Does Changing Your Thoughts REALLY Work?

About Joe Barnes

Joe Barnes writes for the dreamers. If you're tired of hearing what you want isn't possible, and that you just have to accept life the way it is, then he's got your back. Check out his book, Escape the System Now: Discover your Hidden Power and Live a Greater Life, or have a look at his website www.screwthesystemnow.com for more information. Along with writing, he also works as a hypnotherapist and tennis coach.

The first book that opened my mind to the idea that changing your thoughts could change your life was Joseph Murphy’s, The Power of your Subconscious Mind. I was 21 at the time and to say that I was a little confused about life was an understatement – I was disillusioned with everything. Although I was at a well-respected university studying a well-respected course, I’d lost all faith in the life I’d been conditioned to live. I was supposed to be out having fun (read getting drunk and experimenting with drugs) but I wasn’t. I was supposed to be researching future jobs for my all-important ‘career’ but I just didn’t care. I was supposed to be full of youth and energy but a string of ailments drained me of all vitality. It seemed that I was trapped. I was barely out of my teens, yet I was having a mid-life crisis.

change your thoughtsThen I discovered The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. In my darkest moments at university I’d tried to figure out why I was so depressed. I’d always believed that my melancholy state was a result of an unfulfilling university experience. This book suggested otherwise. It reversed my thinking and was the first source I’d ever encountered that suggested the opposite – your thoughts shape your reality. The following comment left me intrigued:

Thought is incipient action. The reaction is the response from your subconscious mind that corresponds to the nature of your thought. Fill your mind with concepts of harmony, health, peace and goodwill, and wonders will happen in your life.’

The rest of the book left me inspired. After re reading it a few times, I was experiencing a level of excitement about my life that I hadn’t felt since I was a child. So I decided to give it a go. I would commit to the principles in the book and see if changing my thoughts could really change my life.

The Inner Skeptic
At the time, I dreamed of a life transformed by riches, love, success and meaning in the space of 6 months. Feeling the way I did, I was certain that anything was possible. However, a worrying realization occurred to me a few months into my journey. Nothing was happening. Sure, I was feeling a little better and making a conscious attempt to focus on the positives but my life wasn’t really changing.

This concerned me. After my rush of inspiration from the book, I was certain there was something to this ‘change your thoughts, change your life’ business. However, for the life of me, I couldn’t seem to activate the principle. Then I discovered why. As much as I loved the idea and understood the theory, I didn’t really believe in it. A lifetime spent living in a system where we’re taught to place huge importance on the material had left me deeply skeptical. I just couldn’t feel it on a raw emotional level. After all, if I had this ‘answer to life’ shouldn’t I be elated, happy and ecstatic about what I could now do? I certainly wasn’t. It was too much of a stretch for me. How could these intangible impulses in my head have any effect on what was real?

Although I didn’t want to admit it, I still believed in the system. Like almost everybody else, I believed that this huge, insurmountable world that I was a part of, governed what was happening in mine, and millions of other people’s lives. The system determined the boundaries of my reality and no matter how much I thought about success, if it determined that the kind of success I craved wasn’t possible, then it would be so.  

With such an outlook, my progress would always be stunted. However, despite my skepticism, I had one good quality – dogged persistence. My lack of belief was countered by my determination to master the principles of thought change. What ensued was a battle between these two forces that lasted almost 10 years. Small successes were the determining factor. My skeptical mind needed to see results and as I slowly built the evidence to support my newly found mentality, I began to believe. Eventually, I reached a tipping point. Although my thoughts didn’t immediately manifest themselves, I could look back and see how my external reality responded to my habitual thinking.

Lessons Learned  
My 10-year plus journey to change my thoughts, and subsequently my life, has taught me many lessons. I’ll now share them with you.  
  • Changing your thoughts won’t work unless you believe. If you’ve been struggling to change your life then this might well be the key. You must deny your conditioning. In time, science will catch up with spirituality and somebody will be able to measure the correlation between our thoughts and our lives, but for now you will have to rely on faith. Don’t be a skeptic like me. There is already some evidence to suggest that in our purest form we are energy subject to the vibration of our consciousness. Focus on this and not the apparent immovability of the ‘reality’ around you.     
  • Get excited. This is a sure sign that you are going to be successful at changing your life through changing your thoughts. You’re in possession of life’s golden ticket. Display an emotional response that corresponds to such a HUGE blessing. If you’re struggling with this, ask yourself how you would feel if you won the lottery tomorrow. Overjoyed? Excited? Thankful? Learning that you can change your life through changing your thoughts is bigger than winning the lottery. So get excited, remind yourself daily of what a fantastic discovery you’ve made and go out and live your life with the kind of energy that will manifest your dreams.    
  • Detach your thoughts from the world around you. This is the hardest part for so many people. When you’re living in far from ideal circumstances, it can be so difficult to detach yourself from your reality and find a way to feel inspired. It takes a lot of discipline and practice. But above all, you must never let your failures make you believe that the principle doesn’t work. Your thoughts will still be shaping your reality, whether you channel them yourself, or allow your environment to take control.    
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Some Amazing Comments

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Comments

  1. Just genius! Thank you for writing this article. i began my journey in changing my thoughts about 1 yr ago. Thank you for the tips. i find them very useful.

  2. I loved reading the article and everybody’s comments. It’s like we all took a walk inside each other’s minds, and that is so refreshing to know we can surround ourselves with like-minded people.

    Unfortunately, thinking in this way is often frowned upon by general society. I have been categorized as “weird”, an atheist, a dreamer, and much more.

    When we all unite together, more people will begin to see the big picture. When they notice the big picture, they will be more comfortable with change. When they begin to change, others will follow. And then, soon, we will have a revolution of mass proportions that will change the world (and humankind) for the better.

    When the collective consciousnesses begins to see the big picture, we all will win.
    Erin recently posted..Wild Ride

    • Great point Erin! It really is a crusade to keep getting the message out. Sure, lots of people will initially reject it but if you say it loud enough and with enough passion and keep repeating it, eventually people will begin to listen. And then as you say, a revolution of mass proportions!
      Take care,
      Joe

  3. Hi Joe,
    Absolutely, it works. The way I see it is we may not always control of what thoughts come into our head, but we sure have control as to whether they stay there. I like the idea of detaching yourself from your thoughts. Yes, with practice it is possible. I find that if I say “next” to myself when an unwanted thought comes into my head, that seems to work. And if another negative thought comes in, I say next again and continue to repeat this process until positive thoughts start flowing.

  4. Although I agree with you, Joe, that “belief is stronger than thought,” I’d add that belief gains its life-changing power when it’s married to visualization which is the one missing link I found as I read through all of these comments. Chim’s observation about athletes and coaches – that they prepare mentally by talking, comes so close to that critical piece.

    Yes, you can talk about your game plan but, you have to “see” it in your mind’s eye: your stance, your hands on the ball, the feel of the ball as it leaves your hands, balances off of your finger tips before rising into the air to hover slightly above the hoop before it gently falls, swishing the next as it falls to the floor.

    I’d hazard an educated guess that one of the reasons it takes 10 years or more for us to “be” where our self-development causes real change to happen is because there are so many pieces to becoming what I call authentic human beings. When I finally “got” the significance of seeing my intended result – both personally and professionally, my belief soared.

  5. I appreciate your insight. Why isn’t this book required reading as part of a capstone class for all seniors in high school (or incoming freshman for that matter)? Why aren’t we teaching these principles to our kids so they don’t have to go through this? Or is it a necessary evil to build character?

    Many thanks -

    Melissa Curran
    Author of Find Your Paradigm: The Art of Living With Grace and Ease
    Melissa Curran recently posted..Fire Hydrants and Dogs

  6. I doubted that changing my thoughts would have any impact on my life. But once I started doing so, I noticed that I began to focus more on the good things and less in the bad. It became much easier to brush off the “bad things” that happened in my life, like getting stuck in traffic or getting in the slow line at the grocery store. By not focusing on these things, I could use my energy for more positive things in my life.
    Don @ Breath of Optimism recently posted..Motivational Quotes – March 17, 2013

  7. Hey Joe.

    Great post!

    Thoughts and beliefs are important, but are useless without application.

    It’s been my experience and observation that, more often than not, success or failure comes down to one key issue: how much an individual wants something and is prepared to apply themselves.

    Of course, there are many other ingredients and variables but, for the most part, they are all irrelevant and inconsequential if the individual lacks the necessary level of desire, commitment and application.

    The more desperate (motivated, committed, focused) an individual is to having, creating, achieving or doing a particular thing; the more likely he or she is to find a way to get the job done. To get uncomfortable enough. And to keep getting uncomfortable.

    The more likely they are to do what’s required – despite their fears. To pay the necessary price. To persevere. To do what the majority won’t.

    Want to be exceptional? Then ‘do’ exceptional.

    Craig
    Motivational Speaker | Craig Harper recently posted..Building a Person

    • Got to agree with you Craig. I like that word ‘desperation’. You’ve got to want it so bad that you’ll do whatever it takes to get there. As you say, that’s what a lot of it comes down to.
      You can sabotage yourself along the way though by not fully believing it’s possible. I think believing is that ‘accelerator juice’ that makes it happen so much faster.

  8. A simple but profound corollary to changing our thoughts is to Act As If. In other words, when we take the actions that would be in line with a new line of thought, we powerfully alter our mind. For example, I may think I’m fat. However, if I can take the actions of working out daily; eating right; and acting like a fit person, these actions will help me as I work to change my faulty beliefs about myself.

  9. Can I have a mind devoid of thought and still be? Of course I can because I exist independent of my thought. And lack of thought. Thinking is not my permanent state but rather an optional state – when I learn to manage my inner space. Thinking is not who I am but what I do. There’s thinking me and non-thinking me.

    And they can both serve a positive purpose in my life.

    Craig
    Motivational Speaker|Craig Harper recently posted..Your Next Question

  10. Thanks for sharing your own personal journey. I truly believe and agree with you that changing your thoughts is critical. There is a reason why athletes and their coaches talk all the time about their mental preparation and state of mind. They know that winning in sport is impossible without belief. In the end, life is one big game. There are winners and losers. And in order to win, you must believe you can win. This is a truly negative world, so it takes hard work to stay positive. But it can and must be done in order to succeed.
    Chim@onestoppersonaldevelopment.com recently posted..The Life of Your Dreams Doesn’t Come to You – Benny Hsu, Get Busy Living

  11. Hey Joe,

    I also read Joseph Murphy’s book a few times, while in high-school. I think it was the first book that really convinced me that we can dramatically impact our life via capitalizing on the power of the subconscious mind.

    I discovered that when I need to ask myself and think if I really believe in something, this is a clear indication that I don’t.

    When you truly do, what you believe in is so obvious to you, that it would be silly to ask yourself if you believe or not. Whenever I managed to get to this point, magic happened! :)

    Cheers,
    Cornelius
    Cornelius recently posted..How To Achieve Stretch Goals

  12. Great read, Joe. I especially appreciated the emphasis on belief. What we believe creates the context for what we think. It adds fuel to the power of thought and allows thought to slip into a natural effortless and creative flow. In other words, thought is cut short if belief in the thought doesn’t carry it deeper than the brain, into the heart and soul. It’s there that deep change starts to happen.

    Thanks for sharing the wisdom, Joe. Much appreciated.
    Ken Wert recently posted..The Extraordinary Story of an Unlikely Hero (your past does not predict your future)

    • Thanks Ken, much appreciated.
      It looks like most of the comments are identifying the importance thought carrying deeper than the brain into the heart and soul – becoming a belief!
      Also just read your blog. Had no idea that story was about W.C. (won’t ruin it for the others who should check it out). That kind of upbringing would have crushed most people.
      Joe

  13. Hello Joe,

    Read your interesting and quite impressive article.Well, I believe we all would agree with the kind of thought process you went through in your journey to success and self improvement.

    I have seen that no matter how many books and material we read in our life, your vision and dreams start to manifest only when you “REALLY BELIEVE” what you are reading and trying to implement in your life for a better change.

    This belief should be at both conscious and subconscious mind !!!!
    Wishing that your life unfolds with more and more success in future.
    Keep writting and Stay Blessed
    Savleena

  14. This is interesting and quite thought provoking, now that I think about it, am I being naive myself? I’ve got this idea that it’s possible lodged within me, but my results wouldn’t seem to reflect that, it’s not like I’m following the wrong disciplines or anything, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot going on…

    I think it can be hard to tell whether you truly believe it, and I’m not sure I 100% do, sometimes I’m all steam ahead, but others I feel a bit shady. I’ve got a tonne of work to do, thank you for reminding me. Got my head in action for the rest of the day!
    Nick Goodall recently posted..The Ultimate Guide To Goal Setting

    • Thanks for your honest comments Nick.
      If I’m honest, I think it took me 7 years before I reached that tipping point and REALLY started seeing the results of changing my thoughts (so you’re probably way ahead of me back then!).
      And you’re right, it’s getting to that level where you 100% believe(balls to bones)that you CAN/ARE/WILL live the life you want. How can you tell? From experience, you’ve got to use your feelings. How are you feeling on a daily basis? When you start spending most days feeling GREAT then you can be sure the belief has formed. Then the results come.
      Nice blog by the way – self-mastery is the key!
      Joe
      Joe Barnes recently posted..Why the System is Toothless (And what this means for YOU)

  15. It’s so funny Joe, when we first discover that our thoughts and feelings and beliefs are the makers of our life experience, we think woohoo…I can change the world. And then we get to see whilst it’s simple it isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do. We’re so conditioned to think along our habits of thought and that’s where the effort comes in, creating new habits of thought that will take us along the path of our choosing.

    Nicely done.

    Love Elle
    xoxo
    Elle recently posted..Four Easy And Quick Ways To Boost Your Success.

  16. Matt Morgan says:

    Hello Joe, how are you doing?

    Great story on your journey Joe, which will inspire your readers.

    Here are 10 personal development tips from me

    1) You have to believe in your self. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Believe in yourself the mind is a powerful thing.

    2) Drink plenty of water daily, which will clear out your system

    3) Meditate. This takes time but can really clear your mind, and it gets better with time.

    4) Eat the right foods and diet, as this will have an effect on your body.

    5) don’t be discouraged by others. When people say it can’t be done then don’t be discouraged infact you should use tat as an insensitive to want to achieve your goals faster.

    6) Go for walks to clear your head. These will generate ideas for you

    7) Have an open mind when you have gained new knowledge, rather than reject information straight away when given to you.

    8) If at first you don’t succeed then try again. Trying again in a different format might make you complete our task.

    9) It takes time, so be patient. Things can take longer than expected.

    10) Don’t give up. Your goals and desires can be met, solutions are always there, so keep going.

    We are always learning, every day is a school day!

    Matt Morgan

    • Thanks Matt,and great points. All great points but I think number 9 (the time factor) is often overlooked. Makes me remember that quote,
      ‘People often oversetimate what they can achieve in 1 year but underestimate what they can achieve in 10.’

  17. Thanks for the article Joe. I can relate to a lot of what you’ve shared – for me the real key was realizing that my thoughts were just that – thoughts. Not reality, not damaging in themselves and things that I could influence – instead of the other way around. The bit I’m working on now is what you acknowledge is the hardest part – detaching. Mindfulness meditation is one of the most powerful (and challenging!) things I’ve done for my well being. Thank you for sharing your story in such an honest way.
    Jo Casey recently posted..The Positive Thinking Scam – Part 2 (The Revenge Of!)

  18. Interesting article Joe. You’re right, often times changing our thoughts does nothing to change our lives. And like you say, the problem is because we don’t really believe it will happen. So the question arises . . .

    Did we really change our thoughts in the first place?

    I would venture a “no.” More likely, we were just lying to ourselves. Once that superficial bout of positivity began to fade, our lack of results only reinforced our deeply held belief that no, changing our thoughts doesn’t actually work in the real world.

    We need evidence. We need tangible proof. Which means that we need to change something . . . anything . . . before we’ll ever truly believe.

    For me, that started with weightlifting. It took the tangible evidence of my physical body actually changing and getting stronger to convince me that yes, we can actually change ourselves.

    Because even strength training begins with a decision. And that’s where the true power lies. If my decision to lift could affect my body and the reality around me, what power could other decisions have? What other areas of my life could I affect?

    That’s when belief set in. And only then did I begin to see real change.

    Cheers!
    Trevor recently posted..Fess Up: Have You Been Acting Like a Little Bitch?

    • Good point Trevor, I would agree that belief is stronger than thought and that it’s only when you reach that level will real change occur.
      But I guess then you’d have to ask, ‘What is a belief?’ To which the answer is a series of thoughts CHARGED with emotion so all interconnected in a way. Funny how it works.
      Like the latest blog title by the way – haha
      Joe Barnes recently posted..Why the System is Toothless (And what this means for YOU)

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