Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



      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 answer…
     There’s a gift inside each of usIt is placed there by the Divineand 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 does work. 
     In 50 years of searching, I’ve found it’s the only thing that does.

          Michael Johnson


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