High performers are always striving, always trying to achieve even more. If you’re a high performer, it’s likely that you have looked at yourself and said, “This is not where I want to be. This is not who I am, this is not what I want to look like, this is not the me I see in my brain.” And then you begin to feel anxious, frustrated and uncomfortable with your lack of current success.

When I was in high school, I remember begging my mom to let me go to France with my French class. I wanted to travel and see the world so badly. I thought that if my mom just knew more about the trip, she would agree to let me go — and also agree to be a chaperone on the trip. We were in the car when I brought it up to her. She replied, “It sounds like a great trip. I can definitely see how fun it would be.”

I have had that feeling many times. But I discovered a simple way to leverage those negative thoughts into positivity, discipline and forward progress. It’s all about having a winner’s mindset. I like to refer to it as how I “brainwashed” myself into being successful. So, what does that mean?

Years ago, I was focusing on what I didn’t want in life. As a younger person, I did not want to grow up poor. But at the same time, I didn’t want to have to ride my bike or the bus to work. I didn’t want to have to beg people to help me out or to lean on people constantly. Yet I didn’t have enough opportunities or resources to achieve what I wanted. I knew that wasn’t the way I wanted to go through life, so I turned it around — simply by turning negative thoughts into positive ones.

Here are four steps you can follow to flip a negative mindset into a positive one — and brainwash yourself into being successful.

1. Recognize what you don’t want in life to discover what you do want

To reconcile that gap, I had to stop my negative loop of thinking and start focusing instead of what I did want in life.

Excited about her apparent interest, I said, “Mom, you could be a chaperone. You took French, and you love it.”

I was in a dream world, imagining the two of us in France, experiencing a vastly different culture, eating sophisticated cuisine, meeting worldly Europeans and having something to compare everyday life to, far away from home. Mom let me stay in the dream world for a minute. And then she said, “But you know we can’t do that.”

I don’t remember what she said after that. I just remember feeling completely deflated. Suddenly, I felt like I had no options. I saw my classmates getting ready to go on the trip, so why couldn’t I be doing the same? An overwhelming feeling of helplessness and hopelessness consumed me.

I wasn’t able to go on the trip, but deep down in my soul, I resolved never to feel that way again. I told myself that the next time I had an opportunity, I would do whatever it took to make it happen. 

If we stay in a negative mindset, feeling sorry for ourselves and lamenting our bad fortune, it can cause us to spiral downward. It can be difficult to turn that negative loop around.

But the great news is that we can use those feelings of hopelessness to propel ourselves forward. All that’s required is simply to recognize how you’re feeling and then leverage the power of that negative emotion to propel yourself beyond it. This is a hallmark of high performers — they transform disappointment into a personal mission and goal to achieve the optimum outcome. This is why people who fail are the pillars of success — they transform their desire to avoid failing again into superhuman, successful attempts to achieve their dreams.

After that, I used my disappointment to drive myself to success. I discovered that I could tap into that negativity and then be purposeful about flipping the script. I used my unpleasant vision of what I didn’t want to get a clearer picture of what I did want in life.

Once I became a husband and father, what I didn’t want was to have to tell my kids they didn’t have options. I didn’t want my kids to have to beg their friends’ parents to go with them on soccer trips and then have to sleep on the floor in the hotel room. I didn’t want my kids to feel that sense of disappointment I had felt as a teenager, worried that the world would pass me by because I didn’t have the means to go out and seize opportunities.

Transforming that negativity into a determination to succeed has driven me to become who I am today.

2. Visualize a negative outcome, and then reframe it as a positive outcome

Self-awareness is important for this step. It is critical for us to be hyper-conscious, especially in the face of adversity. Just visualize the negative outcome you do not want, and then flip the script that’s playing in your mind to focus on what you do want. Here are some examples:

Transform this negative thought:                                    Into this positive thought:

“I’m going to have to miss this trip to France.”        “I will do whatever it takes to go on this trip.”

“I can’t afford to send my kids to camp.”                 “I will start a side hustle so they can go.”

“I’m stuck in this dead-end job forever.”                  “I will further my education and obtain certifications so I can get a promotion or a new job.”

Negative thoughts are powerful and debilitating. If we allow them to continue, we can feel like we’re drowning, like we can’t breathe.

  • Constantly assess your mindset. The moment you realize you are caught in a loop of negative thinking, consciously transform that negative thought into a positive thought.

3. Adopt an abundance mindset

In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says one of the character traits essential to “Win/Win” is having an abundance mentality — the belief that there is plenty out there for everybody. In contrast, a scarcity mentality is the belief that if one person wins, another person has to lose. This is an important mindset difference. If you believe there is enough out there for everyone, you will believe you can win without diminishing someone else’s ability to win.

  • Allow your negative thoughts to fuel your drive to succeed.
  • It’s human nature to default to a scarcity mindset at times. Use that scarcity mindset to fuel a transformation to an abundance mindset.

4. Discipline yourself to take the steps needed to achieve success

Once you know what you want, figure out what steps you need to take to get there, and equip yourself with the discipline to follow through. Become disciplined about building good habits.

When I was starting out in my business, I had to knock on doors and make cold calls — miserable! What a challenging way to make a living. But I wanted to succeed in the business, so I developed discipline and created habits out of the steps I needed to succeed. Every day, I created a game out of it. I took the negative mindset of hating the process and not wanting to do it every day and then turned my focus to the rewards I would receive at the end of the day, week, month, quarter, etc. I knew I had to succeed at those beginning steps of the business before I could rise above them.

I focused on the sense of accomplishment I would feel and a fun reward I could give myself. I knew what I didn’t want, and I knew the result I was aiming for. But it took discipline and habits, and even gamifying the process well before gamification apps became prevalent. I was doing my own low-tech version of gamification. It really helped me through the worst moments. I was using negativity to brainwash myself into getting through them. The negativity was driving me to move far past what I didn’t want in my life.

I would tell myself, “I am not my thoughts. I do not have to stay trapped in this negative thought process. What I am doing today is not what I will be doing forever. I am doing what I need to do to get to the next step.”

The lessons we learn on this journey toward achieving our desired outcome will help us rise to the next level. We have to learn them before we can progress to the next level.

Negativity is a cancer in your mind, eating away your ability to function. I can’t stand that, so I constantly reminded myself, “You are not the role you’re in now. You are not the income level you have now.” I still do this today. I consciously switch negativity to positivity and pessimism to optimism.

  • The steps it takes you to move from Point A to Point B are typically different than the steps you’ll need to take to move from Point B to Point C, and so on. Identify the steps you need to take to achieve your desired outcome, and encourage yourself to keep moving. Remind yourself that your current station in life is temporary.
  • Fuel your transformation from negative to positive thoughts by reminding yourself that you are not what you are thinking. Do not allow yourself to get lost in that that negative loop. Don’t get dragged under by letting negative thoughts rob you of your future joy.
  • As you work your way toward your desired outcome, remind yourself, “I might not be there yet, but I will be soon. I am where I need to be right now. I am taking the steps needed to achieve my desired outcome.” That will restore your hope and optimism.
  • If you don’t like where you are headed, change it today — simply by changing the way you think.

If you are struggling with negative thoughts, I understand. I empathize. I’ve been there. And I assure you that, simply by flipping your negative thoughts into positive ones, you can change your outlook and your outcome!