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First, make a plan

Have you ever been feeling down and had some one encourage you to, “think positive”?  If so, how has that worked for you?  

A client came to me who was frustrated that all her positive thinking, which she tried to focus on every day, was not working. She told me that no matter how much she tried to think positively, negative thoughts about her business would flood into her head and nothing was changing.  

She was a health practitioner who offered several methods of healing her clients. She was working out of three different locations, and charging different rates depending on the type of treatment and the location.  Sometimes she went to people’s houses.

She felt scattered, unfocused  — and was not making nearly the amount of money she thought she should be.

Every day she would practice thinking positive thoughts such as:

• My business gets better every week.

• More clients hear about me and book appointments.

• I am financially secure.

The problem was that none of it was coming true, and every time she used these affirmations, they felt completely phony to her.

The truth was that her negative thinking felt more real to her, because that is what she was experiencing with her business. Constantly, thoughts entered her head such as:

• This is not working.

• I will never have the business I want.

• I will never make enough money.

• I don’t know how to run a business.

I explained to her that positive thinking by itself is highly overrated as a miracle cure. Out of all the individuals I have coached, I have never seen it work by itself. Not only that, it will not stop negative thoughts from showing up.

You cannot control all of your thoughts; most of them will just arrive on their own.  So to believe that positive thinking will eliminate all the negative thoughts will never work.

It can be helpful to remind yourself to think positively, but you need to take action for it to really work. In my client’s situation, she was trying to use positive thinking as her primary way of making her business less stressful, more profitable and more organized. It was clear that without a real game plan and “next steps,” this magical thinking would do very little to change things for her.

Taking action

The strategy we took was to connect her positive thinking with positive actions. So each positive thought would involve a next step or a specific aspect of what she wanted to create.

First, I asked her to create a clear vision of what she wanted her business to be like.

Then I had her type that vision up, with details such as what her hours were going to be, where she was going to work, what types of clients she would have. I had her write up a one-year vision and a five-year vision because that would give her a workable road map for moving from where she is now to her ultimate goal.  

The one-year vision statement made the ultimate five-year vision seem manageable because it was a smaller stepping stone on the way.

Her new “positive thoughts” were ones such as:

• My business grows as I focus on my marketing plan.

• I am more organized as a result of streamlining my business.

We were working together every week, so we updated her next action steps regularly.  We made these steps feel totally doable, because small accomplishments on a weekly basis lead to big changes. And this gave her the feeling of being more in charge, gave her confidence in herself, and allowed her to see that those big changes were attainable.

Stay focused

As for her “thinking,” we agreed that there was no way that she was going to stop negative thoughts from coming into her head. I told her that having these thoughts was absolutely fine, as long as she did not give them energy.  Instead, I told her to simply keep her focus on her plan.

As she began to take action to change her business, and saw that  it was working, she noticed that the thoughts that came into her head started to reflect the positive changes that were going on.  So those old negative thoughts changed as a result of the positive changes she had made.

Focusing on positive thoughts based on an action plan is a great tool to make the changes you want. Do that, and the old negative thoughts will  take care of themselves.

Brooke Loening is a life coach in Sharon who works with individuals, and runs weekly coaching groups on achieving growth in career, health and relationships. To make column suggestions, e-mail him at bloening@snet.

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