If you ever have any doubt about the mind’s effects on the body, try speaking in front of a group. Public speaking consistently ranks at or near the top in surveys of our greatest fears. Most people, when asked to speak before a group, will feel their heart race, the mouth gets dry, stomach churns unpleasantly and breathing becomes shallow and fast. They are in no physical danger, yet the body reacts the same way as our ancestors did when they came face to face with a predator.
The emotions we experience are caused by associations created from the programming we learn mostly from childhood. These emotions may or may not gel into complete thoughts, but at some point the emotion will manifest itself into a physical sensation. As with the public speaking, sometimes the sensations will be unpleasant. Other times they may be more pleasant.
What does all of this have to do with success? It applies for a couple of reasons. First, if some thoughts provoke pleasure, while others cause pain, we will naturally try to have more of those thoughts that bring us pleasure, and fewer of those that cause us pain. We move away from pain toward pleasure.
The mind can be very shortsighted, however. It may be necessary to go through temporary discomfort to achieve a higher level of pleasure. For example, exercise can be physically uncomfortable, even painful, at times. Left on its own, the mind would try to move you away from this pain. The conscious mind, however, understands that physical exercise can improve your quality of life and help you live longer. Going through temporary pain, then, leads to a greater pleasure. You override the mind’s first impulse to achieve the goal you desire. Most people who exercise regularly eventually come to enjoy it, and the mind’s painful associations are eliminated.
One thing that we know for sure is that successful people are usually willing to do things that less-successful people make a conscience decision not to do. The successful person may work extra hours, cold call on a new prospect, or forego leisure time to attend school or workshops. There is temporary pain associated with these activities, but these high achievers understand that a greater pleasure awaits them.
Secondly, the mind’s ability to create pleasurable sensations can be a motivator only if it’s done properly. Aim for a goal that excites you a lot and only scares you a little. Very often, goals are imposed on us by other people, either directly or by peer pressure. Members of a sales team may all shoot for $100,000 a year in commissions. This may be fine, but it may also hurt one or more members.
Think about it – the goal represents both pleasure (excites you) and pain (scares you.) The particular dollar amount that excites you a lot and only scares you a little is unique to you. Your childhood, your current circumstances, or any number of other factors determine how the amount affects you.
In the same way, any ambitious goal can affect you emotionally, actually hurting performance, because the excitement is outweighed by the fear. Your mind finds a way to work against the very thing you want to achieve. Choose your goals carefully and pay attention to the emotions and physical sensations that your goals evoke.