04 January 2018


Positive thinking. We all value it and know its importance in every aspect of our lives. And there are two great ways I know of that explain how to “do it”. Yet even so, it seems some people do really “get it”, apply it, and flourish. Others seem to flounder…

So what is the key ingredient? And how do we activate that? 

This week we explore the power of intention, why it is so crucial, and how to bring it forward into our lives more directly, but first

            Thought for the day

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, 
The chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. 
Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, 
There is one elementary truth 
The ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: 

That the moment one definitely commits oneself, 
Then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one 
That would never otherwise have occurred. 

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, 
Raising in one's favour all manner 

Of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance 
Which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. 
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

                                                       William Murray
NOTE This whole quote is often attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
however, it was actually written by Murray at the start of the 1961 Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

Why is it that so many New Year’s resolutions do not actually lead to personal change? 

Maybe the problem is lack of resolve?

Consider “Positive Thinking”. My take on positive thinking is that it is all to do with understanding how our thinking mind works, and using it intelligently.

The Oxford dictionary defines mind as being “the seat of perception, thinking, volition and feeling”. 

A very instructive definition. Now, we hear a good deal about perception, thinking and feeling. 

But then there is volition. 

Do not hear much about that! Volition is our will, our determination, our resolve. Without it nothing gets done. Without it we are left vulnerable to all sorts of outer and inner conflicts.

With our volition active, with our resolve in hand, there is clarity, there is commitment and confidence. With resolve there is the energy to follow through amidst all manner of challenges, obstacles, successes and failures; there is the energy to accomplish just about anything. Resolve. Volition.

So what is the secret? How do we manifest a healthy resolve?

There are two useful ways of explaining how to put positive thinking into action. My own preference that features in several of my books is the Three Principles of Positive Thinking - 

1. Have a clear goal
2. Do whatever it takes (to accomplish that goal)
3. Choose to enjoy doing it.

The other that is often used in sporting and business circles is more instructive when it comes to resolve. This approach is based upon clarifying 4 steps - What, Why, How and How much? 

What you intend to do, Why you intend to do it, How you intend to do it, and How much you want to do it.

This last point is the key to resolve. How much do you want to do something? Is this a casual business? If it happens it would be nice, or if not, no big deal? 

Or is this endeavour a matter of life and death? 

I must say over the years it has amazed me to observe the number of people who faced with a life threatening condition life cancer remain casual. Others are more like how I was when acutely ill 40 years ago; my recovery was based on a life or death commitment. 

My resolve was that during my recovery nothing was more important than getting well. Everything I did for several years had to satisfy the basic question - is this good for my health? My recovery? Of course that included having fun, but it also made it easy to fore-go many things, and to do stuff that was not always as “easy” as it may have seemed on the surface.

I have seen this same level of resolve in business, in study, in sport, in music and in the intention to become a better person.

A strong resolve is the secret to positive thinking - to bringing into reality our good intentions.

So how important to you are the things you aspire to?

Finally, the Dalai Lama has had something useful to say on this in his New Year’s day address …

“It’s important that, as we begin the New Year, look forward. We should project our intention ahead, so that we make this year a meaningful one.”

“If an individual were to make conscious intention to live his or her life with a sense of purpose, live it in a good way, then the ripple effect of that really spreads. First, from the individual to the family, then to the community… and so on. This is how society gets changed and effected.

“When we talk about the transformation of society, the transformation really has to start from the individual, from inside to outwards,” said His Holiness.

May you all experience a healthy, content and meaningful year in 2018.

The last 4 months have been physically challenging for me. I have been in hospital 4 times - 3 times with acute bowel obstructions; once for a laparoscopy to clear adhesions thought to have been behind it all and acquired when my acute appendix was removed at age eight. 

Extensive testing has confirmed there is nothing sinister going on like a tumour or some other exotic condition, however, seems likely I have also had a bacterial overgrowth that has precipitated these acute episodes. So have been treated for that and we await the next exciting episode… which hopefully will be nothing at all!

Good news is I am feeling well again, have had yet another opportunity to personally test all I teach, and yes, may write something about being in hospital. What I can say is how wonderful all the staff were - from doctors through nurses, ambulance staff - yes had close encounters with them too - and the delightful cleaners. And Ruth - as well as being through a tough time, she has been just marvellous in all the ways she has supported, cared for and loved me. Much to be grateful for…

Anyway, here again is the wish for all of us to have a healthy, content and meaningful year in 2018.


  1. Glad you're feeling a lot better, Ian! Happy New Year to you!

  2. Thank you Ian. Glad to hear you're feeling well now. Best wishes.

  3. You have my respect .

  4. Dear Ian and Ruth,
    You have been my inspiration for many years and I think it time I put the volition into action...namaste margaret

  5. You are a remarkable person. It is always with great interest that I read your newsletter. Keep well and a healthy, joyful 2018 to
    you and Ruth. Jenny

  6. Hello Ian,
    Thank you for your clear and apt article about personal change.
    I always find the questions you ask us to consider are pertinent, thought-provoking and helpful in gaining perspective and clarity. Your question "So how important are the things you aspire to ?" is one such question.
    I am very sorry you have had a tough time of it during the last 4 months but I am so glad that you are feeling well again.
    With very best wishes

  7. Thank You Ian. Such good advice wishing you good health - surrendering my life to a higher purpose at the age of 33 was for me and still is a life and death commitment. Along the way I have come to recognise that having done so there was no turning back if I was to find meaning and purpose in my life. It’s just a case of “one day at a time” and the next 24 hours can begin any time.

  8. Wishing you good health Ian! As always, your words are wise, uncomplicated and clear. Thank you!

  9. This is, as ever, a welcome and profound piece of advice ~ thank you!

    So happy to hear you're well :-) Fiona

  10. Ian I follow your blog with great interest - you are a truly inspirational man. Wishing you a speedy recovery. Greg :-)