Success Starts in the Mind (But Doesn’t End There)

I’ve written before that actions matter more than dreams — and I meant it. But there is a power to your thought life that we sometimes overlook.

Success Starts in the Mind
Photo Credit: Andrew Mason via Compfight cc

What if there was a way to think your way into success, a way of turning ideas into reality?

Maybe it takes more than creativity. Maybe your mindset matters more than you think but only when backed up by intentional action.

And if that’s true, maybe there’s a process to follow…

It begins in the mind

What we think about when we are free to think about what we will — that is what we are or will soon become.

—A.W. Tozer

I cannot simply will myself to become a best-selling author or a world-class entrepreneur. I have to work at it, too. Everyone knows that.

But there is a step before any visible success that most people overlook. It goes beyond dreams and ideas and is what ultimately leads to meaningful action.

You must visualize what you want before you can get it. [Tweet that]

I know this runs the risk of sounding esoteric, but hear me out. So much of what matters in life involves faith:

  • We trust friends with our deepest secrets.
  • We put our kids to bed, believing they’ll wake up safe and sound in the morning.
  • We hope a tragedy will turn out for good — somehow.

This is where all great endeavors begin: in the mind. With faith-filled thoughts that lead to action. The thinking initiates the dream, but faith causes you to take that first, uncertain step.

Then you must commit

It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.

—Zig Ziglar

This is the place where most people fail, myself included.

We get a great idea, think about it awhile, and then move on. Or we take the first step, maybe even a few, and then get distracted. And we move on or forget what we wanted in the first place.

The point at which we make a difference is not during a brainstorming session; it’s when we step out of the board room. When we decide to act and then start moving. Not recklessly, but intentionally.

All great things become great when we act, and not a moment before. The only way ideas take off is with a decision, a choice that costs you something.

Faith without works is dead, and dreams without action are just fantasies. [Tweet that]

You were meant for more than that. You were made to do great things, and that means at some point, you must not only decide to act but commit to a plan of action.

And it gathers momentum

If I find something I like, I’ll chase it and see what comes out the other side. Once a song gets momentum and gets away from you, that’s a good sign.

—Dave Matthews

Once we decide, we have to move. To sign up for class, board the plane, or quit that job. This is the scariest part, but if the first two steps are satisfied, the third comes almost naturally.

But if the laws of physics teach us anything, they should tell us that once something is set in motion, it wants to remain in motion. Which means that one step leads to another. And another.

The hard part, though, is inertia. Objects at rest want to stay at rest. So we have to exert a lot of force and energy on those objections, those projects that could be great if only they had a chance to succeed.

So the first step is, in fact, just the beginning — as it should be. But what’s the difference between a bunch of empty starts and stuff that actually takes off?

Momentum. It’s the reason successful people keep succeeding and failures keep failing.

How do you overcome inertia and set into motion the law of momentum? Focus intensely on one project and don’t let up or move on until it takes on a life of its own. Do this enough, and you’ll create a whole portfolio of success.

Let’s put it all together…

If you’re like me, you need things broken down occasionally. So here is a series of three steps you can practice over the next week:

  1. Cultivate a habit of positive thinking. Pay attention to your thought life and look for ways you might be sabotaging yourself before you begin. Cut out of your vocabulary (both internal and external) any negative language that doesn’t encourage an attitude of faith. Healthy skepticism is find; perpetual self-doubt is not.
  2. Commit more. Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do, and stop making empty promises. Teach yourself how to be a person of integrity, even if it hurts (and it might).
  3. Work harder than you’re used to. Do what you do, and do it well — without cutting corners or selling yourself short. This is how discipline is built: like a muscle, stretching more and more each time you exercise it.

Try these three habits for a week, then a month. And once you’ve done it that long, look back at what you’ve accomplished. If you’re pleased with the results, why not keep going?

If you’re looking for a resource to help you, check out The Strangest Secret (affiliate link) by Early Nightingale (you can listen to it for free on YouTube).

Where does success start for you? Is there a process you follow? Share in the comments.

46 thoughts on “Success Starts in the Mind (But Doesn’t End There)

  1. Success starts in the doing and gains strength in the completion of projects. But success also includes stepping back from being overcommitted and learning to let go of needing to be in control.

      1. You might be interested in my new blog series’ starting next week, Jeff. On Wednesdays it’ll be “Crushed,” a series about how sometimes life is crushing, but sometimes new life grows from things crushed. On Fridays, I’ll have Free-for-all Friday, in which I’m offering other writers a chance to tell their own stories of hard times and how writing helped them through. All @

  2. We live near Cape Canaveral and were able to watch one of the shuttle launches. It’s incredible that over 70% of the fuel is spent just getting the shuttle off the ground and into motion. I think that’s why so many bloggers quit is because they underestimated the energy it would take to become successful. Great post Jeff, loved the quotes scattered throughout, you may see a few of them on my twitter feed. 🙂

  3. In the positive thinking, sometimes you’ll have to “fake it till you make it”, but I don’t think that’s bad. C.S. Lewis wrote that if you don’t have love for another act as if you do, and you’ll find actual affection growing there. Sometimes you may have to do that for yourself.

    The tough part for me is believing that I actually AM a writer, but like you say what makes someone a writer is that they write.

  4. Our pastor often says you can work your way into a feeling easier than you can feel your way into an action. Visualize what you want to accomplish, set steps, make goals, get started and persevere. Thanks for another good article.

  5. Have loved your posts these days. For me it is imagining. I just recently read that prayer is passive if it is not coupled with imagination. I thought that was interesting.

  6. “One step and then another and another.” Very true, Jeff. I love how those intentional steps add up. And I love how we can apply this to so many areas of our lives.

  7. When I got divorced, one of the parting words of my ex was “you’re too positive all of the time.” Is that possible?

    This concept is quite new to me – maybe since April I have been watching various videos, listening to podcasts or reading about taking the reigns of your life into your own hands. It opens up so much when you open your mind to it!

    As an active player in your life, your possibilities are endless! Success for me starts with engaging in blogs like yours, thinking of ways to grow my own business and trying to remain positive as much as I can.

    Just keep dreamin’!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Kirbie. I don’t think you can be too positive. You can be unrealistically optimistic, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to focus on and event expect the “good,” while still being prepared for the “bad.”

      Sounds like you’re approaching life as a gift, which is always the best way to do it. Thanks for reading!

  8. Jeff – loved what you had to say and GIVE to everyone this morning! I’m definitely putting feet to the dreams I have. I can see it! I sure love that scrippy that faith without works is DEAD!

  9. Great post! We all need reminders from time to time. I have an album, yes an actual 33.3 rpm record album of Earl Nightingale’s “The Strangest Secret”. I inherited it from my dad. He bought it in 1956 for $15.00! As you mention in your blog, it is still a great resource. Thanks. – Joe

  10. This was a great encouragement to me! Thanks so much. Great plan! I am looking forward to putting “bigger” feet to my dreams. I loved this line, “Focus intensely on one project and don’t let up or move on until it takes on a life of its own.” My problem is I often jump to the next project, or a secondary project while I’m still working on the God-given project because I have so many ideas! This was helpful. God bless

  11. these three habits may prove mile stone in my life therefore i will definatly try to follow in my daily life and also try to inspire other members of my family. but still i feel a constant and regular pushing from your side can prove a lot for me. thanks a lot.

  12. This article has helped me to keep writing my thesis. But I have always something funnier to do, like teach english here in Brazil.

    How do I keep myself from doing only things that I like, when sometimes I have to do some boring work to have a career?

    I mean, I’ve read some other texts from your blog, and I want to have a career that is pleasant to me. But I have to graduate from college too, because I am in the last year, and well…my parents expect me to do this. And also I would like to have a degree so I can try a Master of something I like.

    Tough times…I have very nice opportunities, but I struggle to focus.

  13. Jeff this one I can resonate with. After weeks of hard work finishing text for picture book and some really positive feedback I am working hard on illustrations. I can feel something different in the air. A feeling of confidence, Its now not a question of if i will finish but a question of when. I keep at it and each day surprise myself with new images one day at a time. I am still in your debt for that wonderful writing course and the connections to some stunningly talented individuals, who inspire me to keep going. Love this post.

  14. I am a new subscriber and love your posts. I shared you ebook with my friend who is a bretheren writer. My inspirational motivation includes dialogue with God (the good, the bad and the ugly), being in the moment and owning the joy my dog gives me to keep it light when I want to be heavy. This last one has been critical the last week or so. : )

  15. I would add one more quote from Einstein in this post, “Nothing happens until something moves.” Ideas are great and necessary. Even more necessary is the ability to discard most of them and focus on the ones that truly resonate. The ones that resonate deserve your attention and your action.

    Beginning with the end in mind, for me, is critical. Seeing in my mind’s eye how the idea plays out helps me stay motivated and enthused. Then it’s a matter of moving backward from that “end” toward today.

    The trick is keeping the motivation and the passion when ideas may take many months or years to materialize.

  16. Jeff, this is a fantastic, straight-edged piece. It’s the most inspired post I’ve read on any blog in a while, in part because it is exactly what I’ve struggled with of late. When I wake up tomorrow I’m going to think positively, and I’m going to work harder throughout the day to get through some important commitments I’ve put off. Thank you so very much for this piece.

  17. My favorite part of this article, although it’s quite great, is your “tweet that” link next to your quote. Which, after reading, I thought, “I should tweet that.” 🙂

    I think for me, working harder would definitely be where my success starts. I just have to think through things more and require more of myself to get the job done. Working “smarter” is a great rule but doesn’t always play well in the real world. Sometimes success, for me, starts with getting off the couch.

    Great thoughts, Jeff.

  18. This is a good reminder. Beliefs (and what those beliefs means to you) shape actions, so be careful what you choose to believe – especially about yourself. Thanks again for another great post.

  19. Great post. Reminds me of a quote I read once.

    “Thoughts lead on to purposes. Purposes go forth in action. Actions form
    habits. Habits decide character. And character fixes destiny.” – Tyrone Edwards.

    Always good to be reminded of what it’s going to take to accomplish those things that matter most.

  20. Bravo, Jeff. Success starts when I do something afraid. Sucess also starts when I allow myself to make a mistake and leave room to not hold myself to an impossible standard. I want to be more about who I am than what I do. Notice, I said “want to be”. I’m there sometimes. Other times, I’ve still got some work to do. Ebb and flow, like the tide.

  21. Great advice! Thanks for the article! “Do what you do, and do it well — without cutting corners or selling yourself short.” That’s so true! If you want to love what you do and want others to love it too, don’t take any shortcuts! These are some good reminders. Thanks!

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