As a kid, I could have been the poster child for positive thinking. I believed I could do anything. Nothing was impossible or outside my reach.

Many children are this way. They haven’t been exposed to the world’s limiting beliefs deciding what they can and can’t do. Their minds are not yet polluted and they are still able to dream up a big idea and actually believe it will come true.

Positive thinking is a powerful tool. But it’s one that many adults forget because it is intangible and difficult to measure. Yet, it is often all that separates success from failure.

I’ve shared my story of how those big dreams can and do find a way. Maybe you’ve experienced something similar in your life. Or maybe you’re still working on your childhood dream.

The point is, there was a time in your life when your beliefs prevented any limitations. You knew in your mind you could achieve something, and there was never a doubt that you’d get there. And maybe you did.

If so, good for you. Find the next thing to chase and go get it.

If you haven’t reached that big dream, have you ever thought about why you haven’t gotten there?

I haven’t hit all mine.

Some I’m still chasing. And some I’ve struggled with so much that I’ve all but abandoned them. Almost without fail, the ones I’ve missed have fallen off because I stopped believing.

As I have struggled to trust my ability to achieve something, I’ve found it less and less likely that I will. Positive thinking, or the confidence that we can do something, is a critical piece of our success.

Positive Thinking as a Core Belief

Remaining positive (about life in general, but also about specific pursuits) has proven to be fundamental in any success I’ve had.

The older we get, the more difficult it can be to remain positive, especially when things get tough. Life has a way of beating that “believe in yourself” quality out of us over time.

Some people have found a way around that by adopting positive thinking as a core belief. It takes some work, but by training themselves to think this way, over time it becomes part of who they are.

As a result, positivity is their default outlook. And under that umbrella, there is almost nothing they can’t do.

Getting Out of Our Own Way

When positivity becomes part of who we are, we remove one of the biggest obstacles to success: ourselves.

How sad is it to have a dream we’re capable of achieving, but our minds have convinced us otherwise? Self-sabotage is not only a real thing, it’s also a dangerous thing. Dangerous for our dreams, anyway.

I hate to think of all the things I could have accomplished but didn’t, only because I failed to believe in myself.

But, how many “impossible” things have we done with little more than positive thinking empowering us?

It’s amazing what happens when we stay out of our own way long enough to see what we’re truly capable of.

When We Walk By Faith

In 2 Corinthians 5:7 the Bible says “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” You have probably heard it before. But have you ever thought about how it applies beyond religion?

You don’t have to be religious to understand the value in walking by faith. You don’t have to be religious to apply that practice, either. It can mean faith in a greater power, but it can also mean faith in ourselves, our family, or anyone else on this journey with us.

Walking by faith is often required before we start seeing results, but that’s not the only thing that has to happen. A key piece of any type of dream-chasing success is action. Without it, you’ve got little more than a big idea and a prayer. With it, you’ve got a chance.

Having faith helps most when we hit major obstacles. Few things will ever come with no trouble.

So when the big challenge hits, how will we respond?

I basically gave up on my childhood dream. But it found me anyway — 5 years later than I’d expected, when I wasn’t thinking about it, and in a slightly different way than I’d intended.

That’s the power of faith.

I believed so strongly in my dream as a child that it still found a way, even long after I’d thought it was over.

A Key To Overcoming Adversity

No matter how positive we are when chasing our big ideas, few are ever accomplished without some struggle. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, right?

Some might call those struggles failures. I’ve actually come to appreciate the role that failure plays in success. In fact, my biggest accomplishments have always followed a series of failures.

One of my favorite expressions of this idea is the popular Michael Jordan quote about failure and success. He says, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

It was only by experiencing the feeling of missing a game-winning shot that Jordan felt confident enough to take (and make) them in the future.

You don’t have to be an NBA superstar to relate to this idea. From our greatest failures come our greatest successes. This is not an accident. The road to better is paved with failure. And the more failures we lay down, the smoother our road becomes.

This isn’t just some hokey analogy. It is hokey, but it’s also the truth.

Nothing worthwhile will ever come to us without some challenges.

Adversity, as I’ve learned, is nothing more than an opportunity in the form of an obstacle. The key to overcoming adversity, even as we’re in the middle of it, is to embrace failure as part of the journey.

Raising Our Own Expectations

Another key to remaining positive is to raise our expectations. Having high expectations for ourselves works in tandem with positive thinking.

When we expect big things, we tend to believe they can happen. And when we believe they can happen, we are less likely to accept that they won’t.

In setting a standard of excellence for ourselves, we’re likely to inspire others as well. The easy way out is overpopulated. That’s the path most people take. But that’s not always the one they want to take. They just need to be shown something different.

When we raise our standards, we give others permission to raise their own. They have an example to model themselves after and they become inspired.

I don’t know what the appropriate level of expectations is. That’s something each person needs to decide for themselves. But when I’m at my most self-aware, I’ve noticed that if I’m not uncomfortable, my expectations aren’t high enough.

It’s a balance, though. Go too far and you’ll wreck yourself with panic and anxiety. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot. Expect more than is easy to achieve, but not something so outlandish that we can’t trust in our ability to get there.

Advance Confidently

It’s easy for me to write all this. The hard part comes in the doing. I know that. It’s something I’ve experienced in my own life countless times.

Something inspires you. You’re excited. You push hard for a few weeks, maybe a few months, and then the initial rush wears off. It becomes more difficult and you realize you’re all alone on this journey.

Sometimes we fail to remember that achieving our big dream is not always the next step. The bigger the dream, the further along in our timeline it’s likely to be.

In the meantime, we’re faced with all the challenges and obstacles. It’s easy to be in this stage of our journey and feel like it’s an all or nothing — either we hit the finish line or we quit.

Most of the time, the finish line is too far beyond our reach. Instead, focus on the next, smaller step.

It’s when we’re up against it that the most important thing is to just make progress. At that point, any step in the right direction is a success.

We don’t ever really fail unless we quit. Otherwise, everything else is just part of our journey.

RJ Licata author headshot


I am a marketer, a writer, and a thinker. Sometimes I do all three at once. My greatest achievement is convincing my wife to marry me. We have three kids and yes, one of them is my favorite. I'm the author of "Lessons for Joey: 100 Things I Can't Wait to Teach My Son" and "Where Greatness Lives".

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