To accomplish more in life it is essential to take more action. However, our limiting beliefs and our lack of confidence can drastically hamper our ability to take action. How can we get ourselves to take more action? There are actually three elements we can focus on that will help ourselves change, be more confident and as a result take more action:
- Our thoughts (meditation, visualization, law of attraction, NLP)
- Our body (expansion of our body, starting moving, exercising)
- Our words (use of positive words, positive affirmations,, NLP)
Those three elements are creating our reality. They are all interconnected which means that each element influences the two others.
- Our thoughts influence our body and our language
- If I have negative thoughts I will probably use negative words and make me smaller
- Our body influences our thoughts and our language
- If I sit on a chair with my shoulders hunched, my head hanging down, after a while I will start experience negative thoughts and use negative words
- Our language influences our thoughts and our body
- If I use words that show a lack of confidence, certainty, assertiveness or commitment, it will automatically have a negative impact on my level of confidence. It will also impact negatively my body posture.
You become what you think about all day long. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our thoughts are creating who we are. In a sense we can say that we are the sum of our thoughts. That’s why we should always try to control our thoughts and focus on what we want and what we have rather than on what we don’t want and don’t have. Our thoughts create our reality. We should always work on choosing thoughts that are making us feel good independently of our current situation. As Brian Tracy says,
Make a game of finding something positive in every situation. Ninety-five percent of your emotions are determined by how you interpret events to yourself. – Brian Tracy
How you can change your thoughts
In Buddhism, they often refer to our mind as the “monkey mind”. Our thoughts are like a monkey relentlessly swinging through trees. Our thoughts are all over the place and never seem to stop. Meditation allows us to progressively tame that proactive monkey and cure it from ADD. When you meditate you become aware of the flow of thoughts that are constanlty popping up in your mind. Through meditation you can progressively reduce your negative thoughts. Reducing negative thoughts will quiet your mind. The voice inside your head will criticize you less and less and will give you more space to do what you want to do.
By visualizing a goal or something you desire you will start to create new experiences in your mind. Because your mind cannot differentiate real experiences from imagined experiences, what you visualize will progressively become your reality. Your subconscious mind will accept that new reality and even if you might not be aware of it, it will lead you to see new opportunities and to take actions that you might not have taken previously. Often, when I encounter a new word in English or in Japanese that I believe I have never come across before, the very same day or the day after, I will hear that word. I’m sure you had similar experiences too. The reality is that I have probably heard that word many times before but I just wasn’t aware of it. Because the number of things we can focus on is actually very limited, we can only grasp a tiny part of the reality around us. By focusing on what we want, we start screening the world for any opportunities that can help us get what we want. As a result, new opportunities seem to magically appear.
Also, by focusing on what we want rather than what is, we start creating our own reality. As our reality changes, whether we realize it or not, the way we are projecting ourselves to others will also change and they will react differently to us resulting in more opportunities than before. For instance, because our thoughts, language and body are interconnected, changing our thoughts will have an impact on our language as well as on our body. People around us will unconsciously notice those subtle changes.
The Law of Attraction
The law of attraction could be summarized as follows: “you attract what you focus on”. It requires you to practice meditation as well as visualization. I won’t enter into the details in this article but I would just say that it doesn’t matter whether you believe or not in what it is said about vibrations, and how your thoughts create vibrations that attract things matching those vibrations. You should just ask yourself and use common sense: do I prefer to focus on what I want or on what I don’t want? By focusing more and more on what you want and what you have you will undoubtedly start to experience more positive results in your life. Whether you believe in the Law of Attraction or not is irrelevant.
What you can do
- Meditate daily (see Is Meditation For Everyone?)
- Practice visualization daily (see The Power of Positive Visualization – A Simple Example Of How You Can Use Positive Visualization)
- Be aware of your thoughts. How often are you focusing on what you don’t want? How much time do you spend focusing on your problems?
Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes. – Amy Cuddy, TED talk: Your Body Language Shapes Who you Are
Our minds change our bodies, but what many people don’t know is that our bodies also change our minds. By changing your body posture you can change the way you feel and affect your mind.
When we are confident or happy we always expand our body and make ourselves bigger. That’s why when men see an attractive women in the street they will expand their chest in order to display more confidence and power (not so different from gorillas pouding on their chest). Blind people who have no role model also raise their hands when they win a physical competition. It is a common rule even among animals. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist who teaches at Harvard Business School shows in her experiment that participants who adopt a high-power pose for two minutes will subsequently exhibit characteristics observed with confident and powerful people. Through the experiment she noticed significant hormonal changes.
Participants who adopted a high-power pose for two minutes
- testosterone: +25%
- cortisol: – 10%
- risk tolerance: 86% chose to gamble
Participants who adopted a low-power pose for two minutes
- testosterone: – 10%
- cortisol: +15%
- risk tolerance: only 60% chose to gamble
As you can see you can literally improve your mood and change the way you feel or think just by changing your body posture or your facial expression. It is what some people would call “fake it until you make it”. For instance when we are happy we smile but we can also put a smile on our face to make us feel happier. Similarly, you can also negatively affect your mood and easily create a depression just by changing your body posture for instance!
Depression can be created by sitting slouched in a chair, shoulders hunched, head hanging down. Repeat these words over and over: “There’s nothing anybody can do. No one can help. It’s hopeless. I’m helpless. I give up”. Shake your head, sigh, cry. In general, act depressed and the genuine feeling will follow in time. – David K. Reynolds, Constructive Living
David Reynolds, in his book “Constructive Living” explained how he changed his identity for David Kent and created a depressed, suicidal patient. The goal was to be accepted as an anonymous patient into various psychiatric facilities to experience them from the inside. He wasn’t simulating depression, he was actually depressed. Psychological tests proved it. When time came for David Kent to bring back David Reynolds to life, what do you think he needed to do? Yes, he needed to move his body, to do something. Anything! Easy to say but hard to do when you are depressed. Of course he knew it better than others! Still he had to force himself to become physically active. Then, he began to change. Good to know! If we can create a depression that easily, we should be able to overcome it.
Sometimes I sit in front of my computer and I don’t really feel like doing anything. As soon I become aware of that feeling, I will stand up and start walking in my small apartment. I will also talk to myself and start doing some cleaning and becoming active in order to change my mood. Or I will go out for a walk or will exercise.
What you can do
- Start moving as soon as you feel like you are lacking some motivation. Run, go for a walk, do some cleaning, exercise, just about anything goes.
- Be aware of your body language, expand your body and don’t make you small. You have the right to exist in this world and it’s start by claiming your physical space.
The essence of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is that the functioning of our nervous system (“neuro”) is intimately tied up with our capability for language (“linguistic”). The strategies (“programs”) through which we organize and guide our behavior are made up of neurological and verbal patterns. – Robert Dilts, Sleight of Mouth, The Magic of Conversational Belief Change
The words we use have more impact on our thoughts and behaviors than most people think. Because our thoughts, behaviors, and our language are all interconnected they influence each other. For instance, if you are lacking confidence, you are likely to use certain words. Conversely, using certain specific words will make you less confident. By repeatedly using certain words you carefully selected you will start to notice a shift in your behavior. It can really make a big difference. Thus, you should be extra careful with the words you are using because they shape your reality.
Personally, I decided to eliminate certain words from my vocabulary as much as I can. I don’t “try” anymore, I “do”. There is no “maybe” or “perhaps”. There is no “if”, “if everything is okay”, or “if everything goes well”. “I should”, “I would like” or “I want” become “I will”. I don’t “hope” or “wish” because those words are not empowering me and show a lack of confidence and certainty.
Often when writing an email, I would realize that a sentence shows a lack of confidence or commitment and would instantly modify it do display more certainty. When I speak about something I want to do in the future, I always assume I will achieve it and use words such as “I will”, “when I will”, “I’m gonna do”.
If you want to boost your confidence, the idea is to replace words that show uncertainty, lack of confidence or lack of commitment with words that demonstrate certainty and confidence, that is, words that don’t allow you to retract or to change your opinion easily afterwards. People with low confidence, because they are not sure of their ability to accomplish something, will generally not commit themselves to anything. By forcing yourself to commit and to show certainty as often as possible you will start affecting your mind and increase your confidence. Indeed, by using “will” you commit yourself to do things and your mind will feel the need to act in accordance with what you said. You will force your mind to believe that it can accomplish what you commit yourself to. As a result, by starting small and progressively committing yourself more and more you will start building up more and more confidence. I’ve been amazed to see how changing just a few words in our language can have such a big impact in our behavior.
At first, you’ll find it unnatural and difficult to do because you won’t believe in what you say. It is still challenging for me. It might be scary because sometimes you will commit yourself to something you are not sure you can actually do. However, remind yourself that it is not a big deal if from time to time you don’t do what you said you will. Start with small things and get into the habit. The more you will share with people with certainty your goals or things you will do, the more it will become part of your reality, and the more you feel committed to do it and confident in your ability to achieve it. Don’t forget to add clarity (when exactly, what exactly, how…)
Some basic examples:
- I’ll try to do some cleaning tomorrow → I will clean my apartment tomorrow
- I might go to this party next week → I will definitely go to this party next week
- I hope we will have some fun tonight → We will definitely have an awesome time tonight
- I want to create… → I will create… within 2 years
The important thing is to practice and to gradually replace uncertainty with certainty whenever you can.
Words that must be avoided:
Words you must use:
- I Will
- Of course
- Without any doubt
- No problem
Positive affirmations are sentences you repeat to yourself again and again on a regular basis in order to reach your subconscious mind and have it accept that new belief. The first positive affirmations I tried was “I love being confident” (I’m still using it every day) and “I am independent of the good or bad opinions of others”.
How do you use positive affirmation?
- Use the present tense and not the future tense (ie. “I am” not “I will”)
- Avoid negative forms like “I’m not shy” and use instead “I’m confident”
- Repeat the sentence again and again during 5 minutes (use a timer for more convenience)
- Do it every single day without exception for at least a month, and preferably 2 months
In my case I started noticing some changes after a week or two and felt that I care less about what people thought about me. Positive affirmations might not solve the problem but will pave the way for further actions and help you build some momentum.
Some examples of powerful affirmations:
- I love being confident
- I am independent of the good or bad opinions of others
- I am beneath no one and no one is beneath me
- I love you …. (add your name and say it while looking in our eyes in the mirror. ex: “I love you Thibaut”. Awkward isn’t it?)
- Thank you
What you can do
- Use position affirmation for 5 minutes daily. You might want to use your body too (see Tony Robbins video below)
- Be aware of times when you are using words that show a lack of commitment, confidence or assertiveness. Go over all your mails before you send them and check whether you are using words such as I’ll try, I should/could/would, I hope/wish… Modify your mail. For the next 3 weeks, commit yourself to avoid words showing a lack of commitment whenever possible and to use instead words that show certainty like “I will definitely”.
The world famous coach Tony Robbins has been using what he calls “incantation” for decades right before meeting a client or holding a seminar. He uses both his body and words to put himself in the right state and reach a level of perfect certainty. There are many times when I wish I could use those incantations but it is not easy to shout in public places or in the toilets before an event.
Tony Robbins is a strong advocate of making use of the body to bring change. Look at this short three minutes video where he talks about incantation.