There are books, audio programs, and videos that literally change our lives. They come to us at the moment when we need a bit of insight, inspiration, or clarity and their message resonates in a way that makes us different.

Hearing Earl Nightingale’s program The Strangest Secret was such a time for me because that is when I learned why it matters to consciously control what we think about.

Earl Nightingale Quote-Monterey Tree

Let’s be honest…we all talk to ourselves, and whether we realize it or not, what we say has a lot of power over our actions.

If you’ve ever told yourself that you wouldn’t get the promotion you wanted, or that you may not deserve the corner office that everyone has their eye on (or any number of things we mislead ourselves about on a regular basis), you very easily could have talked yourself out of something you earned or deserved.

That’s the power of negative self talk.

The secret that Earl Nightingale shared was simple and profound: We become what we think about.

Thus, if you believe you can’t do something, you will prove yourself right.

And if you believe you can do something, you will find a way to make it happen.

It sounds simple in theory, but it is not an easy thing to do. But it’s the first step in effectively leading yourself and that is an essential skill for leading others.

So how do you go about establishing and maintaining a mental perspective that serves you and supports the outcomes you desire?

1. Recognize your thought patterns. Become aware of the thoughts that you are allowing to occupy your mind. What kind of outcomes do you see? Positive, or negative? Do you focus on the prospective buyer who doesn’t purchase your product, or the buyer who purchases more than you dreamed? Do you grind on how you are going to earn more, or are you thinking about new revenue sources?

The point: You control your thinking. Thoughts may creep into your mind without you realizing it, but you have the ability to “change the channel” and think about it differently. Start by taking note of the two negative things that you thought about during the day and working to change the channel to something more positive.

2. Notice what you think about. It sounds too simple, but it’s true. Consider your dominant thoughts every day. Do they lead you toward the success that you want, or are they reinforcing bad messages that have been programmed into your mind over time? These are what we call “lack” thoughts. Lack thinking is something we are raised with—money is the root of all evil, nice guys finish last, the rich are different. Lack thoughts are dangerous.

The point: Be cautious of the way these regular lack messages impact your thinking, because they will ultimately define your beliefs. Start today by learning to recognize these lack messages and to replace them with messages that support your achieving the things you want to achieve.

3. Examine the information you are putting into our mind. This is a tough one. It requires us to pay much closer attention to things like TV, radio, and the day-to-day conversations than we are used to. Think about it…gossip, put-down humor, obnoxious drive-time radio…all of it mounts up in your mind and focuses your thinking on the same types of things. Negative things.

The point: Many of the underlying messages you hear program your subconscious to expect negative outcomes. In the next 48 hours, note the number of positive things you hear as you walk through life. Now, make a personal commitment to double it within the next week.

Your First Step: Learning to be attentive to things that are going into your mind takes both time and effort. Find something positive that you can read for a few minutes first thing each morning and at the end of each day right before you go to sleep. Purchase a small pocket-size note pad and carry it with you for a few days, taking time to note the negative things that you are exposed to and where they come from. Be honest with yourself and spend some time thinking about the negative things you say to yourself. Make a commitment to remove the sources of these negatives and increase the flow of positive messages and leverage the reality that we become what we think about.