What am I doing wrong? Book helps count the ways

“13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do — Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success” by Amy Morin (William Morrow, $26.99).

Positive thinking doesn’t guarantee success. To unlock its power, you must blend it with realism, mirror-image behavior and controlled emotion. Sound decision-making uses rational thinking to offset knee-jerk emotional reactions. Mental strength requires doing what must be done while remembering things you don’t do.

Here are Morin’s 13 don’ts:

1. “Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself.” Every day has its ups and downs. Look at all the good that happened and build upon it. If you dwell on the downs, you develop a glass-half-empty mentality which triggers an ongoing self-pity party.

2. “Don’t give away your power.” Every day comes with new choices. These include how you respond to others — especially when criticism is involved. Evaluate feedback in terms of content, not personality or attitude.

3. “Don’t shy away from change.” Discomfort initially accompanies any change. But by creating a goal and action expectations and a time frame, you can manage change. Track your progress. When you encounter obstacles, keep an open mind and adjust.

4. “Don’t waste energy on things you can’t control.” Quit wishing circumstances were different. Trying to gain control over others and situations produces stress. Instead, proactively deal with what you can control: your actions and reactions. Use what you can control to influence others.

5. “Don’t worry about pleasing everyone.” Saying ‘yes’ to everyone makes it difficult for you to handle your priorities. Their urgent shouldn’t trump your important. It’s OK to tell people, “I’m working on something; can I get back to you….”

6. “Don’t fear taking calculated risks.” Choice involves risk — especially when facing change. Creating worst-case scenarios plays into fear of failure. Basing decisions on the fear emotion limits the potential for identifying upside. You can’t win by playing not to lose.

7. “Don’t dwell on the past.” Living today by looking at yesterday’s rearview mirror, destroys one’s ability to plan. Instead of figuring out what’s next, you play ‘Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda,’ a game you can’t win.

8. “Don’t make the same mistakes over and over.” “When we deny our mistakes, we are less likely to examine them and gain any lessons from them, making us more susceptible to repeating them.” Often pride gets in our way. Stubbornness does, too. The wise man figures out why he fell off the horse before climbing back on.

9. “Don’t resent other people’s success.” The emotions of insecurity, jealousy and envy create resentment. “The more time you spend focusing on someone else’s achievements, the less time you have to work on your own goals.” Your life involves maximizing your skills and talents — and being happy with the results.

10. “Don’t give up after the first failure.” Successful people understand that failure is a side step on the path to success. Thomas Edison found thousands of ways not to invent the light bulb.

11. “Don’t fear alone time.” A philosophy professor friend wakes up at 4 a.m. every day to think about what’s happened and what could happen in his life. He told me that at 4 a.m. the world is silent, and that makes it easy to focus on “me being me”.

12. “Don’t feel the world owes you anything.” Entitlement (n.) — the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something. My dad didn’t give me allowance; I earned it by doing my chores. Effort begets reward, and creates self-esteem and motivation.

13. “Don’t expect immediate results.” There are no shortcuts to success. Like a newly-planted garden, it takes time for seeds to germinate; fertilizer and weeding are required to maximize the harvest.

Mindset-reminder exercise: Write down the 13 don’ts and read them aloud before you start your workday.

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated reviewer of business books.

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