I'm a proponent of positive thinking--not merely because it feels good, but because it weakens and rewires negative thought patterns in our brain that lead to emotions such as hopelessness, defeat, and depression. For leaders and entrepreneurs, learning how to overcome negative thinking is as essential for success as having a business plan. This was true in my own case, and it's true for other successful businesspeople too. Goodwill CEO Steven Mundahl is one of them.
I was delighted to read Mundahl's excellent new book, The Alchemy of Authentic Leadership. A professor of leadership effectiveness at Baypath College, Mundahl has spent a great deal of time researching the factors that contribute to leadership success. In his book, he presents an array of strategies leaders can use to embrace their power, potential, and responsibilities in healthier, more enlightened ways. It also helps them avoid risky behavior and unethical decisions than can bring them and their organizations down.
Like me, Mundahl believes the greatest achievements in business and in life are possible when we work hard on ourselves first. "The job of leadership," he says, "isn't so much 'out there' as it is 'in here.' Once you learn how to live a deeply authentic life--no acting, no hiding, no running, no denial, and no blaming others--leadership will find you rather than you having to pursue it."
I was particularly inspired by his ideas on negative versus positive beliefs. He sums up his philosophy this way: "Never underestimate the contribution made by healing one small negative belief about yourself." When leaders heal themselves of negative thinking, he says it has a ripple effect on everyone else in the organization.
Many of us begin our leadership journey with negative thoughts and beliefs, such as: "I'm tired of living in debt"; "I'm sick of struggling say hard without the payoff," or "I'll never succeed--the odds against it are just too great."
"When we begin to believe the nevers, the nothings, the no hopes, we have come to believe the great lie--that change cannot happen for us," says Mundahl. "When we cease to believe, the body will find a way to stop as well." I couldn't agree more. Negative beliefs erode our very health and well-being.
One of the ways for leaders to reclaim their authentic self and power, according to Mundahl, is to realize that "every negative thought also can contain the seeds for change." He reminds us that in nature, a problem (poison ivy) often exists right next to the solution (jewelweed). In the case of the above, I'm tired of living in debt becomes "Then I will find a better way." I'm sick of struggling so hard without the payoff becomes "I will learn from this experience." And I'll never succeed becomes "If I keep at it, something is going to work."
His idea is that "believing is the key component to change. It takes really wanting to change," says Mundahl.
The all-important first step to healing any negative belief about ourselves is to become aware of that belief, he says. I talk a lot about this same concept in my book Three Simple Steps. You have to become aware of your negative self-talk in order to stop that thought pattern and rewire the brain to think along more positive, proactive lines. Truly successful people practice doing this until it becomes second nature. In other words, they learn how to cultivate optimism.
In his book, Mundahl presents very practical approaches to turning negative beliefs around. His wife, Sharron Massoth, a psychotherapist and business coach, contributed several chapters on the most effective ways for leaders to resolve personal, emotionally based issues that sabotage their effectiveness. There isn't a business person I've met who wouldn't benefit from the type of self-reflection and self-development strategies they recommend.
But in regards to the negative beliefs we have about ourselves, there is one very simple and basic recommendation Mundahl has for leaders. "Make self-forgiveness a daily practice."
It's simple. It's elegant. And it works.