Using Mind Power to Alter Behavior

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I’ve never believed you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and research regarding cognitive behavior strategies certainly goes against that old adage. The fact is, your thoughts are extremely powerful, and making even slight shifts in thinking can significantly affect your behavior.

Most people come into situations with preconceived ideas of how things should be. We think “A” (events) cause “C” (reactions, consequences and feelings), when what really affects “C” is “B”: your thoughts and beliefs. What you perceive determines how you experience things, so when you move from certainty to curiosity, you’ll be looking from a different perspective, and thus open up yourself to new possibilities.

As a stepping-stone to making long-term behavioral changes, one exercise I ask clients to complete is replacing “I can’t” in their vocabularies to “I won’t” over a three-week period. It’s always amazing when they see how empowering that small change can be; they begin to realize how their beliefs might be limiting their behavior.

Another concept that’s important to grasp is that it only matters what you think; others’ perceptions are largely irrelevant when it comes to how you experience an event. This goes hand in hand with training yourself to stop tapping into expectations that are unrealistic and illogical. For instance, you don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be thoroughly liked and respected…and that’s just the start of the lengthy irrational beliefs list that can derail you from confidently achieving your goals.

Think about all the successful people you know. They’re not always the smartest or most talented—but they believe in themselves, and that alone can result in a competitive advantage no amount of schooling or experience can overcome. However, you can train your mind to be your finest asset by practicing cognitive behavioral strategies such as positive self-talk and reframing negative beliefs.

Journaling is an important part of that learning process, especially with respect to recording events that occur along with what you told yourself while things were unfolding—and then noting how you could have done it differently. As your ability to modify your thoughts becomes more intuitive, you’ll find yourself removing yourself from the role of victim and being back in control of your emotions.

Here are a few things to remember about the power of your mind:

  • Thoughts and beliefs influence your emotions, behavioral reactions, and ability to understand yourself and others.
  • Your perception is your reality.
  • Optimism and positive thinking are the greatest predictors of success.
  • Behavior is easier to change than feelings.

Reflect on this information the next time you don’t get something you want. Did you unknowingly derail your own success? What were you thinking throughout the process? And, of course, what can you do differently next time to result in a different outcome?

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