The 1 thing that determines whether something will work or fail

The 1 thing that determines whether something will work or fail

The 1 thing that determines whether something will work or fail

Often we can really want something, but sabotage it before we even take action.

It takes most of us a long time to realise it. For some our whole lives.

So what can hold so much power, so much control over the outcome of events?

Your mind.

I’ve seen it happen all too often. On an individual and collective level.

Collectively, we can either all get together and make something work – make it good. Or, collectively, we can really mess it up.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.”

 – Gandhi

Focused thoughts

However, not all of your thoughts hold this power. It is the focused thoughts which determine whether you sabotage something or make it happen.

Think about the clothes you’re wearing. The job you have. These things all come from focused thought. Attention.

Take this example: The wind moves across the ocean in one direction and makes waves, those waves move through the ocean until they reach land. When they are large enough and continue for long enough, they can change the land physically.

The wind is your focused thoughts. The water is your emotional energy. The action of the water upon the land is the reaction – the physical energy.

Here’s another example: let’s think about how stress can make people sick. Thoughts cause emotions, and emotions cause physical reactions – resilience or illness.  Whether you get sick or not depends on the focus of the originating thoughts and the duration of these emotions.

The 1 thing that determines whether something will work or fail

How things can go wrong

As soon as you start to question whether your focus is important or not, you are sabotaging yourself. There’s no doubt about it: doubt weakens focus.

“Stay focused and don’t allow distractions to fill your mind or derail you from taking continued action.” – Byron Pulsifer

Let’s take a look at some research.

  • High achievers are often marked by a high motivation to achieve. Less accomplished individuals on the other hand, are often more motivated to avoid failure.
  • High achievers have a strong desire to accomplish something important. This leads to long-term pursuit of goals, and intense effort. Failure-avoiding individuals are more focused on protecting themselves from any embarrassment and sense of incompetence that can result from failure. Therefore, they are less likely to attempt achievement oriented tasks, and may give up quickly if success isn’t readily forthcoming. If avoidance isn’t possible, they may engage in self-handicapping behaviour, give less than their best effort or procrastinate.
  • Achievement motivation versus failure avoidance exists on a continuum. The research literature calls this the “Relative Motive Strength”, and it is made up of all our beliefs justifying commitment of intense effort towards a goal, or lack of.
  • What are these beliefs? Achievement motivated individuals tend to hold the beliefs that success is their personal responsibility, that achievement striving is enjoyable and valuable, that persistence works, that skills can be improved, and that demanding tasks are opportunities. These beliefs are all associated with high levels of achievement.

What can we take from these findings?

Once you can understand these two different modes of thinking – you will start to recognise them in yourself and others. Simply thinking positive all the time will not be as effective as actively cultivating beliefs which will help you to reach your goals.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some ways that you can take action.

“The best-known cure for the fear of failure is action – that’s right, action. The aspect of taking action helps to quiet nerves and can lead to even minor accomplishments.” – Byron Pulsifer

How to use your mind to make things happen

  1. Make your focus important. As I’ve just discussed, as soon as you doubt its importance, it’s game over. Even the research shows that high achievers allocate importance to their focus. Keep your focus strong and the effects will be strong. Remember, the more important you make your focus, the longer you will hold on to that.
  2. Use affirmations, actionable directions and your imagination to create a clear, long-term focus. Create a picture in your mind (or get a real picture) of the result and pull it out when you need to. Imagine the process to create action – how are you going to do it? How will you get there? What will the path look like? Again, doubt prevents you from doing these things. Try making positive affirmations if you’re unsure about something – it doesn’t work.
  3. Don’t turn away opportunities simply because you’re sceptical. Again, this is doubting the importance and significance of something. This is the self-sabotage zone. It’s important to keep in mind that when new opportunities come along, we might favour evidence that supports our existing beliefs rather than alternative explanations. This is a cognitive bias in psychology that we make without meaning to.
  4. Get yourself hyped up. To create the kind of focused thought we’re talking about, stir up emotional and physical energy within yourself. Why is this important to you? Why do you want it so bad? Write these things down. Say them out loud to yourself. Tell other people. Make yourself accountable for something. Energy, energy, energy. THAT’S how you get what you really want. ACT excited until you FEEL excited.
  5. Actively learn from failure. Learning from past mistakes is a key factor in whether something will work or fail.

A 2014 paper published in the journal Psychological Science identified 3 ways to do so. Note: these tips can also be used to analyse success.

  • Self-explanation: This involves analysing our behaviour and trying to find reasons we failed or succeeded.
  • Data Verification/Counterfactual Thinking: We can brainstorm different ways of approaching the problem and how the outcome might have been affected.
  • Feedback: Deciding whether it was a failure or success, then identifying what we learned and what we can do to change in the future.
  1. Relax. Relaxation techniques such as meditation encourage good thoughts. Try focused-attention meditation or mindfulness meditation to really train your focus.

The 1 thing that determines whether something will work or fail

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The 1 thing that determines whether something will work or fail

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