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Letter: Replay only the good movies in the theater of your mind

You may be familiar with Tony Robbins, a motivational speaker, author and personal development coach who has gained worldwide prominence after 40 years of sharing his you-can-achieve-anything message. 

I’m not a huge Tony Robbins fan. He’s not my guru. Never heard him speak, read just one of his mega-seller books. Yet there’s one “nugget” of his I benefit from daily.

Directing a seminar, he asked participants: “How many of you have seen a movie you didn’t like?”

Of course, everyone raised a hand. Watching movies we don’t like is a universal experience. During the worst ones, we may leave the theater or cut off the TV halfway through the story.

Next, Tony asked: “How many of you went back to see those bad movies again and again?” 

This time there was not a show of hands. Then Robbins made his point: “Of course you don’t go back to see awful movies in your neighborhood cinemas. But you do frequently replay, in the theater of your mind, bad experiences you struggled through. You remember the boss who made your life miserable, and you vividly picture scary scenes in her office. You practically re-live a terrifying car accident that hospitalized you for weeks. You get angry visualizing a close friend who lied to you.”

Switching to a positive approach, Robbins suggested: “From now on, never replay the bad movies, those personal and professional experiences that shattered your stability. They were distressing enough when they happened. Why give them a chance to disturb you and disappoint you again and again?” He added: “Replay only the good movies, day after day.”

That’s a magnificent strategy, one I have shared with many people — because I have put his suggestion to use repeatedly. I don’t replay what doctors said to me twice: “You have cancer.”  But I do recall the marvelous physicians, nurses, radiation therapists, and other health professionals who brought me through those frightening ordeals successfully. 

Again, I could replay repeatedly that grief-filled day of my father’s funeral. He was my role model and my life coach. I loved him dearly, lost him way too early. However, my morale remains high when I think of him. How? I replay mental movies of him taking me to the river as a small child and laughing with me as I threw rocks a few feet out from the shore. Together, we both cheered the small splashes. I replay him traveling to my graduate school commencement, though Ohio University was hundreds of miles from his Mississippi home.

In our turbulent era, we need this affirmative mindset. Daily, you and I are bombarded by shocking events that could demoralize us, even happening in our revered institutions: homes, schools and churches. Watch the incidents once, discard them, and then replay in your mind the joyful movies that enrich your spirit and energize your life.

Bill Lampton


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