My dad made his living as a mechanic, and as a young boy, I loved watching him work. He had cool tools, and the shop, with its rumble of large engines and rattle of impact wrenches, was full of power and masculinity.
Occasionally, my dad had time to teach me basic procedures, like wheel alignment and tire balancing. We used special diagnostic machines for each procedure, and made corrections when we detected misalignment or misbalance. Often, we went on a test drive before we started working and then on another after the corrections were made. On the first trip, my dad would let go of the steering wheel on a straight section of the highway and show me how the car drifted to one side or another, if it was misaligned, and how it subtly shook, if the tires were unbalanced. After we fixed it, he could drive down that same stretch of highway with no hands, and the car would seem to steer itself.
When a car’s wheels are misaligned or its tires are unbalanced, it fights against itself and is not nearly as effective as it can be. We’re the same way. If one of our wheels is even slightly misaligned, we’ll veer toward the ditch, sometimes gradually, other times, dramatically. If a tire is unbalanced, we’ll sense that something is wrong, and if left uncorrected, it will eventually become too severe to be ignored.
Of course, we don’t have wheels and tires – we have thoughts, words and actions. If any of those three are not aligned with the direction we want to take our lives, our journey is much more difficult than it needs to be.
Our thoughts are the genesis of all that we do. If you’ve ever started your day in a bad mood, with negative thoughts making you snarl, even before you’ve encountered something to anger you, you know what I mean. A bad mood usually leads to a bad day, because we feel compelled to share our negativity, and our words negatively impact those around us and taint our actions and the actions of those around us.
Conversely, positive thinking – true positive thinking – leads to positive dialogue, which sets in motion, positive action. I say “true positive thinking,” because you can’t force yourself to think positively consistently. For positive thinking to come naturally and consistently, you must feed your mind with positive affirming messages and control your environment against negativity.
Our thoughts guide our words, often in very subtle ways. Contrast the following two statements, both in response to a question my wife recently asked me:
“I have to go to Lincoln today for a meeting that is probably completely unnecessary.”
“I am going to Lincoln today to support an organization whose mission is important to me.”
While it’s easy to see which answer came from positive thinking, it’s much more difficult to filter a response like that before it comes out of your mouth, especially in a comfortable setting, like when you are with family and friends. What we say impulsively, when we’re being honest and not trying to impress anyone, reveals our true thinking. If we have to force ourselves to be positive, our thoughts are not aligned with our words, and we’ll feel an inner struggle.
If I attend the meeting in the above example with a negative mindset confirmed by negative words, it’s very difficult to be a positive force on the organization. I’m out of alignment. To correct that, I must go back to the source of all of my words and actions, my thoughts.
Are your thoughts, words and actions aligned? If something doesn’t feel right, stop what you are doing and saying, and examine what you are thinking. If you can fix that, you will be much more effective and comfortable.