By Dr. Victor S. Sierpina

We create our lives from the inside out. From our thoughts come our ideas, from our ideas our words, our attitudes, our actions, and, ultimately, our outcomes in life.

Cause and effect. For many years, I had this exactly backward. I figured if I got a lucky break, met a powerful, rich friend, the right mentor, stumbled on a good business opportunity, met the right girl, an so on, then life would unfold as I wished it to be.

Except for luckily meeting the right girl, it has not really been that way.

The most common worldview in our day is that outside events shape our destiny.

Note the fluctuations in the stock market based on belief, fear and negative expectations, rather than any significant change in the businesses they invest in.

What is so often underemphasized is the power we have within to shape the map of our lives.

Rather than seeing ourselves as dependent beings awaiting the whims of fate, we need but recall the classic words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In his essay “Self-Reliance,” Emerson offered us this timeless advice:

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”

William Shakespeare said it like this: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

One way we can monitor what direction our thoughts — and thus our lives — are likely to be going is to pay attention to our words.

Do we speak words of hope, optimism, positive expectation, prosperity and health?

Or are we talking about lack, disease and limitations, what a bad break we got, how we are somehow victims of circumstance or even of our own poor choices.

If you hear yourself talking in the vein of the negative, rather than the positive, notice that and ask yourself, “Is this serving me and the world?” Likely, you are underachieving your greatest potential.

There are several methods to changing this internal script, the words that follow and the life outcomes that derive from them.

Positive psychology has long promoted the concept of “as within, so without.” New Thought thinkers and a multitude of faith traditions encourage us to trust the wisdom and beneficence of a higher power and to expect a positive life outcome rather than a negative one.

Whichever path you follow, it seems that expecting the good attracts it and likewise, persevering on the negative brings more of the same.

So claim love, prosperity, wholeness. Do not succumb to the pressures to complain, whine and add to the general chaos and hopelessness that surround us.

Become part of the solution to any problem you, your family, community, nation and the world face, not just a hapless bystander who gets run over by the garbage truck of lost hopes and dreams.

This is solid positive psychology and faith-based thinking at work. It first transforms us, then changes the world around us.

You can heal, you can lead, you can be the change that you want for others by making the change within yourself first.

Try this way of thinking and speaking for 21 days and watch what happens. It will seem like a miracle.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.