The Power of Aligning Your Thoughts and Action:
You’ve probably met a person who is a walking irony—someone who does not practise what he or she preaches, as the cliché goes. While the habit of not aligning our thoughts and actions may seem like a natural human aspect that cannot be helped, this attitude hinders in the way of our personal growth, and ultimately, success itself.
Say, you want to be promoted this year. Are you working towards this goal through concrete, attainable milestones? If you stick with your old habits and shun the commitment on showing up promptly on meetings, upholding company rules or attending important seminars, what is going to change?
Almost every one of us has been there and done that, oftentimes reneging on our own words—even preaching what our children should or should not do when we ourselves are doing the opposite. When gearing up for success, discipline and resilience are your most formidable assets. Setting a goal only lights the fire of the dream. What you want to sustain is the fuel that lights the fire on your way to success.
Many people rely on the principles of the so-called ‘law of attraction’—the belief that positive thoughts ‘attract’ positive experiences, and vice versa. While many find this idea, an inspiring way to lead meaningful lives, the substance of thoughts alone—without the force of action—cannot bring about a tangible consequence. Successful people did not rely on their thoughts alone to achieve what they want: they worked hard to get to the pinnacle of their dreams.
The True Measure of Success
Success is a relative experience: it’s not the same highway that everyone takes. Going where you want to be may require you to build the road for yourself when there is none. It is the same thing with finding where you belong: success, in essence, is being where you are at your most contented disposition.
Success is more about the fulfilment that only you can define for yourself, and less about financial and worldly gains. For some, success is about wealth-building and professional advancement. The rest of us, on the other hand, dream about touching or changing other people’s lives for the better.
Take the story of Steve Jobs. Jobs is described by many as a visionary, perhaps one of the greatest innovators the modern world has seen. He was relentless in his goals, even when others were convinced that the feats he had in mind were impossible. Breaking boundaries and exceeding expectations, Jobs introduced the touch technology, and the rest is history. His success wasn’t achieved overnight—years of hard work and sleepless nights made his story an astounding reality. Steve Jobs, like other successful figures and visionaries, aligned their thoughts with their actions.
Realistic thoughts first
For many of us, we think that almost every thought that crosses our minds are realistic. However, what we experience now independent of other factors that we cannot possibly control is a result of our own thought processes. The judgments and rationalisations we make directly affect the ‘now’ and the future. Most situations that we experience are the direct consequences of decisions we’ve made: quitting a job because of poor work performance, being indebted as a result of spontaneous shopping sprees, and so on—almost everyone has their own relatable stories to share.
The quality of our decisions is highly dependent on our own perception of the world—which boils down to having thought processes that are anchored in reality. How then do we align the distorted thoughts in our minds for us to grow as wiser individuals?
1. Challenge your beliefs and assumptions.
Take the time to reflect on your deep-seated beliefs, principles and assumptions about life. For example, what is the ideal work for you? Do you like the concept of working from 9 to 5, doing the minimum requirements and performing just to keep the job? If this is your idea of the ‘perfect’ work, then maybe you have to stop wondering why you’re not getting a career advancement. Assuming that ‘doing the minimum is enough’ will not get you to a position that will require you to do more than what is expected. In this example, we see that the assumption about work itself hinders one from being promoted. Use this flow of reasoning to assess all the other assumptions you have and identify any misguided or distorted notions about life in general.
2. Develop an awareness of spontaneous thoughts.
By being your own ‘thought police’, you’re able to stop the resulting train of thinking from automatic or instinctive thoughts that are not realistic or are simply born from strong emotions. When you catch yourself saying—I hate this job, I hate being here, I don’t like my boss—flag these thoughts immediately: isolating them to get to the reason you had them in the first place. Were you simply stressed or angry at the moment? You will likely quit your job sooner and abandon your career goals when you think that you hate your job every minute of the working day. Learn to reframe the situation to control your thoughts. Having these automatic thoughts influences your resulting reaction and behaviour, affecting the decisions you make.
3. Reevaluate a situation from a different perspective.
We are used to assessing a situation from our points of view. Reacting or deciding based entirely on the weight of own judgments, especially when we are new to certain experiences, may not be the wisest thing to do. Putting our feet in the shoes of other people and seeing situations from their perspectives may help us in making better decisions.
4. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking.
This is also known as the black-and-white approach—a case of over-generalisation. Viewing success as simply a pass-or-fail experience hinders your capacity for growth. People who are perfectionists are almost always guilty of over-generalising, treating circumstances as mere variations of success and failure, and nothing in between. The same goes for individuals who always blame themselves, rather than attributing the reasons to other likely factors. Say, you want to learn how to dance, and enjoy watching others dance. Assuming at the outset that you can never dance, however, will not get you anywhere. If you reframe this thinking by saying—I will learn how to dance even though I will not be good at it at first—you will find the activity attainable with patience and dedication. To effectively align your thoughts with your actions, replace your all-or-nothing beliefs or assumptions with a more grounded approach, leaving room for improvement and new experiences.
5. Stop idealising your reality.
Focus on the way things are, rather than how you think they should be. Before we even try to steer a different direction in our lives, we should accept the way things are now. Think of it this way: suppose you want to get from Point A to Point B. Getting to Point B requires your knowledge of Point A for you to assess the direction and route you’re going to take. It is useless to think that you’re supposed to be in Point C, which may be an ideal location going to Point B, when in fact you are in Point A. The same logic applies in making real-life decisions. If we’re hoping to achieve something, accept the reality first to be able to develop a concrete plan that fit the circumstances you're in.
How to align your thoughts and actions for success
Developing an emotionally-stable thought process is essential in achieving healthier thinking. Our spontaneous perceptions and thoughts about our personal circumstances influence our emotional and behavioural reactions. When emotions are out of sync with the mind, the perception of things, as well as our ability to understand situations and make decisions, become dysfunctional—often resulting in a distorted interpretation of reality.
By learning to identify and evaluate the thoughts arising spontaneously or out of wishful imaginations, we can start reframing the world as we perceive it so we may better align it with the reality. A framework of beliefs and principles that are founded in reality rather than whimsical idealisations forge concrete, realisable goals.
Thus, aligning your thoughts with your actions commence with having realistic thoughts that match attainable or doable actions.
Secondly, outline a concrete plan with activities that are doable within the limits or constraints of your time, resources, skills and environment. These may range from the minute details of your daily work, weekly goals and annual resolutions. Starting small and accomplishing things little by little is more than enough than having to strive with futility in a single activity that you mistakenly think is going to work overnight. The path to success is a series of small steps taken by one foot at a time, rather than a single impossible leap using all your strength and will.
Your thoughts are powerful, which is why you need to align them with your actions to achieve what you want in your life. Start with making small changes in the way you process your thoughts, progressing until you’ve attained awareness of your own consciousness. Achieve the life that you want tomorrow by working towards it—starting today!