The idea that positive thinking can affect our lives for the better has been gaining momentum over the past 80 years, and even more so with the recent release of "The Secret," a book (and a movie) by Rhonda Byrne.
So does the concept work? I dare say it does - within reason.
Despite the nay-sayers, facts are facts: Magnetic Resonance Imaging has shown us that different thoughts have different waves and forms. But even without scientific evidence, if we walk up to someone in a bad mood we can usually sense it.
And we can sense when people are in good moods, too. On that simple observation alone, I think it's safe to say that our thoughts have an influence on our surroundings.
But can positive thoughts bring us positive results? I believe it can.
One powerful benefit of setting goals is that we create a mental picture of an expected end-result. Similarly, a technique in positive thinking is visualizing an expected end-result.
Here's why these methods work: When we put mental pictures of these expectations into our brains, the difference between expectation and reality nudges our minds to look for way to make those pictures part of our real life to reconcile the differences.
Pictures are powerful, because the human mind often thinks and communicates in pictures; words are simply codes that we agree on to communicate those pictures.
For example, if I say "think of a red car," it won't take long before an image of a red car pops into your mind. The car could by any make or model, but it will be red. By focusing on what you want (let's say a red car), you are giving your mind an image of an expected end-result.
Focusing on what you don't want is not helpful, because the mind has no picture for the word "don't." So if I say "don't think of a blue car," your mind still gets an image of a blue car. The problem? Our brains are always trying to reconcile the pictures we put there with external reality.
This is a key component of positive thinking focusing on what we want instead of what we don't want. It's hard to succeed if our mental images revolve around something negative, like "I don't want to get fired." First, people sense an uneasiness in us because all we're doing is trying to not get fired. Second, we will have a difficult time getting a sense of satisfaction from our work. Our thoughts are only "whew I made it through another day without being fired."
One alternative to a negative focus is to answer the question, "what do you want?" Do you want a promotion? Do you want to be placed in charge of a project? If you put those pictures in your head, others will sense that you are focused on moving toward something - and that is very different from sending out feelings of uneasiness or worry. You'll be transmitting a purposeful confidence that is forward-focused, and people are drawn to that.
And, because your mind will have a picture of what you want, it will look for ways to reconcile that picture with reality.
This is just a tip of the iceberg of what can be explored on the subject of positive thinking. Books such as "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie and "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill were both published in 1936, but are still staples in today's business world. If you've not read them, they're still quite applicable and I recommend them.
As far as newer books go, "The Secret" is something to consider. A lot of good things can be found in that book, but I also wave several large caution flags around some of what's taught within those pages.
In particular, I disagree with much of what Neal Donald Walsch has to say, but overall, the basic premise of the book is spot on you will get and become what you think about.
So my recommendation is evaluate both your thoughts and your conversations. Do you think and talk about what you want, or do you find yourself complaining about what you don't like? Remember there's no picture for "don't" so your mind will take whatever pictures you put there (even if you don't like them) and look for ways to reconcile those images with reality.
Getting past the hype of the universe being your personal shopping catalog with untold pleasures and riches at your command, I truly believe you will move in the direction of your focus. So the question is this: In which direction are your thoughts?