How and Why You Need to Change Your Thoughts

Written by Will Edwards

The idea that our external reality is a reflection of our internal world has pervaded popular personal development literature for hundreds of years. The proposal itself is, of course, much older than that and it seems that many people, hooked on the subject of self improvement (myself included) have bought into the principle. If there is any substance in the idea, you would think it would be a fairly straightforward matter to change your life.

As it turns out, changing our thoughts can be a lot more difficult than we might, at first, think. Sometimes, it takes a shock event to impact our thinking strongly enough to really make us change direction. Cherie Blair, for example, says it was when she finally realised her dad, the actor Tony Booth, had abandoned his family. Fern Britton says her it was when she considered committing suicide at the age of just 21 years. Stirling Moss says it was when he suffered a near fatal crash at Goodwood.

how_and_why_you_need_to_change_your_thoughtsIf you, or someone you know personally, has ever had to face a serious medical condition, you will know how that kind of event has the ability to realign your priorities. It is easy to understand why such powerful moments have the capacity to push our thinking where it normally won’t go, of its own accord. The problem for us, in learning to change our lives, is gaining access to that kind of transformational power without having to go through a trauma.

It is said that during a normal childhood upbringing, you will hear the word ‘no’ approximately 200 times more frequently than you hear the word ‘yes’. Is that just an interesting statistic or is it a reflection of the kind of environmental conditioning we need to overcome? Personally, I do think there is quite a tendency, within modern western society, for us to become negatively conditioned. As a result, many people end up getting their dreams squeezed out of them – unwittingly, unwillingly, unthinkingly.

One of the things we need to do for our own children is to start telling them that they ‘can’ do things. We need to encourage them and build them up into people who believe in their own abilities despite what the surrounding evidence might suggest to them. Even with your own constant positive input into your child’s life, your children are sure to be subject to the well-intentioned, but misplaced negativity than can still impact their lives for the worse. But, by constantly telling them that you love them and that you believe in them, you will have equipped them with the greatest gifts for success in life.

For you, as an adult, it is very likely that you have also been told, far too often, that you can’t do something, that you won’t amount to anything significant or that your aspirations are simply not achievable. You see, that’s what the vast majority of the people around you actually believe and they can’t help it either because they too were the object of such negative conditioning, particularly in their formative years. They too had their dreams crushed by other people’s negativity and they have now come to believe they were foolish to have even contemplated them in the first place.

That’s the reality for most people because that is their perception – yes, our perception is our reality in many situations. As an example of how powerful our thoughts can be, consider the Mae Enga tribe who believe that menstruating women can turn a man’s blood black, dull his wits and even cause death. One person, who found his wife had been sleeping on his blanket during menstruation, certainly lost his wits and he killed her.

Of course, without wishing to sound too flippant, most of us don’t believe that menstruation is really that dangerous. But, what the above example illustrates is just how powerful and, indeed, dangerous our thinking can be because, after all, our actions are a product of our thoughts. Right actions follow right thinking just as surely as wrong actions follow faulty thinking.

So, I would like to challenge you to think again about your own life and what you think may be possible for you. Think about the dreams you have carefully locked away, safe within that private little place, deep within your heart; the place that nobody else knows about, where your dreams still live. As the year draws to a close, do you think you might be bold enough to get them out of that hiding place and take another look at them?

Instead of making a list of New Year’s resolutions this time around, wouldn’t it be more productive for you to spend some time contemplating your future? Start to tell yourself that you ‘can do it’. You won’t believe yourself at first, but you just have to work your way through that. Use positive affirmations to tell yourself that you are capable, that you do have everything you need to succeed, that you are going to make a difference!

In my personal development workshops, I often get people who will ask me something like: what happens if they convince themselves that they can do something, only to find out that, in reality, they actually can’t? My answer has always been that the people who enjoy outstanding success in life, all, without exception, first convinced themselves that success was a possibility for them. Without that kind of belief, they would not have made it either.

Changing your thinking does not absolutely guarantee success – that’s undoubtedly true – what it does is to make it a possibility for you. Your negative conditioning has to first be overcome and only then can you give yourself a real chance. Don’t think that opportunity has passed you by either, because you are here for a purpose and the script for the remainder of your life has not yet been written.

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Will Edwards

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  • Totally agree – out thoughts shape our lives. The ‘Poer of Positive Thinking’ totally changed my life.

    Since then I discovered Prime Potential and have found ways to remove many of the fears, doubts and anxieties that also influnced my thinking & stopped me achieving my dreams.

    Thanks for creating such a personal and useful Blog.


  • Hi Trevor

    You reminded me of the Pain/Pleasure principle. For some people, the desire and motivation for change comes from dissatisfaction and even pain, that’s certainly true; others can be motivated more by the desire to experience greater pleasure in the future. But even the recognition of this powerful principle does not provide a complete statement of what motivates people to action. Personally, I have found the Enneagram to be a profitable source for understanding human motivation more fully.

    Will :)

    • Hi Will, I had never heard of the “Enneagram” model before. I checked it out — it looks pretty interesting. I’ll have to dig into it a bit more. Thanks for the info.

      Regarding the Pain/Pleasure principle, I tend to agree with that famous quote . . .

      “Change only occurs when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.”


  • I’m right there with you that people who enjoy outstanding success in life, all, without exception, first convinced themselves that success was a possibility for them.

    The challenge is for those people who are still stuck in their thoughts, worries, limiting beliefs, and fears.

    They can choose to stay where they are, or choose to find ways to overcome their issues.

    Me, I prefer to look at the possibilities. It’s way more fulfilling.

  • Enjoyed your article. I write about resiliency and, while our thoughts certainly play a key role in how we function in life, from my research I’ve found that before you can begin to work on changing your thoughts, you must take the time to become clear about who you are now. Too many times people jump into a personal development program with an eye to the future, without ever doing the work to understand themselves and how they got to where they are today.

  • Hi Justin

    Self-limiting belief is certainly an interesting factor, as you say. In addition, I think that individual performance can be seriously inhibited even when people have no difficulty with the idea that something is possible. Sometimes, the problem is in believing that changing your beliefs (an internal change) can really lead to such a radical, external change.

    Will :)

  • As a new Mother I am very aware of the negative social conditioning that is placed upon us. I am consciously choosing to stop the cycle of negativity. I am trying very hard to not use the word ‘No’. You don’t realise how much you say it! I am trying to raise my little girl so that she won’t need to go through the process of having to change a negative belief system that has been instilled upon her. Like you say there will be other people in her life that have a negative effect on her beliefs, though hopefully by being more aware of how I am parenting it will reduce these issues. I want her to be a free thinker, I want her to know that she can follow her dreams and her passions and her goals and I want those goals to be hers, not mine, not someone else’s.

  • Yes it can definately be a challenge to change your thinking after believing one thing for so long. That is why I am working on it every day. I work on surrounding myself with the environment I want, the people (even if it’s online), the music, the stuff I read and listen to.

    It all helps to align my thoughts in the direction I want to go in!


  • I don’t believe that simple positive affirmations are enough to make real meaningful change. Real change comes from a place of pain. If we truly want to better ourselves then we had better take a closer look at our pain.

    And that means facing our darker side.

    True change can only occur when we accept that we are not who we would like to be. That our lives are not what we had hoped they would be.

    Acceptance is the most important step on the path to personal growth. Without it, everything else is just meaningless.

    But acceptance brings pain. We need to face that pain, then embrace it. Our pain doesn’t have to just hold us back. If we let it, our pain can be the force that pushes us forward.


  • So true Will. Changing our thinking is the first step towards real and lasting change in our lives. Granted, we do have to change limiting beliefs to ones that move us in the right direction.

    A lot of hold-backs people carry with them is the belief they are somehow unworthy. If one feels unworthy it will be almost impossible to make personal changes.

    And yes, we also need to act and take action that align with our new definitions or beliefs about ourselves.

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