Category Archives: Action

Positive Thinking and Positive Self-Talk

I got into positive thinking and positive self-talk a few years ago. I find them useful. Contrary to what some people say, it’s not about lying to yourself. It’s not about believing the impossible. Everything isn’t always great. Positive thinking is about seeing opportunities in obstacles, and finding lessons in hardships. Yes, it’s about looking on the bright side. Accept the negative and move forward while keeping a positive mindset, but to get results beyond that, you have to take action as well.

Positive self-talk is a way to support yourself in your pursuit of becoming more. More doesn’t have to be faster, bigger, stronger, thinner, or wealthier. It can be as simple as being happier, accomplishing a specific task or goal, or just being more grateful for what you already are and have.

Positive self-talk is another tool to use when things get difficult, you feel down, or things aren’t going how you want. It’s accepting what is, while acknowledging that the situation is temporary, and you have the strength to outlast it until things improve or create improvement.

Acceptance alone isn’t enough for me. I like to remind myself that I’m capable of great things and often add visualization to my positive self-talk.

I have a number of statements that I use in different situations. I call them affirmations, but they could also be mantras, chants, oaths, testimonies, prayers, or whatever you want. Sometimes it’s just about having something to focus on to make positive changes to my mindset.

There was a period of time when I was convinced that I was not going to live much past my 40s, maybe 50s, that I would become sick, miserable and die. Then it started to happen. I was already miserable, which certainly didn’t help my outlook on the future. I started to get quite sick, and I was getting worse.

When I decided that being sick wasn’t part of who I am and being healthy was, I started to see opportunities to support my health and began taking action. I started changing food habits, running and taking responsibility for my own health. Doctors told me it didn’t matter what I ate, but I noticed symptoms got much worse after eating fatty foods, especially when I was dehydrated. I learned more, became more self-aware about my body and its reactions to different things and made further changes.

The positive changes in my mindset and the actions I took built on one another to nearly eliminate my previous symptoms, stop all the medications I was taking, getting into the best shape of my life, and have a much better outlook for my future.

I’ve said it before, but I hated running when I was in the Army. A couple years after I got out, I started running again. I got injured a lot over the first few years, didn’t think I’d ever be very fast and really just had a limited view of what my running potential.

When I started telling myself that I was fast, strong and a good runner, believing it, and learning more from others and what’s worked for myself, my training started going better, injuries decreased, motivation improved. I’ve even expanded my running self-image since then. I exceeded my increased expectations a couple times too.

When I’m out running and it starts getting tough, whether I’m having trouble concentrating, I keep tripping, I feel some imbalance or twinge, I get stiff, sore, tired, or I just hit a low patch, I came up with an affirmation that brings my focus back to my body, running form, foot placement, breath and the to moment in general. “I’m strong, fast, flexible, efficient and sure footed. I’m built for long-distance running over uneven terrain.” If I’m feeling tense somewhere and having trouble releasing it, I’ll add “relaxed” after “efficient”. It works great for me. My concentration improves, I relax, and start to feel lighter on my feet. It doesn’t suddenly give me a boost of energy or make me faster. My mind comes back to the current task of running.

It’s sort of like trying to read a book and watch TV at the same time. If you focus solely on the book, you won’t catch much of what’s happening on the TV. If you let too much of the TV take over your focus, you’ll have trouble reading. My running affirmation focuses me and reminds me that I’m capable of more. Whatever the current difficulty, I can get through it.

Positive thinking and positive self-talk are both great tools for increasing your vision of your potential. But on their own, the best you can hope for is an improved mood. To actually get results with them, you have to take action.

Don’t Let Other People Decide How You Act

Earl Nightingale tells a story in “The Essence of Success” from Sydney Harris. Harris went to a newsstand with a friend. The vendor was rather unfriendly. Harris’ friend thanked him graciously as the vendor remained quiet and sullen. Harris asks about the vendor’s attitude, and his friend says he’s always like that. Harris asks, “Then why do you continue being so polite to him?” His friend replies, “Why should I let him decide how I’m going to act?”

Letting other people decide how you’re going to act, whatever form that takes, turns control of your life over to someone else, and you don’t know their motives. They’re probably not malevolent, but it’s unlikely that your interests and desires are at the top of their list.

We can take a few lessons from that question, or turned into a statement; don’t let other people decide how you act. First, we can take the particular example in the story. I’ve run into a similar situation at my local grocery store. There is one employee who never said anything other than maybe asking about bags unless I said something first. I always thought she was unfriendly, unhappy, and like she didn’t like her job. I usually left in a slightly worse mood than than when I entered.

Then I realized that an interaction between people isn’t one-sided. If I want something from a relationship with someone, even if it’s just the brief interaction between a customer and cashier once or twice a week, at least half of the outcome is due to my own actions, or inactions. The Golden Rule, treat others as you would like to be treated, is not just a reminder to not treat people badly. It also means that much of the responsibility of any relationship or interaction you care to have falls on your own shoulders. If you always rely on other people to initiate a conversation or take charge of a relationship, you’re going to be pretty lonely.

So I started asking how her day was and making small talk. Her demeanor seemed to improve. Maybe my original perception was a mistake. Or maybe she was mirroring my actions and portrayal towards her. Whatever it was, our interactions have definitely improved.

Another way to not let other people decide how you act has to do with social or cultural pressures. Rollo May said, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.” Conformity, whether to advertisements, magazines, social media sites, news, or peer pressure, lets other people decide how you act. If you’re choosing whatever it is because you want it, that’s fine. But making choices to fit in is giving up control.

Liking what’s popular is different than deciding to like (or dislike) something because it’s popular. I regret conforming a couple times as a kid. It’s not so easy to resist external influences when you’re still trying to figure out who you are. Anyway, in the mid-90s, I decided that I didn’t like Nirvana, still one of my all-time favorite bands, anymore because of what some other guys said. Fortunately, that didn’t last long.

Neither of those examples are particularly important in the grand scheme of things. It can be a very powerful rule to live by, though, and just as powerful to ignore. Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” Not everyone wants their own business. Some people prefer to work for others. That’s fine, as long as it’s part of your plan, and your decision. Don’t work at a job you don’t like just because that’s what you’re expected to do. If you don’t like your job, look for something else. At the very least, it should be part of your plan for the future, whether it’s advancement at the same company, or as a stepping stone to something better elsewhere. Falling into someone else’s plan is letting them decide how you act, with possibly life changing consequences.

The lesson from the story of the unfriendly newsstand vendor really struck home with me. Don’t let other people decide how you act. I’ve spent the last couple years really trying to work on myself, become happier, figure out what I really want, and how to create the life that I want. Acting in my own interest is certainly part of that, and so is how I react to other people. I didn’t always realize that the way I react to other people, the media, news, etc. can play a big role in my overall well-being.

Perfect vs Good

I’m doing things a little different with this post. I posted a video to my new YouTube channel on this same topic, which will be linked at the end. I won’t double up like this for all future posts, but may do it occasionally. Read below, watch the video, or do both.


I’ve put off many things waiting to gather more information, get better gear, the right situation and so on. While being more prepared is usually a good thing, and different circumstances might make things easier, it’s still usually just another form of procrastination.

Last week I was reading something and was reminded of something Voltaire said (though he was likely relating an ancient saying), “perfect is the enemy of the good.” Incremental improvements take increasingly more effort and time the better things become. In economics it’s called diminishing marginal returns.

One form of the Perfect vs Good problem is Analysis Paralysis. It’s really just procrastination under the guise of due diligence, a way to feel productive without accomplishing much of any worth.

When you wait for circumstances to be “right” or “enough” information, you hang the possibility of success on the external world over which you have no control. In the meantime, you could have started, accumulated results over the otherwise wasted time, and learned from your experiences. Rather than reading everything you can about the topic, you can figure out the exact information you need to solve actual problems and further grow.

In the case of any online endeavor that relies on building an audience, like my new YouTube channel (or a blog, e-commerce site, freelancing, etc.), if I started 3 months ago when I had the idea the basic means to get going, I’d already have 3 months in front of people; 3 months of comments and criticisms; 3 months of honing my message, narrowing or expanding my target audience; and so on.

While I waited for the perfect situation to start, no one knew about it, I could only guess about possible obstacles, and I missed any opportunities that may have come about with action. And it’s not like any information that I thought I needed wouldn’t be there if and when I actually needed it. I’d probably be able to understand it better with experience as well.

Don’t let the feeling that you need more information, better gear, the right time, the right circumstances, the right anything be excuses holding you back from what you want. You don’t need to read 50 more articles or blogs on healthy eating to start right now. You don’t need equipment or a trainer to start working on your fitness goals. You don’t need to learn how to build a webpage from scratch to start a blog or online business.

There’s also a real chance that you will fail. Or maybe you’ll figure out that it’s not actually something that you want to do. In either case, it’s better to figure it out sooner rather than later, not waste all that extra time preparing, and move on to the next thing.

How much Good are you willing to give up chasing after a Perfect that may not even be attainable? Get started.