self-defeating beliefs

Now, I’m not saying, “Fly without a license” or “Break any laws that you don’t make yourself.” I’m simply saying that when you grant other people undue influence over what you think and do, you give up accountability for your own life. Somebody tells you, “Okay, you’re ready now,” and you say, “I am? Oh, thank you. I wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t told me.” But you do know. You just won’t let yourself believe it.

It’s like the placebo effect. The power isn’t in the pill, it’s in your acceptance of the doctor’s affirmations that “This pill will get you well.” It’s the belief that makes you well. But belief can also make you sick. It’s a matter of what you tell yourself for what someone else tells you that you believe.

Throughout your life, people will give you negative placebos that will make you feel sick. They may tell you, “Ain’t it awful?” and “There’s no hope” and “You can’t get that job” and “It’s a waste of time.” Beware, because your subconscious can’t distinguish between positive or negative placebos, happy or depressing thoughts, healthy or harmful beliefs. It doesn’t care if you’re happy or sad, healthy or sick. It simply accepts whatever you tell it. So, you can talk yourself into or out of self-limiting, denigrating beliefs. You can talk yourself into or out of excellence.

Become aware of the affirmations you tell yourself and your team members, and the affirmations that others give you, because you’re constantly acting and making decisions based on their false, irrelevant information.

You and I must stop affirming things that can ruin our future happiness and success. You accomplish that by being careful who you listen to, controlling your self-talk and team talk, writing affirmations, and visualizing what you want. Successful, high performance people choose whom they listen to. They build blind spots to the junk. When they want to try something new, instead of thinking “Fear,” they think “Challenge.”

Even a one-time affirmation by another person can alter your behavior drastically: “You’re a troublemaker,” “You’re just like your sister, and she wasn’t bright either,” “You’ll never be a doctor you don’t have the aptitude,” “You’re too awkward to be a athlete.” In the past, you affirmed these proclamations from people you regarded as authorities.

Who are the “Who-Saids” in your life? Whose opinions have you sanctioned as “the truth.” How do they know “the truth”? What did they tell you about yourself that you didn’t already know? Why do you need them?

Every good leader is a genius at positively affirming other people. One time, I was traveling to an army base (Fort Bragg) where they develop America’s elite soldiers. I was met at the airport by a general, two helicopter pilots, and two bodyguards in camouflage fatigues. The general (Bernard Loeffke) said, “I’m here to escort you to the base.” As we talked, I noticed he had a star on his shoulder, which indicated he was a brigadier general. He said, “Excuse my two bodyguards. I’m a great target for the KGB.” And I thought, “What am I doing with this guy?”

When we got in the helicopter, he said, “We’re doing some very important exercises here, and I could be captured.” He explained why our enemies would be interested in him. He had five silver stars, four bronze stars. He was a graduate of West Point. He’d served four terms in Vietnam, and he could speak Russian, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. He had a doctorate degree in foreign relations, a master’s degree in Russian. He was head of the Inter-American Defense Board.

That night, at dinner in the officers club, this General and I were engrossed in conversation. As we were talking, a Colonel (Nick Roe) walked by. The general reached out, grabbed the Colonel by the arm, and introduced him to me this way: “This is the bravest man I know in the world. He spent five years in solitary confinement as a P.O.W. in North Vietnam. He escaped in his fifth year. He’s here to teach us how to be brave and how to survive.” Then he let the Colonel go.

The General used me to affirm to the Colonel how much he admired him, and how brave he thought he was. But he couldn’t just throw his arms around him and tell him. So he told the Colonel by telling me. He did that continually over my 24-hour stay. He was a master at third-person affirmation. And it was never flattery it was always something sincerely great about the person.

Just before we left, a young officer saluted us as we got in the car. The General stuck his own foot in the door to keep it open. He pointed at the officer and said to me, “One day, this man will be the finest special forces officer in America, and I’ll tell you why.” He told me about that kid, and then he let him close the door. That officer saluted us again, proudly.

Why did he believe this guy? Because everyone knew that if the General said something, it must be so. By continually third person affirming in this manner, the General showed that he was a Positive Wizard of the Greatest Magnitudea master at building positive belief in others. He knew that people self-regulate around their self-image, and so he was constantly elevating the standard.

You can do the same thing by catching people around you in the act of doing things well, and either talk to them directly or talk to another person about them and affirm their worth.

For example, if you are managing a quality program, you’ve got to raise the standard on the inside of your people, or your quality will be artificial and temporary. They will always go back to the old way when you leave the environment. You have got to change the internal standard of people by affirming and helping them grow.

self-defeating photo

Sometimes, you do that for your children. You brag about them, in their presence, to somebody else. Physicians do that when they want someone to get well. They’ll stand at the patient’s bedside and tell an intern that the patient is doing well and will be leaving soon. The doctor can’t tell certain patients directly because they won’t believe it. Yet, when they overhear it being said to a third party, they believe it.

Learn to use the tremendous power you’ve got to help people become what they are truly capable of becoming.

But beware. You can also be a very negative wizard when you devalue, belittle, or criticize someone negatively. Once they believe you, they will act like what you’ve affirmed. What do you think happens when a father tells his son in Little League, “Don’t strike out”? When the kid comes up to bat, he strikes out. The father says, “Why can’t you hit? I taught you everything I know, but you can’t do it.” I wonder why. When the kid goes up to hit, I wonder if his subconscious says, “You can’t hit. Your dad said so. It must be true.” Is that kid going to hit? He might when he realizes his dad is a Negative Wizard of the Greatest Magnitude, and then takes back the power.

Do you do this in your family, your marriage, or in your social and business relationships? Who are the negative people you listen to? Stop letting other people feed you negative junk. Be in charge of your own life by taking back accountability.

Too often we let other people see us for us. “Tell me, what do you think of me?” “Tell me, what do you think I can do?” Sometimes they tell you things that are very limited, and if you absorb and accept the input, you behave like it, even though it may not be true. Often a “Who Said” only gives you the permission to be, to act, to have what you already have the potential to be, do, or have. When you have the ability, but not the sanction, you restrict yourself from using your potential.

Imagine how many smart people never went to college or held themselves back because they didn’t give themselves or weren’t given permission by some wizard.

Free yourself from and avoid being restricted by negative wizards. You, your children, and your team members will run into negative wizards who may say, “You don’t have any heart; you don’t have any courage; you don’t have any brains; you don’t have the aptitude. You don’t have what it takes to be in this business!” If you absorb that from somebody who is an inadequate manager, from a teacher who shouldn’t be teaching, from a disgruntled grandparent, or from a frustrated little league coach, you absorb it as reality. You give too much sanction, too much credit, to what you perceive as an authority.

You don’t realize at the time how powerful those negative wizards are in restricting the use of your potential. When they tell you where you are inadequate or no good or not capable and where you believe them, you hold back. Your tremendous ability and potential is held back by the powerful beliefs that you hold.

So please be aware of your role as a positive or negative wizard to the people around you. See, they think, for the most part, that you’ve got the power. There are people at work, and people in your family, who believe you’re an authority. So, you need be a very uplifting, constructive, and positive influence, giving them heart and giving them courage. Be careful of your caustic, devaluative, belittling remarks. Because even though you may not mean them, or think that you’ve got that much influence, you never know.

Remember the song, “We’re Off to See the Wizard”? Change the words a bit: “I’m off to be the wizard.” You can be a wonderful wizard if you have the affirmative touch. You don’t have the touch for everybody, but you have the touch for those people who believe that you’ve got the power, so use it wisely.