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The power of thoughts

Tom Hughes provides an exercise to demonstrate that you only achieve what you believe.

There is scientific proof that negative thinking does play a role in producing adverse outcomes. If you do not believe it, then try this experiment: You will need another person to serve as a volunteer. Tell the volunteer that you are going to be conducting a test on muscular strength and how positive and negative thoughts and words affect muscular strength. Make sure that your volunteer has no arm, shoulder, or elbow injuries before undertaking this test.


Extend your arms straight out to the side, shoulder height, parallel to the floor. I am going to place two fingers (index and middle) on your wrist. I am going to push down on your wrist, trying to force you to lower your arms. I want you to resist my pressure. Ready? Go. (Push slowly until their arms begin to lower.)

Okay, that was great! For this experiment, that will be your base strength. We will use it to compare other tests.

Now close your eyes and lower your arms. See yourself doing something negative. It could be failing a test, not playing well, blowing a sale, or even tripping and falling. Say out loud your favourite putdown words. Repeat them out loud several times. After they repeat their favourite putdown words out loud 6-8 times, have them raise their arms again. They are to continue saying their favourite putdown words. Once again place the two fingers on their wrist. Ready? Go.

What happens?

Usually, they are unable to apply much resistance, and their arms go down much easier. Now, close your eyes again and lower your arms. This time I want you to visualize yourself doing something positive. Repeat the words; I can make a difference over and over again. When I think you are ready, I will have you raise your arms again, and we will test you once again.

What were the results this time?

In most cases, your volunteer will be at least as strong, if not stronger, than in the first test. Ask the volunteer what their impression was. Most will tell you that they felt much stronger and felt better about themselves.

So, what does this little experiment prove?

It shows us the power of our thoughts over our bodies. When we say negative things, we tend to zap our strength and quickly lose mental focus. When we fill our subconscious with positive thoughts, we become stronger and mentally more alert. Still not sold on the concept? Think about a class you took or are taking in school that you did not like. When you had to do assignments in that class and thought, I am not too fond of this class. You were weakening your ability to focus and do well on that assignment. As an athlete, there might be a part of your training regimen that you strongly dislike negatively affecting your overall performance. And in sales, if you hate to make cold calls, you are not going to be an excellent salesperson.

Conversely, if you can change the words from ones of dislike or hate to terms of like or love, you strengthen your body which in turn boost your mind. When your body is feeling stronger, and your mind is sharp and focused, you will be more effective in whatever you do. As a result, you will feel better about yourself and will be more enjoyable to be around.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • HUGHES, T. (2006) The power of thoughts. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 36/ October), p. 8-9

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • HUGHES, T. (2006) The power of thoughts [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Tom Hughes is a coach, educator, author, clinician, and motivational speaker in the USA. Recently, he authored Power Thoughts for Coaching Basketball, a multi-purpose book designed for basketball coaches. He also produces Motivational Moments, a weekly email newsletter.