Whatever you do reading this article, I want you to do one thing: Do not think of a polar bear. That is all I ask.
We all want to achieve our goals and get ahead in life in one way or another. The big and the small things, it all counts. Getting in shape, passing uni, landing that job, travel the world etc.
One of the most profound and at the same time subtle lessons I have learnt is the importance of the words we use. If you want to succeed at anything you need to use the right phrasing at all times. It relies on the basic principle “You get what you concentrate on” that returns in all religions and spiritual teachings.
What happens when I tell you not to think of a polar bear? Yes, that is right, immediately there is an image or idea of a polar bear in your mind, no question about it. It is there somewhere.
This may sound obvious and too simple to bear any significance, but the crux of the matter is that it does. Here is why.
It seems as if your brain is incapable of dealing with the word “not” in a sentence like this. The “not” falls away and what remains is a polar bear. Exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve.
Think of the millions of times we use this negative phrasing in our daily lives. A few examples:
- Stopping fighting
- Ending poverty
- Don’t turn left
- Don’t forget your keys
The list goes on. In all these examples what we do not want to achieve is still used in the phrasing.
If you want to succeed at anything you should have the thing in mind you want to achieve. (oh how tempted I was to add “and nothing else” to that sentence)
You need to come up with an image and accompanied wording that shows you what you dó want. Your goal is not to not forget your keys, your goal is to remember to take them! So next time say “I need to remember to take my keys”.
It does take a bit of conscious effort to find the right wording, because negative descriptions seem to be a big part of our dictionary and not all words have a positive opposite. Take thinking for example. When people get caught up in their minds we tell them to “Stop thinking so much”. That phrase is not going to help us to stop thinking.
But what can we say then? When there is not opposite word for thinking, what can we do? There are only two simple rules to follow:
- We need to come up with a clear image – along with a word or phrase – of what we do want to achieve.
- It has to be a positive formulation
Stop thinking? Envision a clear, empty mind.
Trying to lose weight? Say you want to be slim!
Want to end war? Say you want peace!
Don’t want to turn left? Turn right!