This is the first of the series of articles that I will group under Internal Dialogue. Your internal dialogue is so crucial to your existence. The quality of your internal dialogue will determine the quality of your life. Someone said: “What goes on around us is not as important as what goes on within us.” That’s so true. My wife, a psychologist, told me very early in our now 141/2 years’ marriage that there are two kinds of people: those with internal locus of control and others with external locus of control. The latter see themselves as victims of circumstances. They never seem to be able to do anything about what happens to them. They are permanently in a state of ‘learned helplessness’ (a term popularised by the famed psychologist – Dr. Martin Seligman). People with external locus of control are always seeking other people’s approvals before they do anything. Bob Gass, author of The Word for Today, wrote: “Many of us suffer from ‘approval addiction’. The symptoms are: living in bondage to what others think of us; getting easily hurt by what they say; a nagging sense that we aren’t good enough; trying to impress important people. And like all addicts we’ll go to any lengths for a ‘fix'”. People with internal locus of control, on the other hand, take charge of their lives. They recognize the fact that it’s up to them to achieve whatever they want to achieve. In all, they derive their strength from within.
Volumes of books have been written on ‘How To…’ of success and ‘X Steps to Success’. These books have had minimal positive impact empirically. The reason is that the root cause of success is being ignored. Success is the last stage of a 3-stage process: The first is the stage of being (who you are); the second is stage of doing (what you do) and the last is the stage of having (what you have). Having is tied to who you are and what you do. Needless to say, people are short-circuiting this agelong principle by having without necessarily being or doing but the consequences are almost always fatal.
The greatest asset of real successful people is not anything tangible. It’s not houses, cars, private jets, or any other thing that can be seen or touched. Their greatest asset is their mind: the powerhouse of their thoughts. A man is not his assets; the assets are only products of his thinking ability. The Scripture says: “…As a man thinketh, so is he.” You are what you think. That’s why someone opined that no man can rise beyond the level of his thoughts. Every tangible thing we see around us is a product of the thoughts and imaginations of a person.
If most of the books that have been written on how to succeed have not helped the readers, the question is: What will? I think a better literature will be “How to Think to Succeed”. In this regard, two classic books come to mind. They are: Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich and James Allen’s ‘As a Man Thinketh’. For anyone wanting to have material success, these books will serve as a good starting point.
As important as thoughts are to material success, they (thoughts) don’t originate in a vacuum – something must jump-start the thought process that leads to success. In effect, it is fruitless to tell someone that is desirous of material success to just think. He is likely to ask, Think about what? The answer to the question is found in what I call the almighty formula for success contained in the book of Joshua, chapter one verse eight. It says: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall MEDITATE in it day and night, that you may observe to DO according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will HAVE good success.” Inherent in this verse of Scripture are the ingredients of success: being, doing and having.
To succeed therefore we must make the word of God the substrate of our thoughts. The word of God helps in defining the limit of our thoughts. Through God’s word, our affinity will be towards meditating on things that are true, noble, of good report… As we do, our personalities are transformed by the power in the Word. Invariably, our actions (what we do) are influenced by the Word and ultimately we start showing good results.
Even as a young boy, I’ve always taken charge of my internal environment. When I was preparing for my West African School Certificate Examination in 1985, I went to see a friend who was also preparing for the same examination, in our neighbourhood. While I was with my friend, his father came back home and met us in his living room. I noticed from the expression on his face that I wasn’t welcomed, so I made up my mind to take my leave. Just before I got round to telling my friend I was leaving, his father released the bombshell. He asked me: “Wale, are you not writing an external examination in a couple of weeks’ time?” I answered in the affirmative. He retorted: “If you are, why are you loafing around?” I said nothing. He then said, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t come and infect my son with that same attitude.” All I could say was: “I am sorry.” As I left their house, I thought: “We would see who is a loafer between me and your son when the results come out.” I actually felt my friend had a lot to learn from me preparatory to the examination.
When the results eventually came out, I passed all my papers. I also passed the university entrance examination and was able to secure admission into the university the same year I finished from secondary school. My friend didn’t do well in the examination we wrote together and he had to rewrite the examination several times. He was only able to secure university admission when I was in my fifth and final year in the university. The experience at that tender age taught me the power of positive internal dialogue, which I have continued to nurture to date.
I can’t overemphasize the need for you to be in control of your internal environment. It’s strictly your responsibility to do so. Good enough, nobody sees what goes on in your mind; you’re the only one who does. The starting point is to be conscious of what you think about. Check out the effect of such thoughts on your feelings, actions and results. Any thoughts that bring about feelings that do not energise you to do the things you know you should do need to be gotten rid of. As you refine this entire process over and over again, you come up with a winning formula that enables you to dominate your internal dialogue for best results.
Don’t hesitate to share personal experiences of the successes you achieve (or have achieved) as a result of taking charge of your internal environment with me. I may choose, with your consent, to publish such testimonies on my web site so that others are encouraged to do likewise.