The Power of Your Thoughts

If people can take away one message from my happiness workshop, it is this: What we focus on expands. This is a cool concept, and one we can use to our greatest advantage—or unwittingly to our disadvantage.

Everything that happens in our lives begins with a thought. We are actually creators of our experiences, in many ways. As you go about your day, ask yourself: “What am I focusing on?” Are you thinking about what is going wrong in your life, or are you focused on what you appreciate about it? Are you excited and looking forward to what’s going to happen today?

Woman standing on the beach with the sun shining behind her

I’ve been studying happiness for years now, and I even catch myself giving attention to negative things, or thinking negative thoughts. I might be thinking about a problem, or feeling overwhelmed by everything on my plate. Does that ever happen to you? It is at those times that it’s helpful for us to stop, realize we’re focusing on the wrong things, and re-focus our attention.

In her book Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting, Lynn Grabhorn encourages us to think about what we want—not what we don’t want. She writes, “Focus on what we want, and it will come if we don’t sabotage it. Focus on what we don’t want, and it comes too, usually with more of a wallop to it than it had to begin with!”

"What do I want instead?"

However, if you can stop and re-direct your thoughts, the day can take a different turn. One of the easiest ways to do this is to think about what you appreciate about your day. Ask yourself, “What went right today? What can I be grateful for?” It might be the sun shining, or your spouse’s morning kiss, or your co-workers greeting you. Also, when you realize that something is going wrong, ask yourself, “What do I want instead?”

This is a simple way to remember how to think more positively. When we are thinking about what we want, and feel good about it, we start moving in the direction of it. And then all kinds of good things can happen. The right people, circumstances, and things seem to just show up and pave the way. In fact, this happened to me a few years after my divorce.

I had moved out of my beautiful home and was starting over again in a duplex I rented. Downsizing is never easy, but I was working on making a new life for myself and my kids. After three years in the duplex, I began wishing that I could own a home again. Although the duplex provided a nice atmosphere, it had drafty windows and cost a lot to heat, and of course, it wasn’t mine. So it felt “temporary.” I wanted the pleasure of having my own place again and making it “mine.” That dream seemed far off since I was still paying on lawyer bills from the divorce.

Then I took a flight to Texas on business, and as was my usual habit, I took an inspirational book to read on the plane. In this particular book, Wayne Dyer was talking about the power of our thoughts and what we believe. As I read his message, a very clear and powerful thought occurred to me regarding buying a home. The thought was: “I did it before, I can do it again.” In that instant, I knew—without a doubt—that I would buy a house again. In that instant, I also had a very good feeling—that stayed with me.

"I did it before, I can do it again."

After my return flight, my friend picked me up from the airport. I told her my revelation, and said it out loud, “I did it before, I can do it again.” Of course, in the back of my mind I knew it would take time to save up the money, maybe 3 to 5 years.

When I got home, I was inspired, and so I decided to look at homes in my area so I could figure out how much I would need to save for a down payment. I chose two houses to look at, and I took my kids with me, saying to them, “Remember, we’re just looking for fun. We can’t get a house for a few years.”

The second house I looked at was perfect. It had everything I wanted, and a price tag to match. But I was excited, because now I could see what I wanted. The next day, I mentioned to my dad that I had looked at a house. Little did I know, that at this time my father had been talking with his second wife (who had children of her own), and they had decided that instead of waiting until they passed away to share their inheritance with their children, they would share some of it now so they would be around to enjoy it. So my dad told me that he was going to help me with the down payment on the house.

Before I knew it, everything was in motion. I put an offer on the house that was accepted, and the inspection went smoothly. And then, as if by magic, the day before I closed on the loan, interest rates dropped. It seemed that all the right people, circumstances, and opportunities were just falling into place. And just two and a half months after I had experienced that powerful thought and feeling, I closed on my new house and moved in.

This type of thing happens all the time. Can you remember a time that a positive thought—maybe it was just an inkling—led to something wonderful happening in your life? This is the power we have when we focus on what we want.