing or two from them.
Impact: By thinking positively about others, you open yourself up to the possibility of making new friends, and getting some great ideas on getting fit. Remember this: most people are really nice and would love to meet someone as cool as you.
While listening to a podcast, recently, I heard this great advice: “Stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself.” Love it! Take charge of your thoughts, keeping in mind how powerful they are. The bible even speaks to this topic in Proverbs 23:7 –”For as he thinks in his heart, so is he (NKJV).” Retrain your brain. If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself or a situation, stop that thought in its tracks. Find a replacement thought and tell it to yourself. Hey, as long as you are going to be thinking a thought – may as well make it a good one!