You’re about to take the final exam for your final semester. A myriad of thoughts are racing through your mind as you prepare for this test that encompasses everything you’ve learned over the last few months.
You begin thinking to yourself: “I really don’t want to screw this test up. I cannot get anything lower than a B on this. I better not get those specific problems on [insert your least favorite topic] wrong.”
Stop and ponder how that type of thinking will affect your test performance. Maybe you’re not even sure what kind of effect this will have.
Now, compare that line of thought to this instead: “I’m going to ace this test. I’ve studied for every problem that there can possibly be on this exam and I know I’ve got this. I’m aiming to get at least a 98 on this.”
Notice the difference?
The first set of thinking is focused on what is undesirable -- the bad results; basically what we don’t want.
The second set is all about the outcome that we actually want to see -- the results that we’re striving for.
The goals of this person taking the test -- to ace this thing -- remain unchanged. But far too many people take the first approach instead of the latter, and it’s destroying their results.
These polar opposite approaches make for polar opposite results, which make it very difficult for some to figure out why their hard work doesn’t seem to pay off.
“The investment we make in focusing on what we want brings returns to us...a thousand fold. We have a tremendous opportunity to cement our character and culture, focus on what truly matters, improve performance, achieve greatness, and thrive,” writes Mary J. Lore, author of Managing Thought.
“If we focus on what’s ugly, we attract more ugliness into our thoughts, and then into our emotions, and ultimately into our lives.” – Wayne W. Dyer
Although our purpose with the first line of thinking mentioned above is to avoid failure, we actually increase our chances of failing simply by thinking about failing. In other words, the more we think about avoiding something, the more we focus on what we want to avoid.
In addition, it’s impractical to think this way. There are millions of unwanted things that can happen in any given situation. There’s simply no realistic way we can prepare to avoid them all.
"There are a whole range of cases when we become desperate to control our minds," says Harvard University psychologist Daniel Wegner, author of White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obsession, and the Psychology of Mental Control. "The more we try to control them, the more they do what they want." So instead of trying to avoid something, why not spent our time trying to make something desirable happen?
If what we focus on tends to manifest itself, why not use this to our advantage? We can make things happen in our lives by first giving our focus to the proper places.
“Intention is not something you do,” says psychologist Wayne Dyer, “but rather a force that exists in the universe as an invisible field of energy—a power that can carry us.”
Put this line of thinking into practice and see the results it brings. You may already be doing this now; if so, keep it up. You’ve likely been witnessing first hand the power of this approach in your own life.
“Instead of thinking, ‘I'm going to win,’ remind yourself that you can choose to have a positive attitude whether you win or lose,” writes Amy Morin in Psychology Today.
Healthy positive thinking is about making a conscious choice to be positive about your life right now. Instead of focusing solely on what you need to make your life better in the future, consider all the things you have to be grateful for right now.”
If you’ve been more accustomed to the negative line of thinking; the type of thinking that causes you to focus on the negative outcomes first, try to realign your mindset more towards what you desire. Accentuate the positive. Remind yourself of the outcome that you’d like to see and how you can accomplish it before heading into the situation.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.