“If we do not think we can win, we should not be out here.”

This is something I have been saying to teams I have sailed with for years. I have known for a long time that thinking we can win goes a long toward helping us persevere, take chances, and make decisions that lead to a win. What I did not know was how much science was behind this.

Patrick Shaughnessy took this picture of me driving my team to victory on the last Friday night of the season.

Science has proven that our thoughts lead to actions. It may feel the other way around sometimes, but the transmitters in our body work so fast, thoughts precede actions. As a result, thoughts have a significant impact on the results we achieve in various aspects of life, including personal, professional, and emotional outcomes.

Thoughts Influence Results

Here’s how thoughts influence results:

  1. Mindset and Perception: The way we think about a situation, task, or goal can shape your mindset. A positive and growth-oriented mindset tends to lead to more successful results. If we believe we can achieve something, we are more likely to put in the effort required to make it happen. On the other hand, a negative or fixed mindset might lead to self-doubt and lack of effort, which can hinder our results.
  2. Motivation and Effort: Our thoughts can directly influence our motivation and the level of effort we put into our endeavors. If we believe that our efforts will lead to desirable outcomes, we are more likely to work harder and persist through challenges. Conversely, if we doubt our abilities or the likelihood of success, our motivation might wane, leading to reduced effort and potentially disappointing results.
  3. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: This psychological phenomenon occurs when our beliefs and expectations about a situation lead us to behave in ways that make those beliefs come true. For example, if we believe we will fail a task, we might not put in our best effort, leading to a higher chance of failure. Our thoughts can shape [our behaviors and decisions, thus influencing the eventual outcome.
  4. Decision Making: Our thoughts play a critical role in decision-making processes. The choices we make are influenced by our beliefs, values, and perceptions of the situation. Decisions based on careful consideration and positive thoughts are more likely to lead to favorable outcomes compared to decisions driven by fear, impulsivity, or negative thoughts.
  5. Emotional States: Thoughts can evoke emotions, and emotions can impact our actions and decisions. Positive thoughts often lead to positive emotions, which can enhance our ability to perform well and achieve desired results. Conversely, negative thoughts can trigger stress, anxiety, or self-doubt, which can hinder your performance and lead to suboptimal outcomes.
  6. Problem-Solving and Creativity: Creative and innovative solutions often arise from positive and open-minded thinking. When we approach challenges with a positive attitude and a willingness to explore different options, we are more likely to find effective solutions. Negative thoughts can limit our ability to see possibilities and hinder our problem-solving skills.
  7. Interpersonal Relationships: Thoughts also affect our interactions with others. Positive thoughts about ourselves and others can lead to better communication, collaboration, and relationship-building. Negative thoughts, such as assumptions or judgments, can create misunderstandings and strain relationships, potentially impacting teamwork and overall results.
  8. Visualization and Focus: Positive thoughts can be used to visualize successful outcomes, which can enhance your focus and determination. Athletes, for example, often use positive mental imagery to improve their performance. When we can vividly see ourselves achieving our goals in our minds, we are more likely to work towards turning that visualization into reality.

In summary, thoughts are not just fleeting mental processes; they have the power to shape our beliefs, behaviors, and actions, which in turn impact the results you achieve in various areas of your life. Developing awareness of our thought patterns and cultivating a positive and growth-oriented mindset can contribute to more favorable outcomes and a higher likelihood of success.

Results to Thoughts

If we want to change our results, we must change our thoughts. Sometimes, we need to “back into” our thoughts from the results we are seeing, to truly understand what we need to change. It helps to understand the connectedness of our thoughts and our results:

  • Thoughts influence
  • Feelings, which influence
  • Actions, which generate
  • Results.

What results in your life do you want to change? What thoughts and narratives are behind them? What is the new narrative you need to tell yourself?