Personal Development: The Secret of Success


Personal Development: Matthew Cossolotto takes a look at profound truths to help you find the No Failure Zone.

There is great wisdom in this ancient Chinese proverb: Sow a thought, reap an action; Sow an action, reap a habit; Sow a habit, reap a character; Sow a character, reap a destiny.

To streamline the logic, you could shorten the steps and say that your thoughts determine your destiny. It all starts with your thoughts. Earl Nightingale, the great personal development author, radio personality and speaker, understood this fundamental fact. In 1956, he made a recording called The Strangest Secret in the World. In this recording, Nightingale reveals that the strangest secret is ‘we become what we think about’. He stated quite clearly that this single sentence, this secret, was the key to success, and the key to failure.

This profound truth has been recognized through the ages. Buddha said: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” The same idea can be found in the Bible. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

James Allen, author of As A Man Thinketh, believed: “All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts.” And Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

Great teachers through the ages understood the incredible power of our own thoughts to shape our destiny. We reap in the world what we first sow in our minds. Always remember: the most powerful motivational (or de-motivational) speech in the world is what you say, habitually, to yourself.

So monitor your thoughts. Keep track of what you say to yourself. Be careful what you spend your time thinking about. Your dominant, habitual thoughts will determine what you achieve – or fail to achieve. What you think is what you get.

Mind the GAP In my Harness Your HabitForce! workshops, I ask for a show of hands: how many people have the vague suspicion that they’re falling short of their potential? Almost every hand goes up. Why is that? Why is it that so many people – probably most – go through life with the feeling that they are falling short of their potential? Are you one of them?

The GAP I’m referring to here is the distance between your performance and your potential. Most people know they’re capable of achieving X – way up here somewhere – but for some unknown reason they’re performing at the Y level – way down here, far below what they feel they are capable of achieving.

There’s this obvious, and often painful, GAP between actual performance and self- assessed potential. One of the main reasons for this article – and for my personal empowerment programs and books more generally – is to help people close that gap and reach their full potential.

Why does this matter? I believe personal empowerment is, first and foremost, about personal fulfilment, even happiness. John F. Kennedy was fond of saying: “The ancient Greek definition of happiness was the full use of your powers along lines of excellence.” In this sense, I would say reprogramming your HabitForce so it works for you is key to making the full use of your powers along lines of excellence. And doing so opens up a brave new world of accomplishment, fulfilment and happiness.

In the film A Bronx Tale, Calogero Anello says: “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” Touching on the same theme, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.”

If you go through life holding back, falling short of your potential, feeling frustrated and trapped, by definition you’re not making the full use of your powers. As a result, I believe your personal power and your happiness are diminished. In this situation, examining your habits of mind is essential.

I think that’s what Henry David Thoreau was talking about when he said: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Success is an inside job Most successful people seem to have been lucky enough to develop a collection of success-oriented habits of mind. I refer to this collection of habits as your HabitForce, which functions like a software program or personal operating system. Programmed from childhood, your HabitForce software can either work for you or against you.

This quote – attributed to theologian Nathanael Emmons – sums up the situation nicely: “Habit is either the best of servants, or the worst of masters.”

Sadly, disempowered people have been saddled with self-defeating mental habits and counterproductive mindsets. If you sense that you might be one of those people – and we all are to some degree – knowing about this gap and the role played by your mental HabitForce will go a long way toward helping you take charge of your HabitForce so it works for you, not against you.

SNAP out of it! The good news is, you can reprogram your HabitForce. In my Personal Empowerment Programs (PEPTalks), I often pass out rubber bands for all participants to wear on their wrists – during my talk and long after. With only slight exaggeration, I tell audiences that the humble rubber band just might be the most powerful goal achievement and personal change tool ever devised in human history.

A simple rubber band, used properly, serves three important purposes: First, wearing a rubber band on your wrist offers a constant reminder of a goal or promise that you’ve made. Suppose you decided to lose some weight, stop smoking or drinking, or exercise more often. Maybe you set a goal or made a promise to run two miles, three days a week. You can use the rubber band on your wrist as an ever- present, gentle reminder of that goal or promise.

Second, in its relaxed state, the limp rubber band serves as a helpful metaphor for your HabitForce. The limp rubber band represents how we feel with our accumulated storehouse of existing habits. We are at ease with our current set of habits, whether they serve our higher purpose or not. This is your comfort zone, your personal operating system.

If you try to make changes in your life, your HabitForce stretches like a rubber band and, far too often, simply snaps back to its previous, stress-free state. The limp band on your wrist reminds you of the dangers of snapping back to your already programmed set of thought habits. This article will help readers reach goals and keep promises by avoiding snapping back to their previous comfort zone. Harnessing your HabitForce means preventing that snap-back phenomenon.

Third, the rubber band can be used to reprogram your HabitForce and reboot your personal operating system by helping you snap out of it. What do I mean by that? Simple. HabitForce is such a powerful influence on our lives because it operates largely below the level of conscious awareness. HabitForce runs on autopilot. It’s who we are without having to think about it.

We’re comfortable with habits that have been programmed over a lifetime. That’s why personal change is so difficult. The change process is often sabotaged by our internal dialogue – that nagging self-talk that too often dissuades us from making desired changes. It’s the habitually negative inner voice that undermines our efforts to change our lives for the better.

I encourage you to use the rubber band to snap out of it – by giving yourself a SNAP of the rubber band whenever you become aware of any negative, disempowering or undermining thoughts.

This simple exercise will help you become aware of what that negative little
voice is saying to you. Over time, the mere act of becoming aware of negative thoughts – and giving yourself a hearty SNAP every time – will condition your subconscious mind to avoid those disempowering thoughts and to replace them with positive, empowering thoughts. Think of the SNAP as a kind of no-voltage shock therapy.

To make positive changes in your life, the first step is to stop the flow of negative thoughts that flood your mind and keep you from making desired changes and reaching your potential. Personal awareness is key to personal change. Once you’re aware of the gap between your performance and your potential, you can use a rubber band to SNAP out of it, to close the GAP, and reprogram your HabitForce so it works for you, not against you.

As the Chinese proverb says: “Sow a thought.” If it’s a positive thought, you’ll reap a promising destiny and you’ll succeed in making your life a No Failure Zone.

Matthew Cossolotto is a former NATO speechwriter. Author of several self-help books. He conducts public speaking workshops and other Personal Empowerment programs in Brussels and beyond.,

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