“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
This famous quote from quintessential American success story Henry Ford encapsulates the very core of why positive thinking works, and why it is one of the most often touted tool of personal development literature. It also highlights, by contrast, what is wrong with the (in)famous book and DVD “The Secret”, cited recently by another blogger as one of the most successful infomercials ever.
Positive thinking works not because of any cosmic or pseudo-scientific forces at work, but because our thinking can be one of the most crucial limits on our capabilities.Advertising
Let’s first take a closer look at what Henry Ford said, and how that wisdom can work for us, before looking at what’s wrong with “The Secret”.
Apply Ford’s wisdom to achieve your dreams
Ford told us that if we think we can do something, we’re right — and if we think we can’t do something, we’re also right. The surprising conclusion of that quote highlights the fact that if we tell ourselves we cannot do something, we’re restricting ourselves. There is no way we can succeed if we believe that we will fail. It’s just shooting ourselves in the foot.
But by believing in our own success, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Does that mean that I will be able to fly just by thinking that I can? Of course not. It is only by hard work, by finding creative solutions, by persistence even with repeated failures, that we will be able to fly. Ask the Wright brothers.Advertising
Sure, you say, this stuff is obvious. But if it’s so obvious, are you applying it to your daily life? Have you taken the time to define your dreams, and the steps that it will take to get there? Have you asked yourself if you believe in yourself, and if you believe you can achieve those dreams? And what steps are you taking today — not tomorrow or next year — to make those dreams a reality.
If you are doing all of these things already, I congratulate you. You’ve taken the steps necessary to be a success. But if you aren’t, ask yourself why not? What is holding you back? Too much stuff going on in your life? Or maybe your dreams are something that you’ll get to “someday”, but not today? Or maybe you don’t really believe you can do it. You need to analyze that and make some changes.
Btw, Ford was great when it comes to success quotes. Here’s just one more of many: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”Advertising
The Problem with “The Secret”
Now let’s take a (brief) look at the very popular movie and book, “The Secret”. First, let me say that there are some very good concepts in the Law of Attraction, which is highlighted in “The Secret” — basically, the Law of Attraction is just new packaging of some older, but successful, concepts, namely the power of positive thinking and visualization.
Positive thinking, as discussed above, can be a powerful force in making your dreams a reality. And the method of visualizing your dreams has been proven repeatedly to be a great way to making them come true — in athletics and business and everywhere in between. By seeing something, in your mind, in vivid detail, you are making it more likely that you will find a way to turn that picture into reality. Again, it will still take hard work and creative thinking and problem-solving, but this is one method for getting there.
But “The Secret” takes these concepts and turns them into pseudo-scientific concepts, shrouded in a conspiracy theory. Which cheapens the whole deal, IMO. The movie uses “electromagnetic waves” and concepts of quantum physics to explain why the Law of Attraction works.Advertising
The problem is that it takes real scientific phenomena and twists them in ways that have not been proven. There is no scientific evidence that the electromagnetic waves that we actually do send out into the universe have any effect in changing the world around us in the way that we want the world to change (or have any discernible effect on these things at all).
Why Positive Thinking Works
The thing is, none of these pseudo-scientific facts are necessary to explain why positive thinking and visualization work. The explanation is very simple, and it’s encapsulated in Ford’s quote:
- First, if you think you can’t do something, you won’t. It’s that simple.
- Second, if you think you can, you’re more likely to do the things necessary to make it happen.
- Third, if you have a very clear picture of what you want, you are more likely to find the path necessary to get there than if you don’t really know what you want. It’s simply defining your target, as opposed to not knowing where your target is.
That’s all. Nothing fancy, nothing pseudo-scientific, no conspiracies — just simple, powerful concepts that actually work. Concepts that you can, and should, apply to your every day life right now.
Leo Babauta blogs regularly about achieving goals and becoming productive through daily habits on Zen Habits. Read his articles on the Top 50 Productivity Blogs, doubling your productivity, keeping your inbox empty, becoming an early riser, and the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.
Last Updated on November 26, 2019
How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways to Try Now
Who needs Tony Robbins when you can motivate yourself? Overcoming the emotional hurdle to get stuff done when you’d rather sit on the couch isn’t always easy. But unless calling in sick and waking up at noon have no consequences for you, it’s often a must.
For those of you who never procrastinate, distract yourself or drag your feet when you should be doing something important, well done so far! But for the rest of you, it’s good to have a library of motivational boosters to move along.
Despite your best efforts, passion, habits and a flow-producing environment can fail. In that case, it’s time to find whatever emotional pump-up you can use to get started.
Whether you’re starting a business, trying to los weight or breaking a bad habit, you’ll learn how to motivate yourself with different techniques here:
1. Go Back to “Why”
Focusing on a dull task doesn’t make it any more attractive. Zooming out and asking yourself why you are bothering in the first place will make it more appealing.
If you can’t figure out why, then there’s a good chance you shouldn’t bother with it in the first place.
2. Go for Five
Start working for five minutes. Often that little push will be enough to get you going.
3. Move Around
Get your body moving as you would if you were extremely motivated to do something. This ‘faking it’ approach to motivation may seem silly or crude but it works.
4. Find the Next Step
If it seems impossible to work on a project for you, you can try to focus on the next immediate step.
Fighting an amorphous blob of work will only cause procrastination. Chunk it up so that it becomes manageable. Learn how to stop procrastinating in this guide.
5. Find Your Itch
What is keeping you from working? Don’t let the itch continue without isolating it and removing the problem.
Are you unmotivated because you feel overwhelmed, tired, afraid, bored, restless or angry? Maybe it is because you aren’t sure you have time or delegated tasks haven’t been finished yet?
6. Deconstruct Your Fears
I’m sure you don’t have a phobia about getting stuff done. But at the same time, hidden fears or anxieties can keep you from getting real work completed.
Isolate the unknowns and make yourself confident, you can handle the worst case scenario.
7. Get a Partner
Find someone who will motivate you when you’re feeling lazy. I have a friend I go to the gym with. Besides spotting weight, having a friend can help motivate you to work hard when you’d normally quit.
8. Kickstart Your Day
Plan out tomorrow. Get up early and place all the important things early in the morning. Building momentum early in the day can usually carry you forward far later.
Having a morning routine is a good idea for you to stay motivated!
9. Read Books
Read not just self-help or motivational books but any book that has new ideas. New ideas get your mental gears turning and can build motivation. Here’re more reasons to read every day.
Learning new ideas puts your brain in motion so it requires less time to speed up to your tasks.
10. Get the Right Tools
Your environment can have a profound effect on your enthusiasm. Computers that are too slow, inefficient applications or a vehicle that breaks down constantly can kill your motivation.
Building motivation is almost as important as avoiding the traps that can stop it.
11. Be Careful with the Small Problems
The worst killer of motivation is facing a seemingly small problem that creates endless frustration.
Reframe little problems that must be fixed as bigger ones or they will kill any drive you have.
12. Develop a Mantra
Find a few statements that focus your mind and motivate you. It doesn’t matter whether they are pulled from a tacky motivational poster or just a few words to tell you what to do.
If you aren’t sure where to start, a good personal mantra is “Do it now!” You can find more here too: 7 Empowering Affirmations That Will Help You Be Mentally Strong
13. Build on Success
Success creates success. When you’ve just won, it is easy to feel motivated about almost anything. Emotions tend not to be situation specific, so a small win, whether it is a compliment from a colleague or finishing two thirds of your tasks before noon can turn you into a juggernaut.
There are many ways you can place small successes earlier on to spur motivation later. Structuring your to-do lists, placing straightforward tasks such as exercising early in the day or giving yourself an affirmation can do the trick.
Bonus: Staying Motivated Forever
The best way to motivate yourself is to organize your life so you don’t have to. If work is a constant battle for you, perhaps it is time to start thinking about a new job. The idea is that explicit motivational techniques should be a backup, not your regular routine.
Here are some other things to consider making work flow more naturally:
Do things you have a passion for. We all have to do things we don’t want to. But if life has become a chronic source of dull chores, you’ve got a big problem that needs fixing.
Not sure what your passion is to get you motivated? This will help you: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up
You can’t put everything on autopilot. I’ve found putting a few core habits in place creates a structure for the day.
Waking up at the same time, working at the same times and having a similar productive routine makes it easier to do the next day.
This guide will be useful for you if you’re looking to build good habits: Understand Your Habits to Control Them 100%
Flow is the state where your mind is completely focused on the task at hand. While there are many factors that go into producing this state, having the right challenge level is a big part.
Find ways to tweak your tasks so they hover in that sweet spot between boredom and maddening frustration.
Easily distracted and hard to focus? Here’s your solution.
With all these tips I’ve shared with you, now you know what to do when you’re feeling unmotivated.
Find your passion and develop a positive mantra so when the next time negativity hits you again, you know how to stay positive and motivated!
More About Motivation
- 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams
- Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)
- 15 Simple Things You Can Do to Boost Your Daily Motivation
Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com