There are ten mental exercises, or ways of thinking, that you can learn and practice every day to become a more positive, confident, and optimistic person. The more you think in these ways, the better you will feel, the more you will accomplish, and the faster and more easily you will accomplish it.
1) Think About the Future
The first and most important attitude you can practice to get the most out of yourself is future orientation. Future orientation is another of the most common characteristics of successful people, especially men and women who rise to positions of leadership and great responsibility in work, society, and personal life.
In 3,300 studies of leadership, seeking the common qualities possessed by great leaders through the ages, researchers found that the one quality all the studies had in common was vision. Leaders have vision. Nonleaders do not. Leaders have a vision of a better future for themselves, their families, and their organizations. They can see an ideal future in advance. They then work to make it a reality in the present.
Future-oriented people think about the future most of the time. They think about where they are going rather than where they have been. They think about what is possible in the months and years ahead rather than about the past, which cannot be changed.
Unfortunately, probably fewer than 10 percent of people in our society are genuinely future oriented. The vast majority are primarily concerned either about the present and the immediate gratification of the day and the evening or about the past and what has happened to them.
How can you tell whether a person is future oriented? Simply ask him or her, "If your life was perfect five years from now, what would it look like?" You can ask yourself this question as well.
Future-oriented people have an immediate answer to this question. Future-oriented people give a lot of thought to the future and what it will look like when they get there. Future-oriented people are very clear about what they want their lives to look like five years from now. Future-oriented people can tell you what they want and what they are working toward. They can tell you where they are going and why they want to go there. They have clear mental images of what they desire for their work, income, families, lifestyle, health, and levels of achievement in the years ahead.
Present- and past-oriented people tend to be vague and fuzzy about the future. They seldom think about it in detail. They often become offended if you ask them to describe their goals for the future.
In this respect, clarity is terribly important. Successful people have tremendous clarity about who they are, what they want, and how they are going to get it. Unsuccessful people usually are unsure and confused about who they are, what they want, and where they are going.
One powerful exercise you can practice to supercharge your thinking and accelerate your results is called idealization. In idealization you continually imagine the perfect outcome or solution for any situation in your life. You project forward three to five years, or even further, and then create a mental picture of the kind of life and career that would be ideal for you in every respect.
While you are visualizing and idealizing your perfect future, you let your mind float freely. You imagine for the moment that you have no limitations whatsoever on what you can be, do, or have.
Imagine that you have all the knowledge and experience you need. Imagine that you have all the money and resources you need. Imagine that you have all the friends and contacts you want. Imagine that all opportunities and possibilities are open to you. Imagine that if you can dream it, you can do it.
Develop a dream list. Write down everything you would like to have in your life and work sometime in the future, as if your goals were guaranteed in some way if only you could be clear about them.
If you are married, sit down with your spouse to make up this dream list. Ask, "What would we do, how would we change our lives, if we won ten million dollars, tax free, tomorrow?"
If you had all the time and money you wanted and you could be or have anything at all in life, what would you really want? The greater clarity you can achieve in describing your ideal future, the more likely you are to create that future for yourself, and usually faster than you can imagine right now. However, you can not hit a target you can not see. Clarity is essential.
2) Create a Five-Year Vision
As business sage Peter Drucker wrote, "We greatly overestimate what we can do in one year. But we greatly underestimate what is possible for us in five years."
When I conduct strategic planning exercises for corporations, I always begin with this exercise. I ask the executives to imagine that their company is perfect five years from today. I ask them to imagine that a special news story is going to be written on this company and published in the national press. I ask them, "How would this company be described if it was the very best company of its kind in the entire industry?"
We then go around the room and write down the answers to this question on flipcharts or whiteboards. We often generate twenty or thirty ideal descriptions of the company five years from now. We then discuss and prioritize the answers. We determine which are more important and which are less important. We determine which are inputs and which are outputs, which are causes and which are effects. Finally, we agree on the three to five most important ideal visions that this company could fulfill in five years. With this vision statement clarified, we then begin to set strategy by asking, "How?"
"How" is one of the most important and powerful words you can learn and apply to every situation in your life. Once you have a clear vision of what you want, the only question you ask is, "How do I achieve it?"
Asking how forces you to be both positive and future oriented. The word "how" triggers creativity in youself and others. The regular use of the word "how" is like stepping on the accelerator of your mind and revving up the engine of your personal genius. The more you ask "How?" to any question, goal, or dream, the more insights and ideas you will have to turn your visions into realities.
The best news of all is that when you think about the future and think about how you can make your future ideal a current reality, you become more optimistic and positive about the present. You experience greater energy and enthusiasm. You feel a heightened sense of confidence and personal power. You become more motivated and committed. You communicate with greater clarity and effectiveness.
A group of people united around a common vision, with a total commitment to making it come true, can form the nucleus of a powerful team or company. This future vision motivates and inspires people to perform at higher levels than ever before. This ideal image or picture serves as a guide and a directional mechanism for both individual and corporate decision making.
3) Take a Test Every Day
All of life is a test in some way. You are constantly being tested by the ups and downs and unexpected events of daily life. The way you respond to the world around you is the way in which you take and pass this test.
Perhaps the greatest test of all is your ability to think and talk about the future, about what you want and where you are going, most of the time. This must become the focal point in your thinking. This is the "X" that determines the direction of your life. This is the test you pass or fail depending on what you choose to think about most of the time.
4) Think About Your Goals
The second attitude of highly successful people is goal orientation. Successful people think about their goals and how they can achieve them most of the time. Unsuccessful people think about their problems and spend their time criticizing, complaining, and making excuses most of the time.
Future orientation deals with your long-term ideal vision. Goal orientation is more precise. You take your visions out of the air and translate them into specific and tangible actions and measures that you can implement immediately. Henry David Thoreau put it aptly, "Have you built your castles in the air? Good, that is where they should be built. Now go to work and build foundations under them."
Three percent: That is about how many adults actually put their goals into writing. The other 97 percent have wishes, hopes, and fantasies. People without goals are doomed to work forever for people who do have goals.
The key to goal setting is for you to think on paper. Successful men and women think with a pen in their hands; unsuccessful people do not. When you write things down, you crystallize them right before your eyes. They become tangible and concrete. They become subject to positive manipulation and definite action. Written goals activate your positive mind and energize you. Written goals release powers within you that would have lain dormant in their absence. The act of writing them down increases enormously the likelihood that you will achieve your goals.
Setting goals is straightforward. It is a definite skill you can learn through practice. Once you have mastered the process and practice of goal setting, you will be able to step on the accelerator of your own life and make more progress in the next year or two than you may have made in the last ten years.
Seven Steps to Goal Setting
Here is a simple seven-step formula for setting and achieving goals that you can use for the rest of your career:
- Decide exactly what you want in each area of your life. Most people never do this. Clarity is essential.
- Write it down clearly and specifically. Make it measurable. Here's an example: To increase my income by 50 percent in the next two years. A goal that is not in writing is merely a fantasy. It has no energy behind it.
- Set a deadline for your goal and, if necessary, set subdeadlines. Your subconscious mind thrives on time-specific goals. For example: I will achieve half my income goal within eleven months and the other half within two years.
- Make a list of everything you will have to do to achieve your goal. Add to your list as you think of new activities and tasks, which you will. Keep adding to your list until it is complete.
- Organize your list into a plan. Decide what you need to do first and what you need to do later. Decide what must be done and in what order. Rework your plan until it is complete.
- Take action on your plan immediately. Do something, do anything, but get started. It is amazing how many people fail because they do not take action on their goals and plans
- Resolve to do something every day that moves you toward your major goal, whatever it is at the moment. This discipline of doing something every day enables you to develop and maintain momentum. Daily action increases your determination and gives you energy. This single resolution, daily action, can turn you life around.
Once you have determined your goals and written them down, think about them all the time, morning, noon, and night. And the only question you ask is, "How?" How can you achieve them? "Whether" is no longer a question for you.
5) Commit to Excellence
The third attitude for great success is excellence orientation. By definition, successful people are very good at what they do. You must also become very good at your job. Commit to excellence in your work. Resolve today to join the top 10 percent in your field, no matter how much effort and sacrifice is necessary and no matter how long it takes.
For many years, because of my limited background and my low self-esteem, it never occurred to me that I could be good at anything. Even if I did well occasionally, I would dismiss it as being a matter of luck or coincidence. I often felt like an impostor when people congratulated me for doing something well. Then, when I was twenty-eight, I had a revelation that changed my life. It may change yours as well.
I learned that everyone in the top 10 percent of his or her field had to start somewhere, most of them in the bottom 10 percent. I found out that everyone who is doing well today, in any area, was once doing poorly by comparison. I also realized that everyone who is leading in his or her profession or occupation today was at one time not even in that profession or occupation.
Life is very much like a buffet line. Life is self-serve. Nobody brings it to you. You cannot sit at the table and bang your knife and fork for service. You have to get up, accept responsibility, and serve yourself.
If you want to get to the front of the buffet line of life, two steps are necessary. First, get in line! Make a decision to be excellent at what you do and then get in line. From that moment on, do something every day to improve.
Second, stay in line. Do not make an occasional attempt at personal improvement and then go back and watch television. Get in line and stay in line. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Learn and practice new things every single day. Keep moving forward. Never lose your momentum.
The good news is that the buffet line of life never closes. It is open twenty-four hours a day. Anyone can get in line and stay in line. Anyone can decide to become the best in his or her field and then begin working toward that goal.
It does not matter how long it takes. If you stay in line, if you continue getting a little better each day, nothing and no one but you yourself can stop you from eventually getting to the front of the line. No one but you can stop you from joining the top 10 percent in your field. It is completely up to you. You can be either your best friend or your worst enemy by the decisions you make or fail to make.
When you become excellent at what you do, your life will change completely. Your self-esteem, self-respect, and personal pride will increase dramatically. You will feel terrific about yourself. You will be respected and admired by all the people around you.
Here's the key focal point question: "What one skill, if you developed and did it in an excellent fashion, would help you the most in your career?"
This is where you put the "X" in your personal and professional development. This is what you think and talk about most of the time. This is what you dedicate yourself to accomplishing all day long.
Nothing will help you to fulfill your vision and achieve your goals faster than becoming excellent at the most important thing you could possibly do in your work. And you almost always know what that is.
Whatever your most important desired skill is, set it as a goal, write it down, make a plan, and work on it every day. A week, a month, a year from now, you will look around you and be absolutely amazed at the progress you have made in your life and your career.
6) Focus on Results
The fourth attitude you need to develop for optimism and outstanding personal performance is result orientation. Successful people think constantly about the results that are expected of them. They are constantly writing and planning and setting priorities on their most important tasks.
Result orientation is a critical part of the Focal Point Process. In result orientation, you make a list of everything you have to do before you begin. You organize your list by priority and value. You select the most important thing you could possibly do and then you concentrate single-mindedly on accomplishing that one task. You persevere without diversion or distraction until it is complete.
Intense result orientation goes hand in hand with high productivity, high performance, and high output. Result orientation is based on your asking and answering the following four questions, over and over, every minute and hour of every day:
- What are my highest-value activities? What are the things you do that contribute the greatest value to your work? If you are not sure, make a list of all of your tasks and responsibilities and take them to your boss. Discuss them with your colleagues and coworkers. You must be absolutely clear about the most important results that are expected of you. Remember, the very worst use of time is to do very well what needs not be done at all.
- What are my key result areas? What are the results that you absolutely, positively, have to get in an excellent fashion to fulfill your responsibilities and do your job well? There are seldom more than five to seven key result areas in any job. Your first responsibility is to identify these key results, to set standards of performance for each result area. You then dedicate yourself to working every day to meet those standards. What gets measured gets done. If you can not measure it, you can not manage it
- What can I and only I do that, if done well, will make a real difference to my company? There is only one answer to this question at any given time. This is a job that you and only you can do. If you do not do it, it won't get done. No one else can do it for you. But if you do it, and do it well, it can make a significant contribution to your company and your career. What is it?
- What is the most valuable use of my time? This is the most important question in time management. You should ask and answer this question every hour of every day. What is the most valuable use of your time right now? Asking and answering this question is the key to peak performance. Whatever your answer to this question, be sure that you are working on this particular task every minute of every hour. Compared with this task, everything else is a relative waste of time.
In the final analysis, getting results is everything. The quality and quantity of your results determine the quality and quantity of your rewards. The Focal Point Process requires that you continually put an "X" on the one task or activity that is more valuable and important than any other. You then discipline yourself to work single-mindedly on that one task until it is complete.
7) Concentrate on Solutions
The fifth attitude for optimism and high performance is solution orientation, in which you think about the solution to the problem most of the time. You think about what can be done and how the problem can be solved instead of what has happened and who is to blame.
Unsucessful people think and talk about their problems most of the time. The more you think and talk about your problems, the more negative, angry, and pessimistic you become. But when you think and talk about the solutions, you become positive, creative, and optimistic.
Life is a continuous succession of problems. They never end. They come in like the waves of the ocean, one after another. In addition, if you are living a normal, busy life today, you will probably have a crisis of some kind every two or three months. The only thing that really matters is how effectively you respond when things go wrong.
Your ability to solve problems largely determines your success and your income. This ability determines how far you go and how high you rise in life. No matter what the title on your business card, you can cross it off and write "Problem Solver." That's what you are. That's what you do, all day long. The only question is, "How good are you at problem solving?"
Highly successful people solve big problems. Unsuccessful people solve little problems or no problems at all. And the bigger and more expensive the problems you solve, the larger and more important are the problems you will be given to solve.
The key to becoming an excellent problem solver is to think and talk about possible solutions most of the time. Whenever something goes wrong, resist the temptation to become angry, blame others, or make excuses. Instead, ask questions like, "What is the solution? What do we do now? What is the next step? How do we solve this problem? How do we limit the damage? How can we prevent this from happening again? Where do we go from here?"
The good news is that the more you focus on solutions, the better you become at discovering even better and more complex solutions. You become more effective and creative in everything you do by focusing on solutions most of the time. Your mind functions at a higher level.
This is one of the great breakthrough discoveries in brain physiology. A truly effective person is one who has developed a wonderful ability to respond constructively to the inevitable problems and difficulties of day-to-day life. This must be your goal as well. Think about solutions all day long.
8) Dedicate Yourself to Lifelong Learning
The sixth attitude of optimistic people is growth orientation. This fact is: Your life gets better only when you get better.
Growth-oriented people are committed to themselves and to their futures. They are eager to learn and practice new ideas, insights, techniques, methods, and strategies. They are hungry for new information. Like sponges, they soak up everything they can from every source around them.
Basketball coach Pat Riley wrote, "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse."
You have enormous untapped reserves of mental capacity that you have never used. You have the ability to learn and become excellent in more areas than you can ever dream of. But your mind is like a muscle. If you do not use it, you lose it, at least temporarily.
The future belongs to the competent. In the twenty-first century, the future belongs to the omnicompetent. The future belongs to people who are very good at what they do and who are getting better every single day.
To earn more, you must learn more. You must add more value. You must develop the ability to make a better and more important contribution. You must be asking, every single day, "What can I do to increase my value to my company today?"
Here's a powerful practice that can move you to the top of your field and make you a great success in whatever you undertake. Invest 3 percent of your income back into yourself for the rest of your life. This 3 percent formula is miraculous! For every dollar you invest in your mind, in becoming better at what you do, you can eventually earn $10, $20, $30, $50, sometimes even $100 back in personal income.
Many of my students have told me about investing in a single book or audio program that has paid for itself 1,000 times, 2,000 times, and even 5,000 times over in as little as a year. A thirty-five-year-old father of two with an eighth-grade education, working out of his home, purchased a $60 audio program to help his business. In the next ten months, he increased his income from $30,000 to $304,000. Personal development can really pay off!
You are your most valuable asset. Your ability to think well and act effectively depends on the quality and quantity of knowledge and ideas available to you. You must continually feed your mind to develop more of your potential. You must continually upgrade your abilities to think and perform at higher levels.
Here is a simple formula for lifelong success that can make you rich: Invest as much in your mind each year as you invest in your car.
If you spend as much money upgrading your skills and abilities each year as you spend to keep your car on the road, you could become one of the most competent and highest-paid people in America, if not the world.
The three keys to growth orientation are simple. First, read one hour or more each day in your chosen field. The highestpaid people in America read two to three hours each day to keep current and improve their minds. But if you read only one hour per day from a good book that helps you to be better at your job, that would be enough.
Second, listen to audio programs in your car, when you exercise, and when you move around. The average car owner sits in his or her car 500 to 1,000 hours each year. If you listen to educational audio programs as you drive from place to place, you can get the equivalent of full-time university attendance. This practice alone can make you one of the bestinformed and highest-paid people in your field.
Third, attend every helpful course and seminar you can find, even if you have to pay a lot or travel great distances. Countless highly paid professionals in every field have told me that the turning point in their lives came when they sacrificed to attend a seminar where they learned something that changed their thinking forever.
9) Retire Ten Years Early
Some years ago, my dentist made a great sacrifice of time and money to attend an international dentistry conference in Hong Kong. In one of the concurrent sessions, he learned a technique in cosmetic dentistry that had just been developed. He immediately began using it on his patients, including me. He soon became known as the expert in this specialized area. Patients, including other dentists, came to him from great distances.
Five years later he sold his practice and retired as a multimillionaire, at age fifty-one. He has never worked since. He lives in a beautiful home overlooking the ocean and enjoys a wonderful life. He told me that that one scientific breakthrough transformed his practice and made him one of the highest-paid and most successful dentists of his generation.
If you believe in yourself and your future, you will invest in yourself and your abilities. The converse is also true. The more you invest in yourself, the more you will believe in yourself. Each reinforces the other.
Think every day about the most important subject you could learn to help yourself to achieve your most important goal. Put an "X" on this particular area of knowledge or skill. Think about it and study it every day. Work on developing yourself in that area continually. Work on yourself as though your entire future depended on it, because it does.
10) Do It Now!
The tenth attitude of the highest-paid people in every field is action orientation. Resolve today to develop a sense of urgency in your work. It would be overstatement to say that more than 2 percent of working adults have a sense of urgency, and it is this tiny minority that eventually rises to the top of every field of endeavor.
Everyone today is in a hurry. Everyone is impatient. For this reason, people often equate speed with quality. If you act fast when they have a need or a question, they automatically assume that your work is better and of higher value than that of someone who moves slowly. By moving fast, you gain a competitive edge.
Resolve to move quickly when opportunity or necessity presents itself. Develop and maintain a fast tempo in your work. Keep stepping on the accelerator of your own potential. Become a moving target.
The faster you move, the more energy you have. The faster you move, the more experience you get. The more experience you get, the faster you learn. The faster you learn, the better you get. And the better you get, the more you will be paid and the faster you will be promoted.
The faster you move, the greater is your self-esteem, self-respect, and personal pride. The faster you move, the more valued and respected you will be among the people around you. The faster you move, the better will be the quality of your life in almost every area.
Successful, happy, highly paid people think and talk about what they want and how to get it most of the time.
Successful people think about the future. They idealize, visualize, and imagine what their ideal futures will look like. Then they work to make their visions into their realities.
Highly productive people are intensely goal oriented. They decide what they want, write it down, set a deadline, make a plan, and then work on it every day.
The highest paid people are excellence oriented. They are very good at what they do, and they are constantly getting better. They are dedicated to working in the one skill area that can help them make the greatest contribution in their work.
The most successful people are result oriented. They are intensely focused on getting the most important results expected from them in their work. They are continually increasing their value by doing more and more things of greater and greater importance.
Optimistic people are intensely solution oriented as well. They think about solutions rather than problems. They keep their minds positive, creative, and forward thinking by always looking for ways to solve problems rather than blaming someone else for them. And the bigger the problems they solve, the bigger problems they are given to solve.
The multiplier that makes all the other orientations work is growth orientation. You are your most precious resource. You are your most valuable asset. The more you invest in yourself, the greater will be your return in both money and satisfaction. Develop yourself continually, day after day, exactly as if you were in an intense competition, and in danger of losing, because you are.
Finally, become action oriented in your work and personal life. Overcome procrastination and get started immediately on your key tasks. Keep repeating to yourself, "Do it now! Do it now!"
By taking complete control of your mind and keeping your thinking focused on exactly the things you want and how to get them, you will move ahead faster and with greater certainty than by doing anything else.