Read the prelude to the Laws of Wellness: The Four Dimensions of Wellness
Read the previous laws of wellness:
Make Thought Your Powerful Ally is the Third Law of Wellness. This law is rooted in the psychological dimension, but it can have enormous impacts on every dimension of your life.
It has long been known that how we think of the world and ourselves can profoundly affect our relationships with others, our success, and our happiness. But recently, science has shown that our thoughts and attitudes can also affect our physical health. For example, a recent study right here in California showed that people who think of themselves as happy have a decreased incidence of heart disease and lower mortality.
In recognition of the power of thoughts and emotions, a new branch of psychology called “Positive Psychology” has emerged. But some key aspects of positive psychology have been with us for centuries. For example, the Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who lived in the second century, wrote the following:
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
In other words, our way of thinking about the world is what causes us distress, not the world itself. This is a profound statement, well worth contemplating. I’m not going to say that things out there in the world don’t cause some problems themselves. But Marcus Aurelius is at least partly right—our way of thinking about a situation can make a huge difference in how it affects us and how we handle it.
To a large extent, our thoughts create our reality. And those thoughts can be our most powerful ally, or our worst enemy. They can foster problems in many areas of our lives, or they can promote wellness in all four dimensions.
I’ve known more than one patient who sees a diagnosis of cancer or serious heart trouble as a death sentence. I’ve known others who see such a diagnosis as a reason to learn about the ailment, change their diet, renew bonds with friends and family, and move forward determined to beat the disease. The reality for these two groups is very different. And often the outcomes are also very different, due to the healing power of positive thoughts.
The attitude with which we approach life determines much of what is possible for us. That attitude depends on our core beliefs—basic beliefs about what makes life most worth living, what kind of person we are, and whether the world is for us or against us. These core beliefs help determine our other beliefs, our behavior, our success, and our overall happiness. This is summed up nicely in the saying, “Our thoughts and beliefs are reflected in our words, our words are transformed into our actions, our actions grow into our habits, and our habits determine our destiny.”
The most important aspect of our view of reality is how we think of ourselves—our self-image. This core belief may affect our lives more powerfully than any other. It is the frame through which we see reality. The world reflects back to us how we see ourselves. If we see ourselves as weak, bad, or unable to fulfill our dreams, the world will respond accordingly. If we see ourselves as strong, good, and capable, here too the world will respond accordingly.
Another important core belief is how we think of life as a whole. When problems and troubles occur, some people think life is being unfair to them. They moan about the situation and express their disappointment by telling Poor Me stories. They see the glass of life as half empty. For others, instead of focusing on what is wrong, they focus on what is right. They see the glass as half full.
A related belief is whether you think life is against you, or for you. Those who think life is against them tend to believe that they will never be successful because the dice of life are “loaded” unfavorably. Those who think life is for them tend to believe that they have the power to fulfill their dreams. It isn’t surprising that people in the latter group are apt to be more successful than those in the former group. Their beliefs are like a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Henry Ford said, for whatever you are doing, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re usually right.”
The Law of Attraction
The Law of Attraction takes the self-fulfilling prophecy idea one step further. This principle states that people tend to receive what they think most about. If we constantly worry about failure, failure is more likely to happen. If we constantly focus on being a success, success will be almost assured.
Within limits, I believe there is a lot of truth in the Law of Attraction. For example, suppose you have a job interview. If you go in focused on the many ways you could fail the interview, you are more likely to be nervous and frightened and to do poorly. But if you go in confident and convinced that you will impress the interviewer favorably, you are more likely to do that very thing and get the job.
Or suppose your dream is to become a doctor. If you believe you wouldn’t be able to succeed in medical school, then you probably won’t even try to fulfill your dream. But if you make up your mind that the world will give you what you want if you just work hard for it, then there is a very good chance that you will become the doctor you want to be.
The Law of Attraction has been around for a century or more. Some people explain why it works by saying that when you believe it, Reality changes to accommodate you. That’s probably true sometimes. But I also think that belief in the Law of Attraction can make you change to accommodate Reality. Whichever way you explain it—or a combination of both—the Law of Attraction works. Of course, it’s not perfect. And you can’t just sprawl in your easy chair, thinking and saying over and over, “I’m going to become a millionaire!” or “I’m going to be a doctor!” You have to work hard at whatever you want to accomplish. But generating a strong belief that life will give you what you ask is a powerful strategy for success.
There is much more to say about making thought your powerful ally, but it will have to wait until a more detailed book (which is in the works). Just remember for now that we always have a choice about our attitude toward life, and we tend to bring about what we think. If we think the world is against us and see what happens in our lives in a negative way, we’ll make trouble for ourselves.
Negativity also tends to hide the larger picture. And there always is a larger picture. I recently found this great saying on the Internet, author unknown: “Sometimes I go about pitying myself, when all the while I am being carried by Great Winds across the sky.”
Put away negativity and Make Thought Your Powerful Ally. Remember, thinking the world is on your side helps put it there and fosters wellness in all four dimensions.