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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Optimism: The Breakfast of Champions

Optimism: The Breakfast of Champions

Sometimes what we feed ourselves has nothing to do with food.

Do you wake up dreading the day ahead? In the moments just before the alarm sounds, do you find yourself thinking, “Oh no, it’s only Monday, and on top of that I’ll never get through the staff meeting with my boss.” Or how about, “I hate my job and I’ll never get that promotion, or the bank loan we need,” etc. Or what about, “That box of donuts is going to ruin my healthy eating plan today. I won’t be able to resist.”

In his classic 1902 book, As a Man Thinketh, British philosophical writer James Allen expounds upon the Book of Proverbs verse, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The concept has been trumpeted for centuries by philosophers, educators, scientists, psychologists, clergymen, motivational speakers, and others from Aristotle to Norman Vincent Peale to Dr. Wayne Dyer to Tony Robbins. In short, the way we think can strongly influence our success or failure. Experts tell us that the thoughts we allow–with “allow” being the operative word–can set the tone and course for the day’s productivity or defeat–not to mention happiness. And the fallout can impact the days, weeks and months–even years ahead.

When celebrated worldwide pastor Joel Osteen’s father suffered a 1999 fatal cardiac arrest in the den of the latter’s home, where Osteen had grown up, Osteen recounts that he was there and tried in vain to save him.

In a subsequent television interview, the man Nielsen Media Research has called “the most watched inspirational figure in America” recalled that every time he entered that room, his thoughts hurtled back to that terrible day. Realizing he had to manipulate his thinking to focus on all the good times they’d experienced in the same space, Osteen said he was able to transform his painful memories into a more positive experience just by what he told himself. But it took practice and discipline.

With optimism and success noted byproducts of disciplined thinking, experts say the thoughts we allow ourselves in those first waking moments of the day can serve as a strong foundation–kind of like the winter boots we don on a snowy morning to facilitate optimal footing as we go out the door. While the idea is not to deny or suppress negative or fearful thoughts that may come to mind, taking the next step involves quickly replacing them with kinder, more constructive thoughts and an action plan that sets you on a happier, more productive course.

“If a big job interview is on the agenda, a natural response may be to wake up with doubts and butterflies in your stomach,” said Jana Sperling, a Washington, D.C. human resources director. “But quickly and then continuously focusing on everything you bring to the table, and how happy you will be when the job is offered to you, can catapult you into a very different place–before your bare feet hit the rug. That kind of thinking, which starts long before you arrive at the interview, imbues you with real–not false or feigned–confidence and affects your demeanor and responses throughout the interview,” she said, adding it can transform the process, as it did even for her when she was hired.

A disciplined mind brings many benefits according to the experts–including those who practice. While harnessing one’s thoughts may take time and practice, as the neural pathways that have developed in our brains since birth and which determine how we think, reason, and remember take time to rewire, eventually the process will become quite natural. In fact, it may replace the old “waking up with negative thoughts” pattern with a life that is rich in results and rewards.

1 comment

1 Tatjana { 01.14.13 at 3:30 am }

” While the idea is not to deny or suppress negative or fearful thoughts that may come to mind, taking the next step involves quickly replacing them with kinder, more constructive thoughts and an action plan that sets you on a happier, more productive course.”

I think that our morning exercises may support at this moment as well.

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