Think Positive. It’s such simple advice with such a powerful result; a little bit of white magic we can employ in our daily lives. What does it really mean though? It’s an easy platitude to throw around. If you’ve ever parted the pages of a self help book, you’ve seen some system for putting this to work. I would say that it’s a cornerstone concept for any discussion on achievement and success. However, it runs deeper than those pages describe – the kind of depth that only comes from practice. For a martial artist, it comes from the practice they do every day on the mat.
No matter what, thinking positive leads to success. It’s an odd thing that we get seduced into thinking negatively but we do. Whenever we think about something, we have a choice. The devil sits on one shoulder with his wry smile, whispering the negative in our ear, waiting for us to agree so he can poke us with that damn pitchfork. Glowing in all white with her halo, sitting on the other shoulder and whispering softly is the angel encouraging positive thoughts. What is it about that devil that makes him so easy to follow, so seductive? It is easier to slide down than to climb up.
How can you ignore those seductive negative thoughts? You don’t have to. Simply replace them with positive thoughts. Our minds are only capable of holding one conscious thought at a time. By choosing the positive thought the negative is pushed out. If we discipline ourselves to recognize the negative thoughts then replace them with the positive, we can take control and use positive thinking to our benefit.
For a martial artist they are faced with belt tests often. The thought of failure may enter their minds. That thought may be reinforced by a bad day in the dojo. However, the positive work they do to perfect their technique soon replaces their negative thinking. If they didn’t replace the negative thinking with positive thought, the negative thinking would manifest as failure come test time. The thought of failure will follow them to the test. How can anyone successfully execute a technique when their mind is distracted by the expectation of failure?
This works the same for a job interview. Negative thinking distracts us from preparing the way we need to. It distracts us at the interview from conducting ourselves with confidence.
Martial artist become experts at blending and harmonizing with other people. In arts like Judo, Ju-Jitsu and Aikido, practitioners learn to move with the energy of their attacker. Additionally, kick boxers and MMA fighters and anyone else who spars or fights in the ring, learns not only to recognize someone’s rhythm but to establish a rhythm that will be followed by others. They know that their opponent will subconsciously follow their lead. It is in this same way that other people harmonize with our thoughts.
Even if you think you’re hiding negative thoughts from the rest of the world you’re not. They are like a note ringing out and other people will start to harmonize. Those thoughts are felt by the people around you. They’re either going to join you in the negative thinking or avoid you so they don’t get sucked in. Positive thoughts are just as contagious and not something people avoid. What a powerful thing to be aware of. Now you can block out other people’s negativity and not be unknowingly influenced, while at the same time promoting positive thoughts. This is part of what martial artist mean by awareness.
It is a simple fact that we create what we think. This can be seen in the negative stories we build to explain other peoples actions. Imagine this scenario:
You suspect that your friend is talking about you behind your back because you saw them whispering to someone then they didn’t return your call. You mention it to another friend. Now that persons talks to someone else and so on, until it gets back to the person that was whispering. Now guess what everyone is talking about… you. Especially when they find out the whispering had nothing to do with you and they couldn’t return the call because they had gotten so busy at work.
The fear actually manifested itself. This is such a dangerous consequence of negative thinking. What if this is a husband suspecting his wife of cheating or a boss suspecting an employee of stealing? It is precisely why, in a court of law, circumstantial evidence is not allowed. Now, start building positive stories to explain people’s actions. Those positive thoughts have just the same power to create. Why not then attract love, friendship and anything else you want?
Now let’s boil this down to a specific moment and we can really see the impact. This is how martial artist take advantage of positive thinking every day:
Once during a sparring match I heard the coach say to a fighter, “Stop dropping your right hand after you throw your cross.” The fighter, however, continued dropping their right hand. Both coach and fighter grew frustrated and the fighter continued to get hit. After throwing the cross, the fighter thought, don’t drop my right hand. What exactly are they thinking? What’s in their head? Don’t drop my right. Even though the word don’t is in the statement the instruction in the fighter’s head is, drop my right. So, guess what they continued to do. Now, take that negative instruction and replace it with a positive one. The fighter throws the cross and thinks, keep my right hand up. They can work with that. They’re telling themselves exactly what to do in the positive. The instruction in their head is the information they need to execute the task properly.
Now in this same example, let’s look at the coach’s instruction, “Stop dropping your right hand after you throw your cross.” The coach’s negative framing was contagious. It put the negative phrase in the fighter’s head. What if he yelled? “Keep your right up after you throw the cross.” Now the instruction is framed in the positive and it enters the fighter’s mind as the exact positive instruction they need. This is a good example of how thinking is contagious.
Think about this next time you’re teaching. Frame in the positive. When we, as instructors, teach a technique, we’re careful to say things like, “Step in with your right foot,” vs. “Make sure you don’t step back.” If you can program yourself to recognize phrases like, “make sure you don’t,” and avoid them that will help you framing in the positive. Now, I find with teaching that it can be necessary to point out what someone is doing wrong, for the sake of clarity, but you must end with the positive instruction. The key is to be aware of how you’re communicating so you start the chain of thought off in the positive.
Start to think about framing your thoughts and instructions in the positive. It doesn’t matter whether you’re teaching someone or speculating about a scenario, the way you think about it is the way it will happen. It also helps to remember two wrongs don’t make a right so words like, “don’t,” don’t count. “Don’t drop you right,” is the same in your mind as “drop you right.” Take control of the way you think and watch positive thinking work for you.