nav-left cat-right

I am Strong: The Power of Positive Thinking

strongHere’s a little experiment for you to try with a partner.

  1. First, ask your partner to raise his arm to the length of his shoulder and extend it out to his side. (Make sure there aren’t any medical issues in this arm or shoulder).
  2.  Stand behind your partner and ask him to say this phrase aloud five times: “I am strong.”
  3. After he says the phrase five times, press your wrist down on his forearm. Tell him to resist you as much as he possibly can. Push downward, firmly but gently, like you’re trying to move his arm down to his side. Chances are he’ll be able to resist you and keep his arm up.
  4. Let him relax his arm down by his side for a minute and shake off the tension. Tell him that when he is ready, he can bring his arm back up.
  5. Give him a new phrase to repeat five times aloud: “I am weak.”
  6. After he has spoken, press down on his arm again. Ask him to resist.


Watch the surprise register across his face when he can’t this time.


And if you have an audience, be prepared for some gasps and oohs and ahhs.


I do a lot of public speaking at conferences and training events, and use this demonstration often. I have so much faith in it that I’ll usually try to pick out the person who appears to be the one of the strongest, most in-shape people in the room; someone whose strength would be no match for mine. It’s never failed me. Not once.


“What’s the trick or gimmick?” People will ask. “Did you push down with more force the second time? Did you stage this ahead of time with a willing volunteer? How does it work?”


There is no trick. No gimmick. No additional pressure added to the second push. No pre-arranged scripting of the demonstration. It works because it’s real. It works because if we tell ourselves that we are strong, then we are strong. If we tell ourselves we are weak, then we are weak. Simple as that. The difference is the switch from one word to another.


There are some limitations to this, of course. You wouldn’t want to climb to the roof of a building and say “I am Superman and I can fly,” and then take a leap into the air. But within the realm of what is real and possible, you have far more control than you likely realize. You can, with nothing more than your own thoughts and words, flip the switch between weak and strong.


The lesson in this is for us is to recognize the power of our self-talk in creating our own reality. When you get up in the morning and come face to face with yourself in the mirror, what thoughts or words do you have for yourself? Consider what happens when you lock eyes with yourself and think “man, I am not in the mood for work today. This is going to be a bad day…”


What happens then? You’ll probably have a bad day, because you’ve set the expectation that you will. You’ve put the powerful energy of your thoughts into a negative place and allowed it manifest into reality.


The better course of action on those days when you’re not feeling so enthused or positive would be to look in the mirror and create a new reality for yourself. “I am happy. I am at peace. I can handle whatever the day brings. I live a life of purpose and the work and relationships I invest myself in are important. I am STRONG!”


This weekend, I visited the home of a friend with a teenage daughter. Around her mirror were post-it notes with words of affirmation written on them.


I am beautiful.

I am smart.

I like who I am.


If given the choice between being thrown into a lion’s den wearing a Lady Gaga-esque gown made of raw meat, or becoming a teenage girl again, I’m going with option number one. Let’s face it; we all know that the lions would be far kinder than the emotional and mental pressures that a typical teenage girl faces every day. It seems like no matter which way she turns, she’s being confronted with someone or something telling her she’s not good enough: her girlfriends who pick on her clothes and tease her about needing a makeover; her parents and teachers who question her grades or level of ambition; the boy she has a crush on but doesn’t like her back; the influences of modern media which define for her what it means to be powerful and beautiful, and quickly remind her how she falls short…


The list could continue forever.


And yet, my friend’s teenage daughter wakes up every day, looks in the mirror, and makes a conscious decision to reject the rest of the world’s judgment of who she is. She chooses to create her own reality. Even on the days when she doesn’t feel beautiful or smart or good enough, her words are there to remind her that she is.


Taking a hint from her, I added a note to my mirror this morning as well.




And what do you know – I really, truly feel strong deep down in my bones today.


Because I really, truly am.


Leave a Reply