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The Power of Positive Thinking: More Than an Expression, it Really Can Change your Life!

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The other day I was at Starbucks, getting my afternoon pick-me-up, and I was chatting with the barista about her classes at high school. She told me that she was having trouble in math, and that she had to take a basic math course over again to try to pass the standardized test all of the students would have to take later in the year.

“I suck at math!” she exclaimed as she filled my drink cup with ice and espresso.

I was struck by her absolute conviction as a mathematical failure. She made the above statement as confidently and vehemently as one would declare that the Earth is round or the sky is blue. For her, this was her reality and there was no doubting it.

But I doubted it. I saw this young woman several times a week and I knew her to be extremely bright and a hard worker. Working behind the counter at Starbucks while going to school is not easy, and handling often difficult customers while jugging multiple drink orders proved to me that she had a lot more going on than she was willing to give herself credit for. So I called her on what she said.

“I don’t want to hear you talk that way about yourself!” I replied. She stopped what she was doing and looked up at me, with a look of surprise in her face. I don’t think anyone had ever questioned her self-assessment before.

“Do you know what happens when you say stuff like ‘I suck at math’? Your mouth says it, your ears hear it, and then your brain believes it.” I had her attention now, so I kept going.

“I think it’s okay for you to recognize that you are struggling in math right now, and that you have to maybe work extra hard at it. But I don’t want to ever hear you say that again. I want you to say ‘I am good at math,’ or, ‘I’m learning more math everyday’ or something like that, okay?”

I don’t think she entirely bought what I was saying, but I could see that she appreciated the idea.

A few days later, I saw her again. Before I could even tell her my order she exclaimed “Guess what?! I just had a math test and guess what happened? I got an A!”

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I too am a true believer in the power of positive thinking. For years I have gone thinking of myself as a fat momma. One day I stumbled across Lynne McTaggart's latest book, "The Intention Experiment" and I have to say now that the way I view myself has changed. For anyone who hasn't heard of Lynne McTaggart before, she is probably the most well-known and well-respected author in the field of noetic science, offering real scientific evidence about the power of intention, the nature of consciousness, the science of spirituality, frontier science and the power of mass thought. I have learned some techniques that has really helped me train my brain to think more positively of myself. I am going to the gym daily now (something I have failed to do for the past 10 years), and am really focusing on changing my appearance. It is amazing how powerful the brain really can be when trained correctly.

November 15, 2009 - 5:25am


I actually had this exact same conversation with an adult friend of mine who is returning to school. She wants to work in art therapy with children and young adults (and she would be wonderful at it) but she needs to pass Statistics, apparently, to get into graduate school. As soon as she mentioned the word "Statistics," the entire conversation went downhill.

She is stupid about math, she said. She can't do it. She's never been able to do it. She failed and she'll fail again.It doesn't make sense to her. She has a tutor, which didn't make a difference. If she can't pass statistics, she won't get into grad school, and if she doesn't get into grad school, she'll not be able to pursue her career goals. And she actually said that if she couldn't have that as a career goal, everything else felt worthless.

I stopped her, as you did your barista, and started asking questions. Turns out this was the first time she'd taken the class, and she was astonished to find that many, many people take it more than once in order to understand it. Turns out the tutor did help, just not as much as my friend as hoped. And like your barista, my friend is bright and hard-working, so this piece of the puzzle didn't make sense.

In the end, what I found out was that in the rest of her schoolwork, she has an A average. Because she was having difficulty with statistics, she found herself falling short of her own standard -- and the self-talk took her all the way down the drain.

I don't think I was successful at helping her reframe her thinking as you were with your friend. But I won't stop trying! It just shows that how we frame things -- "I can't pass the first time with flying colors, therefore I will never pass, never get an A and everything is a mess and I won't be able to accomplish my career choice and therefore my life is all screwed up" -- can color all our thoughts.

Thanks so much for writing. Great post!

November 10, 2009 - 8:40am
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