Perhaps the most powerful influence on your attitude and personality is what you say to yourself, and believe. It is not what happens to you, but how you respond internally to what happens to you, that determine your thoughts and feelings, mind power, and, ultimately, your actions. By controlling your inner dialogue, or “self-talk,” you can begin to assert control over every other dimension of your life.
Your self-talk “the words that you use to describe what is happening to you, and to discuss how you feel about external events” determines the quality and tone of your emotional life. When yousee things positively and constructively and look for the good in each situation and each person, you have a tendency to remain naturally positive and optimistic. Since the quality of your life is determined by how you feel, moment to moment, one of your most important goals should be to use every psychological technique available to keep yourself thinking about what you want and to keep your mind off of what you don’t want, or what you fear.
Arnold Toynbee, the historian, developed what he called the “challenge-response theory” of history. In studying the rise and fall of 20 major world civilizations, Toynbee concluded that each civilization started out as a small group of people – as a village, as a tribe or in the case of the Mongol empire, as just three people who had survived the destruction of their small community.
Toynbee concluded that each of these small groups faced external challenges, such as hostile tribes. In order to survive, much less thrive, these small groups had to reorganize themselves to deal positively and constructively with these challenges.
By meeting each of these challenges successfully, the village or tribe would grow. Even greater challenges would be triggered as a result. And if this group of people continued to meet each challenge by drawing upon its resources and winning out, it would continue to grow until ultimately it became a nation-state and then a civilization covering a large geographical area.
Toynbee looked at the 21 great civilizations of human history, ending with the American civilization, and concluded that these civilizations began to decline and fall apart when their citizens and leaders lost the will or ability to rise to the inevitable external challenges occasioned by their very size and power.
Toynbee’s theory of civilizations can be applicable to our life as well.
You are continually faced with challenges and difficulties, with problems and disappointments, with temporary setbacks and defeats. They are an unavoidable and inevitable part of being human. But, as you draw upon your resources to respond effectively to each challenge, you grow and become a stronger and better person. In fact, without those setbacks, you could not have learned what you needed to know and developed the qualities of your character to where they are today.
Much of your ability to succeed comes from the way you deal with life. One of the characteristics of superior men and women is that they recognize the inevitability of temporary disappointments and defeats, and they accept them as a normal and natural part of life. They do everything possible to avoid problems, but when problems come, superior people learn from them, rise above the, continue onward in the direction of their dreams.