As published in Forbes
We create the world as we are.
In a very real sense, you create in the external world whatever you focus on internally. Thoughts of lack create lack. Thoughts of problems create a life filled with problems. Thoughts of possibilities and solutions create new ideas, energy, possibilities and solutions.
You can decide to focus your thoughts on the issues of the day or on the faults of others, and many do. If you are often disappointed, frustrated and angry, this may be why. Focusing only on the present situation or the shortcomings of others is a terrible way to live, but because so many people are doing this, it can seem normal. This is the antithesis of leadership.
You can decide to focus your thoughts on things that happened to you in the past or on your own faults, but to do so is to be completely self-absorbed. Focusing only on yourself, you will interpret everything that happens as being about you. If you are easily jealous, hurt or offended, this may be why. This is another terrible way to live. I know because I spent years doing exactly this.
Alternatively, you can choose to focus on all you have today and all you dream of for tomorrow—for yourself, your family, your community, the world. If you routinely experience peace, contentment, joy and giddy excitement, this is probably why. Thinking in this way is a more enjoyable and rewarding way to live. Yet few seem able to do this well or consistently.
There is a way of thinking that will enable you to become the person and leader you want and intend to be. Are you interested? If so, start today to become aware of the thoughts you repeatedly think.
Write down at least 10 thoughts you had in the last week. Read those thoughts aloud and notice how they make you feel. Consider how those thoughts and feelings caused you to behave this week. What were the results of those behaviors?
Thoughts + Feelings = Behavior + Results
For example, this past week, I thought often about a friend who has achieved the kind of success many of us only dream of: self-made, financially independent, a celebrated philanthropist. I thought specifically about how great she must feel to have accomplished everything through her own efforts. I imagined her feeling proud, positive, powerful and free. I thought about the advice she would give me, and I thought about the actions she would take today if she were living my life.
This collection of thoughts filled my mind on Monday morning and motivated me throughout the week, causing me to rehearse an exciting new future and to make two key decisions that could be game changers for me and my family. This week I became a little bit more of the person I want and intend to be.
Do you now understand how your thoughts and feelings dictate your behavior and your results? If so, you hold the power to change yourself and everything in your life.
Do your thoughts make you want to do what’s truly best for you?
Consider whether your habitual way of thinking and focusing your internal attention will create the life you desire.
• Your Health. Nonproductive thoughts: I’ve always been sick/overweight. I don’t have time to exercise. I love food too much. Productive thoughts: I can eat better. I deserve to feel great. I will find an activity I love.
• Your Finances. Nonproductive thoughts: I am not great with money. I don’t understand investments. My job still doesn’t pay enough. Productive thoughts: Money flows to those who create real value. My net worth will grow if I spend less than I earn. By investing in my own learning and development, I will command exciting, better-paid opportunities.
• Your Happiness. Nonproductive thoughts: I am stuck. I should be further ahead. I could have done so much more if X had not happened. Productive thoughts: I am grateful for what I have. I am excited to learn and grow. I can’t wait to see all I will accomplish this year!
Tell me your thoughts and I will tell you your future.
Remember that your present reality is merely the result of yesterday’s thinking. It says little about what today’s behavior can create for tomorrow. Every day from now on, focus on the future you want and intend to create.
Take care that powerful outside influences don’t undermine your efforts with negative, unproductive, distracting thought patterns. Look at your social media feed as an indicator of what you’re choosing to read and watch, as it is designed to give you more of what you focus on. While it’s good to be informed and can be fun to interact online, don’t be afraid to cut off sources that don’t support what you’re trying to achieve in your career and with your life.
This also applies to those you spend time with. What do they talk about? What they talk about is what they think about. When you spend time with them, you will also talk and think about the same things. Are they helping or hindering you?
To replace the old, obstructive feeds, consider new sources of information, such as the work of:
As a way to reset your perceptions and reflect on the power of thinking, you might watch this video of “This Is Water” by David Foster Wallace. If you want a significantly better life with more ease, joy, leadership impact and business results, you must change how you think. You literally need to think differently than you do now.
How you think will determine your future—what happens in the next hour as well as in the next decade—and your entire experience of life.
Your thoughts are not important; they are everything.
Susanne Biro is a coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is the founder of Inner Life Leadership, an app for business professionals who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership (and life) success. Susanne is an author, executive development program designer, facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer, and a TEDx and keynote speaker.
For over two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level.
Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our world has changed, rapidly and in unexpected ways. As the crisis hit, I offered and held pro bono sessions with leaders from around the world. And I want to continue to do what I can to help. As a result, I now offer hourly sessions to ensure leaders everywhere can quickly get the perspective, clarity and focus they need to lead themselves, and therefore others, well during these challenging and uncertain times.