The Power of a Positive Self-Image (PPSI)0
By Frank J. Rich
Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World in 1492. Some months later he came to land that is variously ascribed to his discovery of it. Though it was not until his third voyage that he actually landed on the Americas that we know today, the achievement was significant in terms of the accomplishments of the day. Indeed, his voyages were ill conceived of purpose — a short route to India — narrowly funded, and miscalculated for the distance between Spain and the Americas.
The earth may have been perceived as flat by common folk of the day, though no sailor held that view. Its circumference, indeed its cubism, is credited to the math of Eratosthenes some 1700 years earlier. Columbus’ estimate of 2400 miles was close enough, based erroneously on a misunderstanding of the Arabic miles used in his calculations, but land was what he sought. Given the right direction, whenever he found it, the voyage ended. It was that simple.
Born of meager beginnings, the explorer had it in mind to accomplish something he believed in. It was first his ability to navigate the world, and next to commercialize his skill for the benefit of nations seeking an edge in the warring struggles of the day. Beginning in 1485, Columbus traveled throughout Europe in search of funding for his passions. First to Portugal, then to Genoa and Venice, to Portugal again, and on to Spain, he went. He was summarily dismissed in all places, but just as he was preparing to leave Spain, Isabella summoned him (by the influence of the king, her husband Ferdinand) to return. Fresh from the successful battle for Granada, Isabella granted Columbus an annuity of $840 (and other perks) in 1489. Had the invitation to appear before Henry VII of England come sooner, Columbus might have set sail from Jolly Ole’ instead. With such a preponderance of negative weight on his shoulders, how ever did Columbus succeed?
Daily, today’s workers struggle with the very same question. Despite an education, knowledge of right principles and practices, and the “apparent” modeling of successful others, the visceral rumbling in most workers is the question: “Why can’t I succeed?” Often appearing in different words, the question is the same.
• I can’t control my inner urges. What’s wrong with me?
• Why do I become so anxious about things that I feel sick to my stomach, almost to the point of vomiting?
• I know I have to pick up the phone to make money, but why can’t I get myself to do it?
• I have an entire list of things to do. Why won’t I do it, and what should I do first?
• I’ve read countless books on positive thinking, motivation, building confidence, and others specific to the success I crave. Why can’t I follow their advice?
• I’ve been in therapy, counseling, coaching, and talked with friends, but I’m still lost. Why?
• I’m a capable person with a stable, long-term experience in my field. Why can’t I find another job?
• I’m about to lose my marriage. Why can’t I change enough to save it?
Frustration naturally accompanies the conflict between what we want and what we’re getting, or the discomfort in not getting through certain kinds of situations. All the study in the world is hard to recapture when we are in the crucible, where our battles take place. On those occasions, and as soon as we leave the “Performance Improvement” seminar, we go on “autopilot,” acting the way we are accustomed, not having to “think” about it. We “forget” to do what we were told to do, one of the deficiencies in motivational speaking as a learning tool.
Without the habit-forming ardor of daily practice, most of what we hear and learn is lost in a single day. In fact, without it (practice), 93 percent of what we learn today will be lost in our unconscious minds in six months.
Reversal: A Success Model
We must run as fast as the world around us to bring it into view, as though spinning a quarter on a table to narrow our focus on the desired outcome. It is only then that we can slow it down enough (E=MC2) to consider things carefully. In this way, we find the root of our limitations in this slowing process, release the old and install the new, reversing the self-destructive nature of perceived limitations. In doing so, we learn the patience that informs self-help.
The things we do that chase success are too numerous to mention here, but to consider a few that may underlie all others is helpful. Check those that apply to you and vow to release, replace, and reverse them.
Some things that chase success, cause failure:
• Failures, mistakes, setbacks, delays, criticism negatively affect your self-image, have negative meanings, and create images of failure.
• Taking no responsibility for negative outcomes/setbacks. It’s someone else’s fault — poor performance that caused it.
• Self-doubt, lack of faith. Feeling/believing “I can’t.” Remember, those who say “I can” and those who say “I can’t” are both right.
• Love for/attraction to people, places, and things. These are behaviors that get in the way of positive goals/outcomes.
• Dislike/repulsion to tasks, people and places that help you achieve positive goals/outcomes.
• Worry. A preoccupation with “what’s not perfect” and “what could go wrong.”
• Exaggerating the size and difficulty of goal-oriented tasks or decisions.
• Exaggerating the effect of mistakes, setbacks and delays, criticisms (real or imagined).
• Disaster thinking. Imagining the worst outcomes/effects.
• Stress. It destroys the ability to accomplish desired outcomes (Think right now).
When we believe that we are not good at something, we risk the feelings above in an effort to confirm a negative self-esteem, to feel more comfortable with ourselves. We get to this place quite automatically — the reason self-help books and motivational speakers have a short-lived effect on us.
The good news is that these behaviors are learned. They can be unlearned. Often, there is more power in unlearning than in learning. We can create the emotional and behavioral changes that inform success — achieving hoped-for, planned results. It is the magic of the subconscious mind that allows it, a mind that knows no difference between a real or imagined experience. Use it, as Christopher Columbus obviously must have, and achieve through the “power of a positive self-image.”