I’ve been thinking about my mentor and good friend Paul J Meyer (1928-2009) a bit this week. I have an entire chapter about Paul on page 173 of my book How to Ignite Your Passion for Living. He was just that influential to me and to many other people. Probably the most important thing I learned from him was the life changing power of “positive affirmations”. Like other great things that I thought I learned, at some point I stopped practicing and fell out of the habit of using affirmations in my everyday life. But I’m making a great effort to change that.
Paul believed that affirmations could work miracles in just about everything we do. And I believe it too. You know the adage that if you say something enough times, you’ll believe it? Well, since your inner self is always listening to what you say and what you think, repeating positive statements about something as if it already happened will have you believing it and acting on that belief. And if it’s not already true, it will be soon enough!
I find it astounding that the mere uttering of certain words and phrases can change our lives. But it can and it does. The only real hurdle to having the power of positive words work for you is committing to practicing it. It’s the same as keeping in physical shape by exercising. You have to keep doing it your whole life if you want to stay in shape and reap the benefits. This is a lesson I’m relearning now. I certainly hope I don’t forget this great lesson and keep feeding my subconscious lots of positive words for every part of my life.
One last note on this positive/negative inner chatter issue–well, maybe not my last note ever but at least for a while. As I’ve said before knowing something is not useful until you actually do something with the knowledge. We’ve talked quite a bit about this subject here and there the last few months, but have you done anything to actually improve your inner voice’s attitude?
Years ago I really got into programming my brain with lots of positive thoughts and positive affirmations but I’ve been slipping on that the last 10 or maybe even 20 years because I thought that I was beyond that kind of stuff. The thing is, I didn’t lose the knowledge but I did fall out of practice with it, and that was key. You can’t say you’re a great tennis player no matter how well you know the sport, unless you’re actually out there practicing and playing! With my loss in the final round of the Huntsman World Senior Games tennis match in which I had sabotaged myself with all my negative self-talk, I really started to think seriously about how much I let my thoughts turn pessimistic with worry and self-induced stress. I knew it was not helpful. I even knew how to combat it. I had just stopped putting this knowledge into practice.
The great thing about this is that once you get the hang of it and practice enough you can use this positive reinforcement to change and improve just about any part of your life. From losing weight to overcoming addictions to making more money, you can stop worrying about so many things that add unnecessary stress to your life and actually live! Try it and I promise you that it works, especially if you keep practicing. So here’s what you and I must do … No. 1– start observing what that inner chatter is saying and, No. 2–feed yourself positive thoughts and affirmations, every single time you observe the self-talk going the wrong way. It’s not hard, it just takes practice!
I wanted to mention this book that Craig Horton, who I shared a letter from in my post last week, recommended. It’s a powerful book about mentorship titled “A Game Plan for Life-The Power of Mentoring” by John Wooden and Don Yaeger. Craig considers this one of the most powerful books he’s ever read. He’s not the only one.
The retired basketball player and coach mentored and inspired unknown numbers of people through his work as a coach and through his publications and lectures. In this, his last book, he first focuses on the people who helped foster his values then, through interviews excerpts, he turns the reader’s attention to number of his most successful mentorees, giving us an inside view of the affect good mentoring can have on an individual, not just as athletes but as human beings. Wooden is particularly focused on being successful without having to sacrifice principles. That is a focus I am behind 200%.
I really like Wooden’s philosophies and know you’d get something out of reading this book if you take what he says to heart. You see, how well you live is not purely about the success you have, even though in your mind and actions, it sure seems like it. The real measure of a successful life is how much you improve the lives of others. You can do this by sharing your success—be it monetary, career, personal, emotional, relationship, etc.–with others in ways that help them achieve and fulfill their lives as well.
If you’re reading this blog you probably have some drive to keep learning but have you considered making it not just something you do when you have a free moment—learning that is–but a deliberate, regular thing you do?
Learning is essential to keeping your passions burning. You already know how energizing it is when you learn something new, something that makes you think and gets you moving. Not only that, learning keeps the mind sharp and may contribute to a longer, healthier life. Why would you let something so impactful be so incidental?
Instead, make a conscious effort to learn every day. Read a book before you go to bed. Read an article with your breakfast each morning. Take a class or workshop at least once a month. Go with your family or friends to a museum, a library event, a historic place–any place that gets you thinking–every few times you get together. Get audio books to listen to as you drive or tune into NPR or talk radio shows that interest you. Gather your colleagues and your network of like-minded people and have a regularly scheduled round robin conversation over wine or coffee.
These are all excellent learning opportunities that will keep your mind sharp and your passions burning. And you’ll be enjoying yourself while cultivating a lifelong goal that will help you live a long, happy life!
My good friend Paul J. Meyer (who sadly passed away a while ago) used to always say “Don’t read 1,000 books but choose 100 of the very best books and read them over and over again.” Spaced repetition is how we remember and makes it easier for us to practice what we learn in our daily lives because the ideas become ingrained and natural.
This idea hit me hard recently when I realized that the basic concept also applied to other things such as my tennis game. I had mastered the best way to hit a forehand many years ago but over the years I stopped practicing that technique, just stopped doing what I knew I should do, and, sure enough, my forehand went to hell. When I got into competing, I had to relearn my forehand all over again. Relearning was hard but it did make a huge difference in my game (Watch out Roger Federer!) On the other hand (no pun was intended!) I could have skipped that whole trying process by simply revisiting the technique and practicing the points on a regular basis. Learning it once is never enough.
This idea is the same whether it’s repeatedly reading books that teach you how to better your life, keeping up on a skill, or revisiting places or people that inspire and energize your spirit. These are all opportunities for learning that if we come back to over and over, we will not forget and will make practicing what we’ve learned a natural and habitual action.