I learned this from my sister, Ann Licata, who co-founded and ran a highly successful medical distribution company with her husband, Vance until they retired to Paradise on a mountaintop overlooking the ocean in Panama.

Ann learned this lesson early in her career when she worked as a nurse in the Psychology Ward of a major children’s hospital.   Her experience there confirmed her training that one’s attention is heightened by that which is on our mind. And that most of us can choose what we focus on.

It’s like when we’re thinking about buying a red car.  Suddenly, red cars are coming around every corner.

Or when someone says “Whatever you do, don’t stare at his nose.”  Well, you know what happens next…

And how about when you’re asked “Have you ever noticed how much Pat does X?”  “Hmm,” you reply, “Now that you mention it…”

What you focus on manifests itself.

As leaders, the trick is to manifest what we want by choosing what we focus on.  I once heard Ram Charan say that “we run our organizations by the questions we ask.”  Same idea.

So here are a few simple ideas:

  1. Make sure the things that can garner the biggest result get the most airtime.  Make this your mantra for meetings.
  2. Shine a bigger light on what you want more of.  Catch people doing it right.
  3. Accentuate the positive. Remember that many weaknesses are an expression of overused strengths.
  4. Generate success by breeding confidence.  Rather than pointing out what’s lacking or what’s wrong, steer people to how it could be even better – and why you know they can do it.

And when it comes to your own self talk, remember the wisdom of Henry Ford who said “whether you think you can or think you can’t—you’re right.”

I’ll now come back to how Ann put her counsel into practice: How did she and Vance retire to Paradise in their mid-forties? By thinking they could!