As a life coach and self-help author, I’ve spent years observing successful people. What do they have in common? What do they do differently? Do they know something we don’t? Well, apparently they do. It comes down to the breadth of their thinking, the ability to be constantly open, and a willingness to look at the world in new ways.

In his best-selling book, “How Successful People Think,” John C. Maxwell breaks the good news: These skills can be learned — and if you change your thinking, you can change your life. Here’s how to get started.


You think: I can’t go for a promotion. I’m less than 12 months into my job.

What to think instead: What if I could go for that promotion? Have other people in my company made it happen in under a year? Who can I speak to internally to learn more? Where can I find some proof this is doable? How can I take the right action to make this a real option?

Dwelling in possibility can also be one of the most exciting ways to spend your time.

Possibility thinking is just that — losing the lid on what we deem possible. Often it’s our thinking — not reality — that keeps us stuck where we are. Dwelling in possibility can also be one of the most exciting ways to spend your time.


You think: I want to try this recipe but can’t tonight because I don’t have X or Y ingredient.

What to think instead: Is there a substitute? A little creative brainstorming can yield awesome, unorthodox ideas every day. You might think, what if I tried yogurt instead of sour cream? or I want to make these cookies healthier. What about using applesauce instead of butter?

Not all thinking needs to produce major results to better your life. Over time, creative thinking can make your days more experimental, fun — and a heck of a lot easier.


You think: I’m not happy where I am, but I don’t know what to do next.

What to think instead: What have the past 12 months taught you? What has (and has not) worked for you over the last year, two years, three years? Pinpoint your progress and any positive or negative changes you’ve experienced — in your health, your relationship status, your career.

Reflect on the different areas of your life and allow what is no longer serving you to be an area you commit to changing — perhaps an unfulfilling job, a toxic friendship, or some unhealthy habits. To kick-start this, focus on the positive and what can you dial up — a new hobby that came into your life? Or how about a fresh interest in design/cooking/blogging/running/joining a community group?

Allow your past learning and experiences to fuel positive, forward momentum.


You think: I don’t need to shake things up — my friends and I are doing fine.

What to think instead: Are you always around the same group? Are they at the level at which you truly want to perform? There is a leadership principal, coined by Jim Rohn as “The Law of Five.” Put simply, we become like the five people we spend the most time with. Successful people consciously and purposefully surround themselves with people smarter than themselves.

Who do you admire in your life that you could proactively spend more time with? Use their energy and smarts to your benefit. This is an immediate step you can take to go ‘next level’ in your life.


You think: I don’t like my job, but I have to pay the bills. I’m stuck with no end in sight.

What to think instead: Is that really true? Do you have to work a 9-to-5 all your life? Perhaps not. Have you ever met any entrepreneurs or side hustlers who have proven that there’s another way? The same goes for many other facets of conventional thinking. Do you have to get married? Not if you don’t want to. Do you have to live in the city you were born in? Heck no. You don’t have to follow the herd. (Amen!)

Good thinkers are always in demand: They’re problem-solvers. They’re full of ideas. They have an optimistic approach to life as they believe that new, difficult, and important things can be accomplished. That’s what makes them effective. As the old saying goes, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” What are you willing to think about in a fresh way?


Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City.


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