This is the first post in a series reflecting on the book The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. I finished reading chapter 1 and would like to share a summary of the chapter and some personal reflections. If you are reading along, I’d love to engage in some conversation in the comments. Share how the concepts you read in chapter 1 connect to your personal life.
The Take Away? BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Summary of Chapter 1:
You are often going to be faced with struggles, some may be small and some may be extremely big and potentially rock you to the core. You do not need to let these struggles defeat you. Peale says, “the greatest secret for eliminating deep and profound self-doubt is to fill your mind to overflowing with faith.” Peale believes in the power of prayer and that the bigger your problem, the bigger your prayer should be. I faced a challenging medical diagnosis 6 months ago and I fully leaned into the power of prayer. What struggle have you faced recently, big or small, that made you stop and pray?
There are times when a positive mindset is challenged and you may fall into a pattern of thought that is negative. You may slip into a mindset that includes a nagging fear that something is not going to be quite right, or as Peale says, “the tendency to create, by the power of thought, the very condition we fear.” Maybe you are facing a medical challenge and you begin thinking that life is now over, there is no point going through difficult treatments and thus you end up neglecting the underlying disease. Maybe you have lost trust in a relationship, assume your partner is cheating, and unknowingly begin to pull away from them.
If your patterns of thought are generally negative, there is no doubt that you WILL think many negative thoughts throughout the day. Peale says that when you think negatively, “you are mistrusting your ability to meet responsibilities or to grasp opportunities” because you are giving negative thoughts power over reality. He recommends taking a piece of paper and making a list, not of the factors that are against you, but of those that are for you. Peale says, “if you think constantly of the forces that seem to be against us, we will build them up into a power far beyond that which is justified.” Recognizing assets and facts will activate your inner powers and you will rise above challenges.
Personal Application- big and small:
Big Challenge: I am part of an online community of people who are struggling through diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment survivorship with Ocular Melanoma. There is no doubt that we are challenged by this rare disease. Statistics show that 50% of Ocular Melanoma tumors will metastasize, it typically travels to the liver first and often shows up 3 to 5 years after treatment. I can walk through every day thinking that there is a good chance I could get metastatic cancer and die, or I walk through my days, recognizing the FACTS, acknowledging my ASSETS, and rising above my challenges. The facts: my tumor was caught early, my pre-treatment PET/CT scans were clear of any cancer, my tumor was treated, my tumor is already shrinking, my 6 months CT scans were clear of cancer, and my vision reasonably good. Some of my many assets: a husband who is loving me through my journey, supportive kids and family, a rock star doctor who kicked cancers ass, medical tests that can detect cancer early, friends and coworkers that check in on me, an online support group, a job, a home, hobbies, a God who has my back, and my eyeball that still has vision. Based on the facts and my assets, it would be unreasonable to assume that I am going to get metastatic cancer and die. It would be unreasonable to live every day giving something that might not even happen power over my life and live in fear. Rather, I am choosing to practice CONFIDENCE, BELIEVING IN MYSELF, and having FAITH that any fears and insecurities will have no power over me.
Small Challenge: Recently, I came home from work really moody because I had to wait an extra thirty minutes when picking my daughter up from her extracurricular activity. It was already 7:00 p.m., everyone was waiting on us for dinner, and in my mind, I was frustrated because I was already stressed about the 100 things on my to-do list to get the girls ready for their first day of school the next morning. I thought the world was ending because I wasted thirty minutes of my life. I was definitely caught up in a negative thought pattern and there was no chance I would be cracking a smile anytime soon. Rather than spending my thirty minutes annoyed, if I had just paused and re-evaluated the situation with reasonableness I would have recognized the fact that I could not change the situation, I was stuck no matter what, and my daughter needed to get fitted for her uniform in order for it to fit properly. Had I acknowledged the facts right away, reevaluated, and viewed the thirty-minute delay with a new lens I probably would have snapped out of my funk. I needed to recognize that I GOT to wait 30 minutes for my daughter, I GOT uninterrupted time that I could take advantage of to complete a few tasks, and my daughter will get a uniform that fits properly.
Practical Strategies to try this week.
The best thing you can do after reading something to improve personal development is to commit to applying it to your life right away. In chapter 1, Peale gave 10 strategies or rules to help you build up confidence and believe in yourself. Below are three strategies that piggyback off a few from his list.
Think of one thing that you have already struggled with today. Did you immediately get discouraged, angry, or annoyed? Was that discouragement justified by actual facts? What if you re-evaluate that moment with an attitude of reasonableness? You will likely find that you are less defeated than you think you are.
Peale recommends that ten times a day you repeat Romans 8:31 “If God be for us, who can be against us?” and Phillipians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”. If you want to take faith out of this strategy… Is there another mantra or phrase that is powerful that you could use instead?
Write a personal mission statement. As Peale says, “make a true estimate of your own ability, then raise it 10 percent. Do not become egotistical, but develop a wholesome self-respect. Believe in your own God-release powers.
“They conquer who believe they can...do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.