Ever notice that when you’re feeling off, the whole world seems hostile and unfair? (“That guy totally cut me off! Screw him!“) But when you’re in a good mood, the whole world appears friendly and wonderful, and nothing can bring you down? (“Sure, go ahead, you must be in a hurry!“)
Here’s the truth: The world is no different on those days. You are different.
The most critical thing to understand is that your thoughts matter. Your thoughts create your feelings, your feelings create your actions, and your actions create your life. They’re all interconnected, no exceptions. And I mean, none.
Think about this way: If you’re an athlete running onto the field or a corporate professional about to present to a team of people, which thoughts do you imagine will produce a better outcome? “I’m not ready for this! I just want to get this over with!” Or: “I’ve been preparing for this, and my moment to shine is here. Bring it!”
The No. 1 thing you can do: Focus on thoughts that make you feel empowered, confident, and capable. How you think in any moment determines how you feel and act in any situation—on a first date, in a job interview, or when you take on any new challenge. Follow these six tips to start activating the right thoughts, right now.
1. Clarify your desires.
It doesn’t need to be January 1 to write down your goals. You can start today. Ask yourself: By this time next year, what would you have liked to achieve? Find one hour and some peace and quiet, and have fun with this exercise. Your goal could be “earn 20 percent more,” “visit a country I’ve never been to,” or “start my food blog and reach 1,000 followers.” The more specific you can be, the better. Review these goals often and see how they cause an immediate shift in how you feel. Allow this to propel you forward to action.
2. Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.”
Next time you can’t sleep, have to wait in a long line, or find your mind wandering toward thoughts about your ex or unfair boss, use that as a trigger to create a mental list of things you’re thankful for—include the little things! See if you can get to 100. Yes, 100!
Some of my recent gratitude nuggets include an unexpected text from an old friend, skinny margaritas, a really committed new client, thrift shopping, inspirational podcasts, funny things my nephews say, the Whole Foods pizza bar, fall fashion to look forward to, having only a one-minute wait for the subway, and my husband’s never-failing sense of humor. Even writing them down now gives me a boost!
Gratitude unlocks our positive vibes through the improved filter it gives us on the world. This filter allows us to see how good things really are and opens up our mind to possibility. Trust me—if you want to be happier, this will be way more useful than wasting time thinking about people who don’t deserve your precious energy.
3. Observe your self-talk.
How you talk to yourself is important because you are the one listening. The mistake a lot of us make is that we focus on what we don’t want. Instead of saying, “I’m tired of being sick,” say, “I’m glad to feel better each day.” Rather than dwell on your crappy salary, say, “I am open to new opportunities to make money.” Notice how they feel different? If you do this consistently, you’ll attract different results too. You might even start a side hustle!
Create five new statements that make sense for you. If you’re going through a rough breakup, it might be, “I love myself. I approve of myself.” If you’re struggling to lose weight, try ”I love my healthy body and I treat it that way. I feel good about myself.” If you are struggling with your job, repeat, “New work opportunities are on the way.”
These become your affirmations. Repeat them every morning. You can save them as random alarms on your phone to appear throughout the day or say them just as you are falling asleep at night.
4. Focus on the good.
Annoyed with your spouse? Rather than dwell on how they’re always late or grumpy in the mornings, think about what they do well. Do they get along with your parents or cook an amazing Sunday brunch? Focus on those qualities instead.
Instead of feeling irritated by your boss’ micromanaging, remember he’s cool with you working from home or how she gave you increased responsibilities this year. When you focus on the good, you welcome more good. Try focusing on only the positive and be vocal about it for 24 hours. See how people respond!
5. Visualize your dreams.
Dying to visit Italy? Get stronger through a new workout? Fall in love by the end of the year? With Pinterest at your disposal, you can create a virtual vision board (in minutes!) of images that motivate and inspire you. Allow yourself to feel moved by the images and be open to including ones that stir some unexpected interest in you.
I host vision board events where people are often surprised by what comes up for them. (One woman, newly married, said, “This is going to be a baby board!” To the contrary, she left with a vision board filled with images of Morocco, Asia, bustling markets, and exotic-looking islands. She wanted to travel and explore, not to settle down as a mom just yet.)
Images enable us to activate our true longings, not what we think we “should want.” In this respect it can also help you pinpoint your goals. Remember to look at your vision board often and add to it. As with your goals, let the images remind you about what matters to you and to fuel your energy and passion for making it happen.
6. Get busy!
All of the above should lead you to a place of inspiration—the “real” you that’s guided by your intuition (not by external influences or incessant mental chatter). When you’re clear about your desires, talk to yourself in an empowering way, focus on what’s working in your life, and visualize what you want, you can’t help but feel moved to take action. And that’s the final step in achieving what you desire.
You’ll send an email to that person you’d love to work for. You’ll think of new ways to meet prospective dates. You’ll research chefs who inspire you to start your blog. You’ll notice a new barre studio near your apartment that you hadn’t seen before. Make a commitment to take one action every single day that will drive you towards your goals and vision. By this time next year, you’ll be amazed how those 365 actions add up.
The world does not change, you change. Only you can allow the flow of opportunity into your life. Only you can remove the negative blocks in your mind that prevent you from getting what you want. It’s all up to you, my friend.
That is the real, awesome, beautiful secret!
What actions are you going to take to have a kick ass remainder of 2016? Please share with me in the comments below!
This article originally appeared on Greatist.