Have you ever had something unexpected happen that hit you like a ton of bricks? Something that comes completely out of the blue? It could be a health diagnosis, a car accident, or, on a more positive side, an unexpected visit from an old friend or a triggered memory of something pleasant long forgotten. Well, this happened to me when I opened up this month’s copy of the WSJ Magazine.

When our monthly copy arrives, the first place I go is to “The Columnist” section where “the WSJ. asks six luminaries to weigh in on a single topic.” This month’s word was “Anticipation.” Actor and writer Cazzie David has this to say about anticipation:

“It’s an unspoken rule that you’re not allowed to anticipate good things or you will either be thoroughly let down or you’ll jinx it. My entire life I have spent anticipating something bad happening. When something bad does happen, I anticipate the next bad thing.”

I was stunned. This quote summed up my mindset for the majority of my adult life (and for good reason, so I thought.) I knew this about myself but had never put it into words, so to see it in print was a powerful revelation to me.

Now, I say “summed up” my mindset, past tense, because this is no longer true. What shifted? 

One day I asked myself one simple question: “Why won’t I let myself be happy?” 

And then I asked myself another question, “Why won’t I let myself be human?” By human, I mean fallible and imperfect. I harshly judged myself for anything and everything. 

These questions helped me to understand that the way I thought about myself and my life was keeping me from what I wanted in life – healthy relationships, better health and energy levels, peace of mind, etc. My negative, gloom and doom thinking was affecting every area of my life.

Your thoughts and imagination are more powerful than any situation you may find yourself in. What you tell yourself, day in and day out, molds who you are and how you act. Do you wonder why you attract difficult people? Do you hate your job? Do you fret over every little thing? Well, what kind of chatter do you have in your head in these areas? Do you feel stuck and think there is nothing you can do about it? Well, there is something you can do – change your thoughts.

But how? I’ll give you two simple exercises. Now, when I say simple, I don’t necessarily mean easy. But practice makes progress, and if you keep at it, you will get better and, as you change your thoughts, you WILL change your behavior and, consequently, your life.

Exercise #1: Begin to daydream again.

When I was a girl, I spent a lot of time daydreaming. I spent hours lying in bed, thinking about the existence of God and what I wanted to happen in my life. I also spent hours lying in the grass in our backyard, looking up at the sky or looking down in the grass, hunting for four-leaf clovers or watching ants carry things three times their size. All the while, I was daydreaming. 

We can still do this as adults. All wildly successful people still daydream about what they want to happen in their life.

There are three points to understand:

  1. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” Napoleon Hill
  2. The brain cannot distinguish between your conscious and subconscious mind.
  3. Your thoughts will affect your actions.

Here is another truth: The brain thinks in images and pictures. This is why daydreaming and engaging the imagination works so well in achieving your goals. Think of it in terms of playing mini-movies in your head. Movies you make up about whom you want to be, what you want to do, and how you want to feel.

Here’s what you cab do: every day for 10-15 minutes, play a mental movie of you achieving your goals. Visualize them in your mind’s eye. Try to create an emotional feeling. Now, you may have been taught not to trust your emotions, but emotions play a big part in the success of this exercise.

I’ll give you an example: Say you want to have more wealth and make more money in order to have more freedom, create a better lifestyle, and be able to give more to others. You can imagine logging into your bank account and seeing higher numbers than what they currently are. Or, writing a big check to an organization you are interested in supporting. Be specific. What are the numbers you want? Whom do you want to support? What kind of lifestyle are you dreaming of? Tie these images to an emotional feeling. How would you feel handing that check over to someone who really needed it? See it. Feel it. Experience it. 

At the end of your 10-15 minutes, you should feel excited and energized. Day after day, if you do this exercise, things will begin to change. Things will not necessarily magically appear, like making a wish to a genie in a bottle and, poof, there is a pile of cash. What will happen is that you will begin to act differently. You will have more confidence and you will start doing the things that will move the needle toward getting what you want. 

Exercise #2: Build up your level of confidence

Think of one person you know whom you consider to be successful in a certain area of expertise. That person is likely very confident in that area. 

We are all designed to create and achieve goals. We have all successfully achieved some goal we made in the past, such as getting into the college of our choice, winning a position or award, meeting a personal goal, etc. When we remember these things, it boosts our level of confidence, and being confident is one of the keys to reaching our current goals and desires.

Again, here’s what you can do: every day for 10-15 minutes, remember one accomplishment you have achieved in the past that means something to you. It doesn’t have to be world-shattering. It can be a simple, modest thing that made you feel good about yourself, like shooting a basketball into a hoop.

Again, your emotions should be stirred in a positive, inspiring way. 

One last thought – if you are skeptical, try it anyway. If you are unsatisfied with even one area of your life, remember that what got you where you are now won’t get you where you want to go tomorrow. You have to do something different to get different results.

So, instead of anticipating bad things happening to you, you can anticipate the good things that will begin to happen as you focus your thoughts and attention on your dreams and goals.

Remember: What you tell yourself, day in and day out, molds who you are and how you act.

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