This is part of our Rich Habits series, by best-selling author Tom Corley.
Be sure to check out all previous habits we’ve covered!
Have you ever been to a horse track? If you have, you know that right before the race begins the horses are chaotically ushered into their starting gates. The gates remain closed, until the gun goes off, at which point the gates open and the horses stream out like bullets from a gun, headed towards the finish line.
But until the gates open, nothing happens. The race does not begin until the gates are opened.
For most people, their metaphorical gates are closed their entire lives. Their thinking holds them back from starting their race to achieve and win.
Any mental thought, often repeated, becomes a habitual thought. Habitual thoughts direct you to take certain actions that can be good or bad.
As long as your thinking is mired in negativity, pessimism, closed off to new ideas and suffocated by limiting beliefs, you will never begin your race or reach your finish line.
That race represents the pursuit and achievement of the goals behind your dreams. That finish line represents the realization of those dreams. Ninety-nine percent of the population never gets out of the gate because their thinking holds them back.
According to the latest science on the ability to solve complex problems through creative thought, better known as insight, negativity inhibits your ability to think clearly.
Rich Thinking vs Poor Thinking
Unhappy people tend to have unhappy, pessimistic thoughts. Conversely, happy people tend to have happy, optimistic thoughts.
Cognitive psychologists call this tendency to see the world through either a negative or positive lens, “mood congruency”. When the lens through which you view the world is negative, your focus is narrowed and you see nothing but your problems.
You become blind to solutions and opportunities. A negative mental outlook causes tunnel vision, limiting creativity.
If you’re one of those struggling in life financially, a negative mental outlook acts like gasoline, fueling the flames of negativity and perpetuating a life of unemployment, poverty or near poverty.
Conversely, a positive mental outlook, according to that same science, enhances creative problem-solving. A positive mental outlook expands your thinking and consciousness. It opens your mind to solutions and opportunities. If you are poor, a positive mental outlook is your only means of escaping a life of unemployment, poverty or near poverty.
Successful people are positive, enthusiastic, energetic, mostly happy and well-balanced individuals. They feel powerful, in control, confident and energized. This is not by accident. They are disciples of Rich Thinking. When they talk to themselves, their words are uplifting, not critical.
They engage in habitual positive self-talk. They use positive affirmations to reinforce their attitude and create a positive mindset. They do not constantly get down on themselves when problems occur. They have adopted the Rich Thinking that problems and obstacles are opportunities and learning experiences.
Successful people control their thoughts. Bad thoughts are displaced immediately by good thoughts.
They understand that allowing a bad thought even a second of life will permit them to take root and eventually change their behavior in a negative way. They feed their minds with positive, good thoughts and let them take root, eventually blossoming and one day bearing fruit.
Successful people also use visualization techniques to alter or reinforce their mindset. Contrary to what you may believe, successful people also have dire thoughts that enter their minds.
How could they not, with all of the negative news that we are constantly bombarded with from the various media outlets?
Every day the media feeds us negative thoughts. The negative information causes fear, anxiety and angst. It is easy to fall victim to this barrage of negativity.
Successful people realize this and try to minimize their consumption of television, radio or internet sites that are negative.
Rather, they watch or listen to programs that are constructive or uplifting. They read positive newspaper or magazine articles and stay away from the negative ones.
Successful people control what they see and hear every day.
Lastly, successful people are grateful for all that life has given them. They express thanks every day, oftentimes before sleep or upon waking in the morning.
Some even maintain a list, which they read every day, setting forth all they are grateful for.
The Power of Gratitude
Gratitude is the gateway to optimism and a positive mental outlook. Gratitude forces you to become aware of the good things about your life.
My car started today, I was able to feed my family, I have a roof over my head, I’m healthy, I’m alive, I have a loving family, etc.
When you shift your thinking to the good things about your life, you cause your brain to begin to shift from negative to positive.
If you practice gratitude every day, eventually your positive mental outlook will overpower your negative mental outlook. Gratitude changes the lens through which you view your world, from negative to positive.
And when that does happen you’ll begin to see solutions instead of problems. Ideas will pop into your head that will help you climb your way out of your unemployment, poverty or near poverty.
Expressing gratitude every day is not some pseudo, new age mumbo jumbo. Gratitude is the gateway to optimism and a positive mental outlook. It’s the means to transforming your life from one filled with limitations to one filled with unlimited opportunities.
Unsuccessful people have a negative mental outlook. They are critical of themselves and everyone they come into contact with.
They are often their own, and everyone else’s, worst critics. They engage in negative, destructive thinking. They allow bad thoughts to enter their minds and take root, which eventually causes bad behavior. They lack motivation, enthusiasm and often fall into states of mental depression that can last for days or weeks at a time. They watch too many negative programs on television or on the internet. They buy newspapers with headlines designed to stir negative emotions. They frequent negative internet sites. They feel hopeless and powerless.
The 5 Types of Negative Outlooks
How can you tell if someone has a negative mental outlook? The symptoms are as follows:
- Victim Mindset: These types of unsuccessful people believe that their financial circumstances are dictated by forces outside their control such as Wall Street, rich people intent on keeping them poor, government policies, the economy, bad schools, growing up in a bad neighborhood, bad luck, etc.
- Closed-Minded: Unsuccessful people are closed-minded and unwilling to embrace new ideas, new thinking or opinions that differ from their own. One of the hallmarks of self-made millionaires is the ability to be open-minded to new ideas, new knowledge and new ways of thinking.
- Ideological Constraints: Unsuccessful people hold on to ideologies that keep them from growing out of their poverty. They carry with them beliefs that rich people are bad, money is the root of all evil, those born into poverty can’t escape poverty, that you need a college education to escape poverty, etc. The ability to cast aside our ideological constraints allows us to expand our thinking, to grow and to evolve.
- Intellectual Constraints: Unsuccessful people believe they are not smart and that is one of the reasons they are poor. Everyone has the potential for genius. We are all born with the genius gene. What keeps the switch to that gene in the off position is our belief that we don’t have the intelligence to rise above our financial circumstances in life.
- Immediate Gratification: Unsuccessful people look for short-term solutions to their long-term problem. They play the lottery, they gamble on sports or they go to casinos with the hope of funding their retirement. Escaping poverty and creating wealth takes time, but the only way our ship will come in is if we build a dock big enough to anchor it.
One of the most successful techniques to help alter our mindset is to employ positive affirmations.
Positive affirmations reprogram our old brain, also known as the subconscious. Our old brain has been around millions of years longer than our new brain (our neocortex, also known as our conscious brain).
It is far more powerful than our new brain. One of its powers is the ability to direct our behavior without us knowing it. When we use positive affirmations to reprogram our old brain it will go to work behind the scenes to alter our behavior. It sends messages to us in the form of intuition and insight. Intuition and insight causes us to pivot and change course.
Make a List of Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations should represent the picture of the individual you hope to be, the things you hope to achieve, assets you hope to own or the income you hope to have one day. They must be specific and in the present tense to be effective.
Here are some examples:
- “I complete my ‘to-do’ list every day.”
- “I accomplish my goals.”
- “I am lucky.”
- “I am successful.”
- “I make $300,000 a year.”
- “I own a vacation home in Long Beach Island.”
- “I am a senior executive in my company.”
- “I pay for my child’s college tuition out of my earnings or savings.”
- “I love my job.”
- “I love working with others.”
- “I am confident.”
- “I have a large network of relationships.”
- “I call my parents every week.”
- “I am a certified public accountant.”
- “I live my life in moderation.”
Make a list of positive affirmations and keep them by your side. Review them once in the morning, once in the afternoon and right before you go to sleep.
Let these positive affirmations seep into your mind every day. They represent your most positive, good thoughts and they will eventually take root.
Events and circumstances will begin to manifest themselves around your positive thinking and opportunities will appear seemingly out of thin air.
Any mental thought, often repeated, becomes a habitual thought and directs you towards actions good or bad. Successful people practice Rich Thinking by staying positive, expressing gratitude, and repeating affirmations.
[Photo cred: Dierk Schaefer]
Tom is a CPA and the author of the best-selling book, “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.” He will be sharing a new habit with us every Thursday as part of our Rich Habits Series, and can be found online at RichHabits.net.