How to go from Thinking to Life
by Dr. John C. Maxwell
One of my all-time favorite authors, John Maxwell, offers some great
advice I think we all could and should take advantage of as teachers – and that’s
how to change our lives with our thoughts. Maxwell’s expertise is in the area of
leadership, and as teachers, I believe we are leaders in our classroom.
educators, we constantly look for ways to make a difference in the lives of young people
while struggling to maintain a life of our own. And with the constant demands of
students, parents, and administration, it’s easy to find ourselves holding onto a
bag of “good intentions” without having a strategy for implementation.
Maxwell outlines six steps to help us transform our thoughts real life change.
With his permission, here’s an excerpt from one his recent articles:
Step #1: When you change your thinking, you change
I am going to work you through a six-step process of how to
change, and it begins with thinking. It begins with the mind. Beliefs are nothing more
than a by-product of what you have thought long enough about that you have bought
into--always remember that. What you believe is a collection of continual thoughts that
have formed themselves into a conviction.
"Although not all change is the
same, there is one common element to change, and that is thinking." That is a great
truth. That is not mine, it's out of a book called, The Seven Levels of Change. When you
break down the process of thinking into manageable number of steps, you reduce the
perceived risk associated with change. Being creative is when you think about your
thinking, being innovative is when you act on your ideas.
Step #2: When
you change your beliefs, you change your expectations.
Belief is the
knowledge that we can do something. It is the inner feeling that what we undertake, we
can accomplish. For the most part, all of us have the ability to look at something and
know whether we can do it.
So, in belief there is power: our eyes are
opened; our opportunities become plain; our visions become realities. Our beliefs
control everything we do. If we believe we can or we believe we cannot, we are correct.
Accomplishment is more than a matter of working harder; it is a matter of believing
positively. It's called the "sure enough" factor. If you expect to succeed, "sure
enough," you will; if you expect to fail, "sure enough," you will. We become outside
what we believe inside.
Step #3: When you change your expectations, you
change your attitude.
I love Ben Franklin's quote: "Blessed is the
one who expects nothing, for he shall receive it." I heard a story the other day about a
man who went to the fortuneteller who looked in the crystal ball and said, "Oh, my. This
is not good. I look in this ball and see that you will be poor and unhappy until you're
45 years old." The guy said, "Oh, that's terrible. Well, then what's going to happen?"
The fortuneteller said, "You'll get used to it."
Your expectations are going
to determine your attitude. Most people get used to average; they get used to second
best. Nelson Boswell said, "The first and most important step toward success is the
expectation that we can succeed."
Step #4: When you change your attitude,
you change your behavior.
William James was right when he said, "That
which holds our attention determines our action." When our attitude begins to change,
when we become involved with something, our behavior begins to change. The reason that
we have to make personal changes is that we cannot take our people on a trip that we
have not made. Too many leaders try to be travel agents instead of tour guides--they try
to send people where they have never been.
We give them a brochure and a
"Bon Voyage!" And off they go and we wave to them, and we ask them to tell us how it was
when they come back. A tour guide says, "Let me take you where I've been. Let me tell
you what I have gone through. Let me tell you what I know. Let me show you what I've
experienced in my life."
Step #5: When you change your behavior, you
change your performance.
Leroy Eims said, "How can you know what is
in your heart? Look at your behavior. There is no better sign of the heart than the
life." The truest test of where a person is going is their behavior. Unfortunately, most
people would rather live with old problems than new solutions.
rather be comfortable than correct; we would rather stay in a routine than make changes.
Even when we know that the changes are going to be better for us, we often don't make
them because we feel uncomfortable or awkward about making that kind of a change.
Until we can get used to living with something that is not comfortable, we cannot
get any better.
Step #6: When you change your performance, you change your
Change makes a person feel alone, even if others are going
through it. You say, "Oh, man! Goodness! I know the others are changing, but I don't
think they're having the difficulty I'm having." There is something about the
awkwardness and the time that it takes to make proper changes that just seems to isolate
you from everyone else, even when a group is going through it together.
just kind of feel, "But my situation's a little bit different, and I think I'm just not
quite as fast as the other ones," and there's a tendency to feel isolated, lonely, and
withdrawn when you're going through this change.
It is easier to turn failure
into success than an excuse into a possibility. A person can fail and turn around and
understand their failure, make it a success; but I want to tell you--a person who makes
excuses for everything will never truly succeed. I promise you, when you excuse what you
are doing and excuse where you are, and you allow the exceptions, you fail to reach your
Don't you know some people who just have an excuse for
everything? Why they could not, should not, did not, would not, have not, will not. If
"ifs" and "buts" were candies and nuts, we would all have a Merry Christmas. It is
impossible to turn excuses into possibilities.
Hope is the foundational
principle for all change. People change because they have hope. If people do not have
hope, they will not change. You are responsible for the changes that you make in your
life, but the good news is, you can make the changes you need to make in your life.
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