When working with my executive coaching and training clients we often explore how what they think affects how they behave. How, for example, their self-confidence stems from the thoughts that they have about themselves and how that affects their behaviour.
How we think affects how we behave. Our thoughts, our brain, drives what we do, what we say and how we say it. If we believe that we are not confident or we have doubts about our own ability, then we will act in a way that is not confident. We might talk quietly, mumble a bit, avoid eye contact and stand or sit with shoulders hunched.
Let’s say you were to act like this when going for a job interview, the interviewer would get the impression that you lack confidence and may not give you the job. This in turn would reinforce your thoughts about your ability. Such is the power of our beliefs and somehow we have to interrupt that thought/behaviour cycle.
Of course not all of our beliefs are negative. We can have positive thoughts and we can have negative thoughts. Positive thoughts help us and negative thoughts hinder us. If I think I’m going to succeed, I have a greater chance of succeeding than if I think that I’m going to fail, because if I think that I’m going to fail, I probably will live up to my expectation.
This has been very much reinforced to me recently through some of my experiences. I wrote a blog back in the summer about my experience of having Transverse Myelitis. This rare condition has some similarities with the more commonly known condition of Multiple Sclerosis and I get access to support from our local MS Therapy Centre. There I attend a weekly physiotherapist lead exercise class where we work on our balance, core strength and our flexibility to cope with some of the challenges that we have.
I give one of the members of the class, Susan, a lift home every week which has given me a chance to get to know her. I have been really intrigued to learn Susan’s story because she used to be in a wheelchair and now she is walking almost as well as I am, with just a slight wobble every so often.
I can see that she is a very determined person; she has been going to the therapy centre for many years and does three or four exercise classes a week.
A few years ago she had a very bad episode of MS which left her in a wheelchair. She was told by the consultant that she would never walk again and yet here she is walking almost as well as you or me. From the outside you wouldn’t see much difference. I just know that it is harder for her to walk than somebody that hasn’t got her condition.
When I was exploring this with Susan I asked her what her reaction had been when she was told that she wouldn’t walk again. She is a very feisty character and her reaction was “Who are you to tell me what my future is going to be like and what I’m going to be able to do?”
Her choice was that she was going to be able to walk again and therefore she has found a way to do that. By deciding that she would be able to walk again and believing that it was possible, Susan then put in the effort to make it happen. Who knows what her body would have done if she had just accepted what her consultant had told her? Her body may have recovered but would she have tried to walk if she had been told that she would not be able to do so?
Susan is an amazing example of how the thoughts that we choose affect our success and what we achieve. If Susan can change her life by choosing positive and helpful thoughts, so can you.