Proactive Language

There’s nothing I can do.. Let’s look at our alternatives.
That’s just the way I am.. I can choose a different approach.
He makes me so mad.. I control my own feelings.
They won’t allow that.. I can create an effective presentation.
I have to do that..I will choose an appropriate response.
I can’t..I choose.
I must.. I prefer.
If only.. I will.

A serious problem with reactive language is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People become reinforced in the paradigm that they are determined, and they produce evidence to support the belief. They feel out of control, not in charge of their life or their destiny. They blame outside forces - other people, circumstances, even the stars - for their own situation.

Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Primed for Action

Does your frame of mind before an event make a difference in the outcome? Read this quote from Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink:

Two Dutch researchers did a study in which they had groups of students answer forty-two fairly demanding questions from the board game Trivial Pursuit. Half were asked to take five minutes beforehand to think about what it would mean to be a professor and write down everything that came to mind. Those students got 55.6 percent of the questions right. The other half of the students were asked to first sit and think about soccer hooligans. They ended up getting 42.6 percent of the Trivial Pursuit questions right. The 'professor' group didn't know more than the 'soccer' group. They weren't smarter or more focused or more serious. They were simply in a 'smart' frame of mind and, clearly, associating themselves with the idea of something smart, like a professor, made it a lot easier - in that stressful instant after a trivia question was asked - to blurt out the right answer. The difference between 55.6 and 42.6 percent, it should be pointed out, is enormous. That can be the different between passing and failing.

Call it positive thinking or priming or whatever you like, but don't neglect the mental prep before each "big game." Actors must "get in character" by focusing on the task at hand before the curtain rises. In the same way, give your best effort by first dipping your mind in some positive energy.

Stephen Goforth

The Advantage of Disadvantages

The big dream in our society is that if we work hard enough, we will eventually be able to experience a life without limitations or difficulties. It is also one of the biggest sources of friction in our society, creating disappointment, unnecessary suffering, and missed opportunities to live a full life. Some people spend their entire life waiting for that which will never, and can never, happen.

Limitations are not necessarily negative. In fact, I’m beginning to believe that they can give life definition, clarity and freedom. We are called to a freedom of and in limitations—not from. ...Unrestricted water is a swamp—because it lacks restriction, it also lacks depth.

The conclusion we arrive at all depends upon how we look at our limitations. Consider this late-night phone call I received one night. The voice on the other end inquired with great enthusiasm: “What does it mean for a horse to be handicapped!”

She hadn't identified herself, but I knew who it was. Leigh is a very special friend, and we’ve been through much together. She not only suffers from severe cerebral palsy, but has faced other, sometimes even more severe, difficulties- like losing her family at an age too young. Her feistiness and tenacity are not only her hallmarks, but are a contagious influence on us all.

I responded to her question, “Well, Leigh, I’m not exactly into horse racing, but as far as I understand they usually handicap the strongest horse by adding a little extra weight to make the race more fair."

"Yeah, I know!”

The she asked: “What does it mean if you handicap a golfer?”

Well, Leigh- again, I’m not really sure. But as far as I understand the rules, they handicap the best in order to make the game more exciting. The better the golfer, the larger his handicap.”

“Yeah, I know. And what does it mean when a bowler is handicapped?”

After we explored a number of sports, always reaching the same conclusion, there was a rather long pause. Then she said, with bold simplicity. “That’s it!”

That’s what, Leigh?” I replied, not understanding.

“That’s it! That’s why God gave me such a big handicap.. because I’m so special!”

It was one of the finest statement for tenacious dignity in spite of circumstance that I have ever heard.

Tim Hansel, You Gotta Keep Dancin

The illuision

Self-evaluation involves interpretation. We’re all heard the studies showing that the vast majority of us consider ourselves above-average drivers. In the psychology literature, this belief is known as a positive illusion. Our brains are positive factories: Only 2 percent of high school seniors believe their leadership skills are below average. A full 25 percent of people believe they’re in the top 1 percent in their ability to get along with others. Ninety-four percent of college professors report doing above average work. People think they’re at lower risk than their peers for heart attacks, cancer, and even food-related illnesses such as salmonella.

Most deliciously self-deceptive of all, people say they are more likely than their peers to provide accurate self-assessments. Positive illusions pose an enormous problem with regard to change. Before people can change, before they can move in a new direction, they’ve got to have their bearings. But positive illusions make it hard for us to orient ourselves – to get a clear picture of where we are and how we’re doing.

Chip & Dan Heath, Switch

The next small victory

In training camps, we don’t focus on the ultimate goal - getting to the Super Bowl. We establish a clear set of goals that are within immediate reach.

When we start acting in ways that fulfill these goals, I make sure everybody knows it. I accentuate the positive at every possible opportunity, and at the same time I emphasize the next goal that we need to fulfill.

When you set small, visible goals, and people achieve them, they start to get it into their heads that they can succeed.

Former NFL coach Bill Parcells, Harvard Business Review

Getting closer to the truth

Most of us view the world as more benign than it really is, our own attributes as more favorable than they truly are, and the goals we adopt as more achievable than they are likely to be. We also tend to exaggerate our ability to forecast the future, which fosters optimistic overconfidence. In terms of its consequences for decisions, the optimistic bias may well be the most significant of the cognitive biases. Because optimistic bias can be both a blessing and a risk, you should be both happy and wary if you are temperamentally optimistic.

Optimism is normal, but some fortunate people are more optimistic than the rest of us. If you are genetically endowed with an optimistic bias, you hardly need to be told that you are a lucky person -- you already feel fortunate.

An optimistic attitude is largely inherited, and it is part of a general disposition for well-being, which may also include a preference for seeing the bright side of everything. If you were allowed one wish for your child, seriously consider wishing him or her optimism. Optimists are normally cheerful and happy, and therefore popular; they are resilient in adapting to failures and hardships, their chances of clinical depression are reduced, their immune system is stronger, they take better care of their health, they feel healthier than others and are in fact likely to live longer.

Of course, the blessings of optimism are offered only to individuals who are only mildly biased and who are able to “accentuate the positive” without losing track of reality.

Optimistic people play a disproportionate role in shaping our lives. Their decisions make a difference; they are inventors, entrepreneurs, political and military leaders -- not average people. They got to where they are by seeking challenges and taking risks. They are talented and they have been lucky, almost certainly luckier than they acknowledge. Their self-confidence is reinforced by the admiration of others. This reasoning leads to a hypothesis: the people who have the greatest influence on the lives of others are likely to be optimistic and overconfident, and to take more risks than they realize.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

seeing potential

A New York businessman dropped a dollar into the cup of a man selling pencils and hurriedly stepped aboard the subway train. On second thought, he stepped back off the train, walked over the beggar and took several pencils from the cup. Apologetically, he explained that in his haste he had neglected to pick up his pencils and hoped the man wouldn’t be upset with him. “After all,” he said, “you are a businessman just like myself. You have merchandise to sell and it’s fairly priced.” Then he caught the next train.

At a social function a few months later, a neatly-dressed salesman stepped up to the businessman and introduced himself. “You probably don’t remember me and I don’t know your name, but I will never forget you. You are the man who game me back my self-respect. I was a “beggar” selling pencils until you came along and told me I was a businessman.”

The greatest good we can do for anyone is not to share our wealth with them, but rather to reveal their own wealth to them.

Zig Ziglar, See You at the Top

What Your Childhood Memories tell you about yourself

A counselor once told me that our memories work something like a cheerleader's megaphone-only in reverse. The opening is wide but there is not enough room for very many memories to crawl through the tube to come out at other end and stick in our heads. So we unconsciously pick the memories we hang onto. This is why he suggested I try to recall my earliest memory tied to a strong emotion. It would tell me something about myself.

At the age of five or so, I walked with my grandfather to a playground near his home. The road was tarred but not paved. I was looking down at the rough surface when I spotted a $5 bill. I remember gleefully looking up at my grandfather and proudly showing it to him. He offered an approving nod.

My counselor guessed that choosing to keep this memory might speak of my closeness to my grandparents and optimism. The road may be rough, but if you keep your eyes open, you'll discover wonderful surprises-and there is joy in sharing them.

The very fact I choose to remember talking to my counselor about this story, out of the many hours that we chatted, could say as much about me as remembering that story does itself.

Say, what's your youngest memory tied to a strong emotion? What does it say about you?

Stephen Goforth

Resilient in the face of trauma

For at least a century, psychologists have assumed that terrible events—such as having a loved one die or becoming the victim of a violent crime—must have a powerful, devastating, and enduring impact on those who experience them. This assumption has been so deeply embedded in our conventional wisdom that people who don’t have dire reactions to events such as those are sometimes diagnosed as having a pathological condition known as “absent grief.” But recent research suggests that the conventional wisdom is wrong that the absence of grief is quite normal, and that rather than being the fragile flowers that a century of psychologists have made us out to be, most people are surprisingly resilient in the face of trauma. The loss of a parent or spouse is usually sad and often tragic, and it would be perverse to suggest otherwise.

But as one group of researchers noted, “Resilience is often the most commonly observed outcome trajectory following exposure to a potentially traumatic event.” Instead, studies of those who survive major traumas suggest that the vast majority do quite well, and that a significant portion claim that their lives were enhanced by the experience

Why do most of us shake our heads in disbelief when an athlete who has been through several grueling years of chemotherapy tells us that “I wouldn’t change anything,” or when a musician who has become permanently disabled says, “If I had it to do all over again, I would want it to happen the same way,” or when quadriplegics and paraplegics tell us that they are pretty much as happy as everyone else? The claim made by people who have experienced events such as these seem frankly outlandish to those of us who are merely imagining those events—and yet, who are we to argue with the folks who’ve actually been there?

The fact is that negative events do affect us, but they generally don’t affect us as much or for as long as we expect them to.

Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling into Happiness

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

Stop spending time with the wrong people.  Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.

Marc Chernoff, read more here.

don’t make waves

Thomas Moriarty arranged an experiment in which innocent persons would be practically accused of stealing. The experimental aide would stand behind an adult businessman making a call in a phone booth in Grand Central Station; when the call was completed the aid would play out the following script: “Excuse me, I was here a few minutes ago I left my ring on the counter under the phone. Did you find it?” Of course, all subjects replied, “No.”

The aide would then say, “I've got to find it. Are you sure you didn't see it? Sometimes people pick things up without thinking about it. Again, subjects would deny having seen the ring. Then the aid would ask, “Would you empty your pockets?”

The Investigators wondered how many people would comply with such an overbearing request, one which amounts to an allegation of petty thievery. The compliance rate was 80 percent: four of every five adult males essentially submitted to a search by emptying their pockets. The percentages were even higher in laboratory experiments. And even when a “disinterested bystander” said to the aide. “You’ve got no right to ask him to empty his pockets,” the subjects still complied.

Such studies show how prevalent passivity is. It is alarming that so few people are willing to stand up for their rights when they are being put upon and clearly annoyed. Apparently, most of us would rather not get into a hassle about anything, especially with a stranger. The slogan is: Don’t make waves.

Sharon and Gordon Bower, Asserting Yourself

The Outgoing Basket

The head of a small firm who had a great many difficulties in establishing his business told me that he was immeasurably helped by a technique which he invented. He had trouble, he said, with the tendency to "blow up" a small difficulty into a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. He knew that he was approaching his problems in a defeatist attitude, and had common sense enough to realize that these obstacles were not so difficult as he made them appear to be. As he told the story, I wondered if he did not have that curious psychological difficulty known as the will to fail.

He employed a device which reconditioned his mental attitude and after a time had a noticeable effect on his business. He simply placed a large wire basket on his office desk. The following words were printed on a card and wired to this basket, "With God all things are possible." Whenever a problem came up which the old mechanism of defeat began to develop into a big difficulty, he threw the paper pertaining to it into the basket marked "With God all things are possible" and let it rest there for a day or two. "It is queer how each matter when I took it out of that basket again didn’t seem difficult at all," he reported.

In this act he dramatized the mental attitude of putting the problem in God’s hands. As a result he received power to handle the problem normally and therefore successfully.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking

Angry Thoughts

Problems of anger begin as seed thoughts of self-pity, discouragement, jealousy, or some other negative thought. One’s thought life is the key ingredient in behavioral and emotional control; therefore, thoughts prior to and during times of anger are important. Thoughts give emotional feelings prolonged existence and strength, and lend interpretation to vague emotions.

When anger feelings begin, people should “listen” to themselves think. Their minds are constantly making value judgments, decisions, and comparisons. Therefore, there always exists the opportunity to intercept anger by changing these thoughts.

Mark Cosgrove, Counseling for Anger

Possibility and Despair

Possibility… is to human existence what vowels are to speech. To live in pure possibility is like an infants utterance of vowel sounds, which fail to express something that is definite and clear. Vowels alone do not make for articulate speech, although without them nothing can be said at all. Similarly, “if a human existence is brought to the point where it lacks possibility, then it is in despair and is in deeper every moment it lacks possibility.” One cannot breathe without oxygen, but it is also impossible to breathe pure oxygen. Possibility is a kind of spiritual oxygen that a person cannot live without, but one cannot live on pure possibility either.

C. Stephen Evans, Kierkegaard: An Introduction

living in the past

Every day I am discovering that people are depressed and defeated because of their past failures and mistakes. They allow their past failures to dominate their present thinking. Because of some past failure, they have convinced themselves that they are no good and they are incapable of doing anything worthwhile. Not only do they doubt their abilities to accomplish anything, but they also down their worth as human beings. Anyone who lives in the past, brooding over past mistakes, will have a difficult time living in the present. If you want to be unhappy, then constantly rethink your past failures. If you want to live victoriously, leave your past failures and disappointments in the past where they belong; instead, seek God's face as you live by faith in the present.

Larry Kennedy, Down with Anxiety!

the smooth handle

One of (Thomas) Jefferson’s rules was this, and I think it is priceless, "Always take hold of things by the smooth handle." That is, go at a job or at your difficulty by the use of a method that will encounter the least resistance. Resistance causes friction in mechanics, therefore it is necessary in mechanics to overcome or reduce friction.

The negative attitude is a friction approach. That is why negativism develops such great resistance. The positive approach is the "smooth handle" technique. It is in harmony with the flow of the universe. It not only encounters less resistance, but actually stimulates assistance forces. It is remarkable how from early life until the end of your earthly existence the application of this philosophy will enable you to attain successful results in areas where otherwise you would be defeated.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking

from “dunce” to genius

When Victor Seribriakoff was fifteen, his teacher told him he would never finish school and that he should drop out and learn a trade. Victor took the advice and for the next seventeen years he was an itinerant doing a variety of odd jobs. He had been told he was a "dunce" and for seventeen years he acted like one. When he was 32 years old, an amazing transformation took place. An evaluation revealed that he was a genius with an I.Q. of 161. Guess what? That's right, he started acting like a genius. Since that time he has written books, secured a number of patents and has become a successful businessman. Perhaps the most significant event for the former dropout was his election as chairman of the International Mensa Society. The Mensa Society has only one membership qualification, an I.Q. of 140.

The story of Victor Seribriakoff makes you wonder how many geniuses we have wandering around acting like dunces because someone told them they weren't too bright. Obviously, Victor did not suddenly acquire a tremendous amount of additional knowledge. He did suddenly acquire tremendous added confidence. The result was, he instantly became more effective and more productive. When he saw himself differently, he started acting differently. He started expecting, and getting different results. Ah yes, as a man thinketh..

Zig Ziglar, See You at the Top

Staying Power

Faith supplies staying power. It contains dynamic to keep one going when the going is hard. Anybody can keep going when the going is good, but some extra ingredient is needed to enable you to keep fighting when it seems that everything is against you.

You may counter, "But you don’t know my circumstances. I am in a different situation than anybody else and I am as far down as a human being can get.

In that case you are fortunate, for if you are as far down as you can get there is no further down you can go. There is only one direction you can take from this position, and that is up. So your situation is quite encouraging. However, I caution you not to take the attitude that you are in a situation in which nobody has ever been before. There is no such situation.

Practically speaking, there are only a few human stories and they have all been enacted previously. This is a fact that you must never forget – there are people who have overcome every conceivable difficult situation, even the one in which you now find yourself and which to you seems utterly hopeless. So did it seem to some others, but they found an out, a way up, a path over, a pass through.

Norman Vincent Peale,  The Power of Positive Thinking

Expect the best!

Expect the best at all times. Never think of the worst. Drop it out of your thought, relegate it. Let there be no thought in your mind that the worst will happen. Avoid entertaining the concept of the worst, for whatever you take into your mind can grow there. Therefore, take the best into your mind and only that. Nurture it, concentrate on it, emphasize it, visualize it, prayerize it, surround it with faith. Make it your obsession. Expect the best, and spiritually creative mind power aided by God power produce the best.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking


The first thing to do about an obstacle is simply to stand up to it and not complain about it or whine under it but forthrightly attack it. Don't go crawling through life on your hands and knees half-defeated. Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven't half the strength you think they have.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking