Does it work? Positive thinking, I mean. We’ve
all read an article or book about it, heard stories from
other people – then we try “positive thinking,” and find it
doesn’t work very well at all. No matter how much we try to
make our mind think the proper thoughts, we still hit the
golf ball where elephants go to die, we still miss roping
steers, we still make bad grades on tests, and we still
can’t remember anybody’s name. A student of mine once told
me, “That stuff you talk about doesn’t work!”
“It doesn’t?” I answered.
“Heck no,” he said. “I sat in my room the other night
and said over and over – at least one hundred times – that I
would make a 100 on your test, but I only made a dang 40!”
“Did you study the material?” I asked him.
“No,” he said. “I didn’t have time. I was too busy
saying I was going to make a 100!”
And that’s the way most of us are. We read a book or
an article – usually only one – about the subject of
positive thinking, then we interpret what we think the
meaning and implementation is, and when we try it…we fail.
Therefore we conclude, “This stuff doesn’t work!”
Higher academics would certainly agree. Most
all those in ivory towers put little stock in the scientific
value of positive thinking. Without carefully conducted
research studies including random sampling, precise and
repeatable testing conditions, control groups and
statistical analysis, etc., few college professors would
give us the time of day no matter how loudly we might insist
there is truth in believing “positive thinking” is a
constructive and powerful force. “Positive thinking,” they
might well say, “is just pop psychology. Just a way for
charlatans to make money. There is no scientific proof that
the concept works.” Yet I know in my soul that once I began
to think differently so many years ago, my new way of
thinking was the very thing – and the primary thing – that
changed my life for the better. So who’s right? Here’s the
There’s a gift inside each of us. It is placed
there by the Divine – and here’s what the gift does…the
gift will do whatever you tell it to. The moral? Be
careful what you say to your self. When you are
talking to your self, choose your words carefully.
If I say to myself, “I’m just not good in math. My
parents weren’t and I’m not. Made all F’s last year on my
report card, and I made a 40 on my last test. It’s not my
opinion. I have documented proof I’m stupid in math.” If I
say all that to my self, chances are excellent I will not be
very skilled in mathematics.
If I say to myself, “I just can’t make putts inside
five feet. I’m not a good short game player,” then most
likely, I will not be.
If I say to myself, “I just cannot rope a steer when he
turns his head to the right. I don’t know why, but when
that happens, I miss that steer every time,” then we will do
exactly what we picture.
If you say, “I can remember everyone’s face, but no
one’s name,” then you will be terrible at remembering names.
(So could we not all agree that “negative thinking”
seems to really work well?)
But how do we make “positive thinking” work with equal
power? Well, what if we found a math tutor and confessed to
that person that we simply could not do – let’s say
fractions? And then made a commitment in our heart
that we will – WILL – learn how to do one fraction.
Then we learn three, then five, then ten, and eventually one
day our tutor informs us there is no need to come any more
because as she says, “Now you can do fractions!” The
gift will do whatever you tell it to.
What if we made 100 putts inside five feet every
day for thirty days? Sweat runs down us into all sorts of
uncomfortable places, we buy twelve boxes of band-aids, our
hands and back hurt like the devil, but every day for thirty
days, we make 100 putts inside five feet. At the end of
that time, we may not make all our short putts, but chances
are excellent we will make more than we once did.
What if we tilt the head of our roping dummy to the
right, and rope from that position 100 times a day for 120
days? I’m betting our catch rate goes up.
What if we stopped telling our self, “I’m
terrible with names,” and started saying, “I remember my
momma’s name! I remember all the people’s names I went to
school with. I might remember names better than I think I
can.” Psychologists say we remember about 1300 names on
average. What if we read articles about how to remember
names, or wrote down people’s names, and made a real effort
to improve in that area…instead of saying that we cannot?
Actually, it’s silly to say we can’t remember names. If we
really couldn’t, we could never get a driver’s license.
When the examiner says, “What’s your name?” would we say, “I
don’t know. I’m terrible with names?”
I told my wife recently, “I just can’t put a good stop
on a horse. That’s so odd, because I’ve always been able to
get one to really back up well. But for some reason, I just
can’t seem to help them stop the way they are supposed to
like some other people can.”
“I know why,” she said.
“Oh, really,” I said. “I wish you would tell me.”
“Because ever since I have ever known you,” she said,
“that’s all I have ever heard you say about your ability to
put a good stop on a horse…that you can’t do it.” As God is
my witness, I will never say that again. I will never say
“I can’t put a good stop on a horse.” That’s why I couldn’t
do it. I’ve been telling myself I couldn’t for thirty
years. The gift will do whatever you tell it to.
My student was right in a
way. Just repeating slogans and chanting mantras – just
“positive thinking” alone will not work. Wishing and hoping
have little value. But fixing your mind’s eye on your
heart’s desire – taking dead aim – and having faith that the
Lord did not short change us, and doing what is required
In 50 years of searching, I’ve found it’s the only
thing that does.