Everyone searches for #success. Whether it’s success in love, competition or business, all want the best in life. A majority of the world population would argue that success is decided by how rich your family name is. While being born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth can provide a means to success, history shows us that it is in no way a guarantee.
Charles Adams isn’t a name many recognize. His father and brother, John and John Quincy Adams, however, are household names. It is a tale of two brothers, each starting out with the same father, the same opportunities. One became president of the US, following in his father’s footsteps, while the other was nearly kicked out of Harvard for drunkenness and public nudity, ran shady land-speculation schemes and became a man his own father called “a madman possessed by the devil.”
How does it happen that people of equal opportunity can have such uneven outcomes in life?
I believe it stems from the questions we ask ourselves consciously and subconsciously every day.
Our minds are constantly processing information like a computer that is programmed to assume certain truths. We can program it in any number of ways depending on what we focus on. We’ve all seen the optical illusions. One of the most famous ones allows you to shift your focus to see either the silhouettes of two people looking at one another or a white vase. Your focus has created the world around you and altered the reality in front of you.
I’ve had the opportunity over my career to speak with and interview a number of highly successful people. They all appear to have one major thing in common- they have programmed their human computer to ask what I call “positive presuppose questions” across all aspects of their lives- spiritually, physically and financially. These positive questions result in positive thinking, actions, behaviors and, ultimately, results.
We pose questions to ourselves every day of our lives. What will I do today, what will be great today, what can I complete today, what will I hate today, who will bother me today… When we ask these questions, some of us think in positive presuppose questions, while others think in negative presuppose questions. Naturally, those who think in negative questions will receive negative answers and vice versa.
How can you tell which way you think?
A positive presuppose question would be, “What can I learn today?”
This question is open to new experiences and assumes that the world is in front of you for the taking. It sees the changeability of the world and the influence that you can have on it. It is self-reliant and encourages you to take responsibility for your own actions.
A negative presuppose question would be, “What don’t I like about my job?”
A question like this seems innocent enough, but the answer will always be something negative. It assumes that the world is fixed and offers no plan of action. It inadvertently blames some other person or situation for your dislikes instead of seeking ways to make it better.
With either question the answers snowball into a series of “what else” questions. One creates a rolling ball of action, while the other creates an overwhelming ball of negativity and self-pity. They focus your day to either see things as hopeless, or to see the enormous potential in each day.
The same goes for all aspects of your life. You can ask yourself, “How can I be a better father?” or you can ask yourself, “Why can’t my kids listen to me?” One seeks answers within yourself, while the other blames the children for your difficulties.
And that is one of the big problems with negativity: you are usually playing the victim. Negative presuppose questions with negative answers blame the world around you and the people around you for your difficulties rather than putting solutions to problems in your own hands.
We each get one opportunity to make life great. Sure, we all have ups and downs, but the overall best life is one that focuses on the positives in life and what we can do rather than who or what to blame for our difficulties.
So the challenge becomes to reprogram the negative presuppose questions into positive ones. Once the reprogramming is complete, your human computer will automatically think positively without a challenge. Positivity will become part of who you are.
“Friends are like elevator buttons, they either take you up or they take you down.”
Part of the equation for positivity is surrounding yourself with the right people. The Nebraska Cornhuskers long-time coach Tom Osborne once said, “Friends are like elevator buttons, they either take you up or they take you down.” We all know what it is like to have a negative person suck the life out of a room in a way that you hear the “wah, wah, wah” of a sad trumpet the minute they walk into a party. We’ve all met that officemate who complains all day long and eventually makes you start to question things as well. Surrounding yourself with people focused on negativity will only breed more of it.
Just like any learned behavior, it takes effort and repetition to reprogram your brain. Remember when you learned to read? Exactly. We all struggled through Kindergarten to learn the letters, their sounds and place them in logical order to make and read words. But how many of us remember the struggle every time we see words? It is because we programmed our minds to do this action automatically.
The repetitions for being positive may feel like an effort at first if you have been living with negative presuppose questions for years. Do your best to write down 5 or 6 positive presuppose questions before you go to sleep and leave them near your bed. Review them when you wake up and use them to focus
your plan for the day.
Each day, it will get easier to find new positive presuppose questions as your mind adjusts to the concept. By the time you reach your 90th day, you’ll find that it is automatic to wake up and wonder how you can make your day and your life better.
With this newfound goal in mind, you’ll find yourself chasing opportunities you never thought possible.
This is the closest to a secret to success you will get because the real secret is to never stop trying and work hard everyday. Only by being proactive and earnestly improving yourself can you hope to succeed.