How to Get Anything You Want in Life - picture of silhouette of man at sunset with hands behind his head

How to Get Anything You Want in Life

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“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

                                                                                                                                  – Mahatma Gandhi

Back in my college days, I had a severe shortage of self-confidence. Just as I was reaching the age where most guys I knew were all puffed up on hubris and testosterone, I found myself turning into a shrinking violet. Yes, I was likeable. True, I had a lot of friends and was often the life of the party. I was an exceptional student and an above average leading man in our university’s theatre department. But it was all a facade. My self-confidence was extremely fragile thanks to my love affair with negative self-talk.

On the inside, I felt pretty worthless. I felt useless. I told myself that I was undesirable and unwanted. Even though I was a pretty attractive dude in my early 20’s, I felt horribly ugly.

Not unexpectedly, these negative thoughts spilled over into my college dating life. My fragile ego would be completely destroyed the moment I felt the slightest hint of rejection, perpetuating an even unhealthier self-image through increased negative self-talk. Here I was, taking risks and being extremely vulnerable on stage. However, in my personal life, I continued to shrink further into my negative thoughts and self-doubt.

Negative Thoughts Breed Negative Actions

I had talked myself into becoming the classic starving artist, content to revel in my martyrdom. Of course, it was all bullshit. Unfortunately, I had become so good at it that the negative self-talk had actually started to seep into my work life as well.

Then, on a rainy April morning it happened. After catching a CTA bus on my way to a big audition, I realized that I was having trouble breathing. I noticed that my pulse was racing, my palms were sweaty. What was this feeling? I had been nervous for auditions in the past, but never quit like this. Later on, I realized that I had talked myself right into a panic attack.

Immediately, I decided I wasn’t going to the audition. I quickly pulled the rip bell cord and hurled myself out the bus door, landing on the corner of Clark and Irving Park. As I gazed up toward the gates of Graceland Cemetery, my pulse slowed and my breathing became regular again. It was ridiculous. It was defeatist. It was self-sabotage.

I had become what I was thinking about.

The Turning Point

As we mature, there comes a point in our lives when most of us decide that we really don’t care what other people think about us anymore. I’d like to say that there was a specific point in my life where it all turned around, but the reality is that it happened very slowly. Eventually, I started dating this wonderful, beautiful girl named Holly. At the time, I didn’t think I deserved her, but she seemed to like me a whole lot. I went back to school, started making more money, and grew up into the person that I have become today. Most importantly, I replaced my negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Now, I am who I am – take it or leave it.

You Become What You Think About

There is a great book by Earl Nightingale called “The Strangest Secret.” In it, Mr. Nightingale drives home the premise that you become what you think about. Through your thoughts and – thus – your actions, you find yourself exactly where you truly want to be. If you focus your mind completely on a accomplishing a specific goal, there is no way that you can not succeed. If you think and believe that you will be a great parent, you will become a wonderful parent. If you focus on becoming a doctor, you are sure to become a doctor. In the same token, if you focus on your failures, you will continue to fail.

In our own lives, we have employed this concept without really realizing it. Back in the early months of 2012, we decided that we were going to start a successful blog. Of course, we had our doubts. However, each time those doubts came, we simply brushed them aside and replaced them with positive, goal-oriented thoughts. We stayed focused on our goal, continued to take action, and realized our first goal when Holly was able to quit her job to become a full-time writer a year later.

What Does This Have To Do With Money?

Positive self-talk and goal-setting can help to improve your financial situation as well. Success doesn’t happen by chance. You have to plan for it. It starts by identifying and believing in your specific, concrete goal.

Write it down. Repeat it aloud to yourself several times a day. It is going to feel corny at first, and you’ll probably get all sorts of push back from your own poorly conditioned mind. Replace those negative thoughts with positive affirmations and keep moving. The more you focus your thoughts and your energy on your goal, the more that you will begin to believe it will happen.

Then, take decisive action. You see, belief without action is just a dream; belief supported by action becomes a goal. Keep in mind, half-hearted effort is simply not going to work. As Yoda would tell you, “Do or do not. There is no try.” You must really believe with all of your soul that it is going to happen. If you can do this, there is nothing that can stop you.

If you are broke, don’t use it a crutch or an excuse for inaction. Instead, focus your thoughts on becoming rich, then take steps to handle money in the same way a rich person would in order to make that happen for you. If you are in debt, don’t tell yourself, “I don’t want to be in debt.” Instead, create a positive goal statement like, “I will be debt-free in 12 months.” Then, start a budget and get on it. You can do it!!! Nobody can stop you but you!

Positive Affirmations: The Key to Success

These positive affirmations techniques are the keys to getting anything you want out of life. If you commit to them and believe in them, they really do work. Whatever your goal may be, stop wasting your energy by focusing on the negative. Use your energy on positive thoughts, instead. Stop thinking about being inadequate; become excellent. Don’t worry about failure; become a success. If you want to be a writer, an actor, an astronaut, or a gazillionaire, focus your thoughts on these things. You will not only believe that your goals are achievable, you will have no choice but to take action.

You will become exactly what you think about.

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54 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I wasn’t very confident when I was younger either. I sometimes wish I could go back and shake myself to realize how awesome I was! I completely agree with you that “success doesn’t happen by chance.” Internalizing my goals and repeating them as a mantra is helpful to me–it really does make me believe that it’s possible. Sometimes I feel like our plan to move to a homestead is a pipe dream that’ll never happen, but, then I realize that we’re working towards it every day and that there’s no reason it can’t come true!

    1. Absolutely! Nothing can stop you but your own fear. Keep working at it, believe in yourself, and it will happen for you 🙂

  2. I could not agree more! I used to have the exact same problem with negative self-talk. I finally realized it when someone close pointed it out to me. I then turned it around by consciously telling myself every day that I was a good person, worthy of the good things in my life, etc. I did that for several months until finally it seemed like I had kicked the negative self-talk. These days it’s so much better. Once in a while I’ll still have a really negative thought, but now I can recognize it and kick it out of my head fast. Thoughts are powerful!

    1. It is amazing how powerful our own mind is. How you think, and how you train yourself to think, can have a profound effect on your life.

  3. I would modify the statement to say, “Success doesn’t happen completely by chance”. Interestingly there was a post on GRS yesterday (http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2014/10/23/to-what-do-you-attribute-your-success-hard-work-or-good-fortune/) about how both hard work and luck contribute to success. By good luck I mean, the right job coming a long at the right time, finding a great deal on a rental property, good interest rates, etc. None of those things is a guarantee of success without hard work, but they certainly help more than getting laid off, having a tenant trash your unit and an economic collapse. I know this kind of post is supposed to motivational, but I do think about how dispiriting it must be to read for someone who was working very hard but had some kind of bad luck (illness, job loss, accident, etc.). If only you’d just wanted it enough then you wouldn’t have had that house fire or cancer or whatever…

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, although I would disagree. I actually wouldn’t modify it at all. Clearly, when somebody writes a piece there is always going to be a “What if this happens…” You can’t possibly write something that covers everybody’s unique situation. However, when it comes to good luck, “true” luck is so rare that it doesn’t really need mentioning. Most luck is made through laying a lot of hard groundwork and taking advantage of an opportunity – and there are usually multiple jobs that could be “the right” gig. I believe it is all about attitude.

      Getting the right job almost always comes from years of hard work. Finding a great rental comes from the effort put into studying a market, etc. You can only control the things you can control. One of them is attitude and belief.

      Even negative things can be turned into positives. Clearly nobody is saying that you can avoid cancer or a house fire through positive affirmations. What you do with your life after the fire or cancer is up to you. Losing a job freakin’ blows, but it can lead somebody to open that business they always dreamed of. Many a successful person has went bankrupt at one point and rebounded. Failure and other negative circumstances can either motivate or destroy people. It is up to each individual person to decide how they are going to react.

  4. So true, Greg!!! When we started our journey out of debt, we realized how very much our negative self-talk was contributing to our financial situation. We were constantly saying how broke we were and joining others in whining about their finances. Now, it’s all positive, no matter what the circumstance, and it’s made a huge difference in how our money turns out each month.

    1. You are what you believe you are. Congrats on turning it around!

  5. This may be my all-time favorite post of yours! I am committed to personal growth, which include intentional living, goal setting, and positive thinking. I can’t imagine a fulfilling life without it. Personally, I’m extremely focused on my current goals, which are financial and career oriented. I’m studying to take the CFP exam and I’m getting out of my law school student loan debt. I find that having fewer goals to focus on makes the intensity of those you are focused on higher. Great post!

    1. Thanks Natalie! You’re right – fewer, specific, focused goals helps to create intensity. I also thinks it creates a better environment for completion.

  6. I see it all the time that when people do not feel good about themselves, they tend to get into lots of money troubles. I recently met with a client who was doing great on all of her goals, but then got into a negative frame of mind and spent a bunch of money on a trip she didn’t plan on. It’s tough to manage your emotions and money, but above anything else, it’s just better to think positively for your life in general.

    1. I hear ya. People use spending as a way to make themselves feel better, just like binging on alcohol, food, etc.

  7. Positive thoughts are a powerful thing. Just simply starting each day with thinking to yourself today is going to be a good day can help point you in the right direction. Once we got organized with our finances we saw the good behaviors spill over into other ares of our lives.

    1. Us too. Positive vibes tend to follow other positive vibes!

  8. Expecting negative results usually gets negative results. I agree that if you are super healthy and get cancer that is sort of beyond your control but a job loss or bad tenant shouldn’t derail your success. I believe positive people expect setbacks and have a back up plan. When we found out last year that Jim’s position was being eliminated, it was disappointing but he hustled even more an was able to move into a better job.

    Years ago he might have sat around and felt sorry for himself, but that just isn’t something we allow anymore. This post is a great reminder to put attitude first and the rest will fall into place.

    1. I couldn’t agree more Kim. Like I said above, nobody is saying that positivity is going to keep your house from burning down or keep you cancer-free. However, everybody has a choice as to how they react to setbacks – and that is typically what sets successful people apart from those who may not be as successful.

  9. For a long time, I portrayed success to others but I felt like a failure. It took years to really grow into the level of confidence and self-assurance I gave off to others and own it. You’re absolutely right in saying that it’s about have a positive, non-defeatist mindset in order to get what you what out of life!

    1. Thanks Kass! Keep on keepin’ on my friend!

  10. Positive thinking is everything! It was actually one of my 2014 resolutions. So, did you enter the funeral industry before or after the moment when you looked into the cemetery?

    1. I entered the funeral industry afterwards 🙂 I actually took a long walk around the cemetery a few weeks later and made the decision to go back to mortuary school.

  11. I was just talking about this with my husband. He’s having a particularly hard time right now because of something that happened that made him unable to be productively working in his day job. His self esteem took a bit of a hit. Positive self talk is really important.

    1. Believe me, I’ve been there. In addition to the story I told in the piece, when I failed in my insurance job, I was really really really down. Not all of those wounds have healed yet. However, I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off, and I’m pushing through my fears now – preparing to give things another go. I’m not sure what his situation is, but just keep him moving and making progress. Things will get better.

  12. Great post Greg! I admit to still having issues with negative self talk from time to time. Not about every area of my life, but certain ones. I was listening to a mindfulness seminar yesterday and I wrote down this one things that was said by a panelist. “What you practice becomes stronger.” While that can mean positive things, it can also mean negative. If you say to yourself day in and day out, “I’m an idiot,” then chances are you will become exactly what you think. As new agey as that sounds, its true!

    1. I know, it sounds so new agey and camp right? But, the concept has been around for thousands of years. You can read it anywhere – historical texts, ancient philosophies, religious texts, etc. It really is true, and it works – for good and for bad.

  13. I need more positive self talk from myself. I’ve been suffering from analysis paralysis…I’ve been thinking about investing in real estate out-of-state but I keep doubting myself and think that I’ll overlook something and mess up or that I’ll be naïve and be taken advantage of.

    1. I often suffer from analysis paralysis as well. There is nothing wrong with making sure that an investment is a good one. In fact, you should tread carefully – but confidently. However, once you have all the information, you need to make a decision. You’ll feel better either way once you do.

  14. What a great post to start the weekend! I still struggle with the negative thoughts and sometimes it gets hard to shift back, but at least I am noticing it now and not giving it too much ‘power’ over me.

    1. Recognizing that you are doing it is the first step to conquering it! Thanks for stopping by, and have a great (positive) weekend!

  15. I LOVE this, Greg! This is exactly how I think and try to live my life. I’m not 100% successful as negative self-talk does still occasionally rear its ugly head. But for the most part, I focus on taking positive action and living in gratitude. It makes a HUGE difference in mindset, both personally and professionally. I sit across from so many incredibly successful, smart and talented people who are consumed with negative self-talk and doubt. No one is immune to it, but as you said, there are ways to overcome it. Great post!

    1. Thanks Shannon! None of us are perfect. We are all human, and we all have self-doubt. However, we can make the choice to overcome it! Have a great weekend!

  16. Ick. The Secret. Ick.

    Positive affirmations alone lead to bad outcomes. For positive affirmations to work, they have to be grounded in reality.

    ‘As Yoda would tell you, “Do or do not. There is no try.” You must really believe with all of your soul that it is going to happen,’ is very bad advice and generally leads to failure, not success. Focusing on the trying is more likely to lead to success.

    Big research literature on this topic.

    1. I’ve never read “The Secret,” but I’m guessing that it isn’t telling the reader that if they think hard enough about becoming a piano, that they will magically become a Kingsbury. However, successful people often create their own realities. They don’t ask permission. They simply go about the business of doing and creating.

      As for trying, if you are suggesting that given a choice between doing nothing and doing something, choosing to do something is better – yes, I’d agree. Start working toward something. Build confidence. Keep moving toward something. That is going to lead to faith and belief that you can accomplish your goal. However, I’ve yet to hear a highly successful person say, “Yeah, we really half-assed it, but it turned out great.” So yeah, I’d say go for it with all you have. If you can’t, then find another goal toward which you can give it your all.

  17. Great post! I struggle with the negative self talk, especially right now while unemployed, but you are right that we become what we think we are. I don’t really believe in the secret, but I know that when I’m more positive about myself and situation better things tend to happen!

    1. Give it a shot. Really commit to being positive and see where it takes you!

  18. This is such a great post!! I’m a firm believer in the power of positive thinking. We create our own successes and you’re right – we become what we think about. I read an interview a few months back on a millionaire and he said before becoming one, he woke up EVERY day and told himself he was going to be a millionaire. Now, sure enough, he is! (I can’t for the life of me remember where I read this.)

    Thanks for the great post. I hope you have a WONDERFUL weekend!! 🙂

    1. Thanks Sarah! There are countless stories about this sort of thing working. If you constantly keep your dreams right in front of you, you can’t help but to act on them and find a way to make it happen.

  19. Ben Luthi says:

    I’m tired of hearing people at my job complain and make excuses about why they aren’t performing well or why they’re stuck doing a crappy job. I think this is something they’re missing–setting goals and working toward them with self-accountability and positive affirmation.

    1. I had a coach once tell us that, “Winners find ways; losers find excuses.” I often use this as a joke with my friends, but it is true. Everybody has a choice as to how they want to live. They can make excuses and blame everybody else for their situation, or they can take responsibility and change it.

  20. Great post, but my biggest takeaway: I can’t believe I didn’t know you are a fellow Thespian! Awesome!

    These are all great points. My only issue with “The Secret” type books (which it sounds like The Strangest Secret might be similar) is that some people seem to think you can will something into existence. It takes action, not just thought — which you and Holly certainly know as you’ve established this great blog.

    1. Theatre geeks unite! …and you’re making me blush about the blog! Stop it, you *blush*!

      I agree, it totally takes action to make something happen. I think if you get yourself in the right mindset and continually keep a goal front and center, you have no choice but to act on it. Simply thinking something alone won’t make it happen.

  21. Thank you, Greg- I needed to read this today. I’ve been feeling stuck lately, and I’m letting those negative thoughts creep in. Time to get back on track with a positive outlook!

    1. Dude, you’re one of the coolest people I (virutally) know. You can do it!

  22. I never had confidence problems growing up until I was in an abusive relationship. After that ended, I’ve had trouble regaining my confidence because it was torn down so much during that relationship. Plus, as I gained some weight during that same time and became unhappy with myself, it was hard to be confident too. I’m slowly regaining it, but it is a process for sure. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’m sorry to hear of your situation. How awful. Abuse certainly does take its toll. I’m sure it will take some time and a lot of work, but I’m sure you’ll get that swagger back. Just keep going!

  23. Great read! I always stay positive, but I know some people have more of a pessimistic mindset. I have watched things happen for me that didn’t happen for others, just because of my attitude. I’m not bragging, I just wish others would be more positive. lol

    1. Thanks Kalen! I’ve seen the same thing happen for me. Attitude and hard work can take you far.

  24. Love this post, Greg! I had some really bad bouts with negative self-talk, mostly in high school, and things have been getting better since. There are still moments where I feel like an utter failure, but I try to learn from those experience to better myself.

    I agree with Erin’s definition of what the Secret teaches – I vaguely remember covering it in cognitive psychology. Positive thoughts are better than negative thoughts in any case! Thanks for sharing your struggles with us.

  25. I think we are all human. We are prone to have setbacks. It is hard to get rid of the negativity that many of us have been conditioned with most of our lives. I’ve never read The Secret, but I would agree that thinking without action isn’t going to typically end with good results. However, I you can use your mind and your thoughts in a way that stimulate action.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  26. I think everyone goes through a period of low self confidence at least once in their lives; many people battle it off and on for years. The key to battle low self confidence is to truly believe you can accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to do. As you mentioned above if you don’t believe you can do it, it just won’t happen

  27. I am a Type A personality with chronic fatigue. So instead of accepting my limits, I would try to push through them. And I would think negatively about it. My therapist finally told me one day to change my wording. Instead of saying, “I’m too lazy to…” I needed to start saying, “I’m too tired to…”

    It sounded cheesy to me. But I did as I was told. And boy howdy but it made a difference. It didn’t give me more energy, but it let me be nicer to myself. And I used less energy beating myself up. It also meant I pushed less against my limits, which means I didn’t overtire myself, which could mean days of being barely able to do anything at all.

    So yes, there is a big difference in positive thinking. As long as you don’t go to the extreme of The Secret type stuff, I think positive thinking can be a big impact.

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