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Change your life with positive thinking

A 3-step process to achieving your goals, contentment and success


Photo/Kerri Hatt

NEW ORLEANS — In 2022, Matt Nealand, BS, EMT-LP, found himself in a dark place. Nealand, program director for EMTS Academy/St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center Paramedic Program, in Austin, Texas, found COVID was taking its toll on enrollment for the training program he had built. After working for four years before he took a salary, he began to wonder if he would be able to keep the lights on. In addition, his twin brother began sending him emails about the end of the world – famine, economic collapse, World War III. He started prepping – buying food in bulk, looking for land and “bug-out buddies,” but he didn’t realize how much it was affecting him until his wife said that she missed “happy Matt.”

Since changing his approach to life, Nealand has a better outlook and knows he can create the life he always imagined. His paramedic program has grown to eight different locations across the state of Texas.

At EMS Word Expo, he shared tips for those wondering, “What’s next for my life?” or “Is this all there is?”

Matt Nealand.jpg

Matt Nealand, BS, EMT-LP, program director for EMTS Academy/St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center Paramedic Program, in Austin, Texas.

Memorable quotes

“In EMS, we carry heavy burdens. We see all the worst the world has to offer. We bury those feelings like a town buries trash, hoping to never see it again.”

“Sometimes, we all need the cockpit warning to tell us ‘alert, alert, terrain, pull up!’”

“Affirmations without emotions are like a printer without ink; you’re not going to see results.”

“So many of us look at the problem and focus on the problem instead of saying how do I get over it, around it, through it – whatever needs to be done.”

“You have to show up and you have to never ever give up.”

Top takeaways

Nealand shared his 3-step process to change your thinking and change your life.

1. Kill the ANTs

First up in Nealand’s process: banish negative thinking; the Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) that can ruin seemingly innocent interactions (e.g., if someone walks by and doesn’t say “hi,” and you read too much into it; thinking they dislike you). He provided examples of common ANTs:

  • I’m too young, or old or fat
  • I don’t have a degree or enough experience
  • Nobody wants to listen to me
  • Who am I to be great?
  • What if (insert negative image here)?

One way to cull negative thoughts is to be mindful of the media you consume and the people you spend time with, he advised, avoiding those who spread fear and doubt.

2. Implement positive affirmations

Whether written, recited silently or spoken aloud, positive affirmations work, Nealand stressed, citing numerous studies and identifying celebrities who credit their success to affirmations, from Muhammad Ali, to Conor McGregor, to Oprah.

How do positive affirmations work? Think of the car you drive, Nealand advised. Do you find yourself spotting your make and model wherever you go? That’s an effect of the reticular activating system. We are all good at filtering out the noise we experiencing, and finding what we expect. If we focus our thoughts on what it will look like when we achieve our goals, and on gratitude for what we have and will achieve, we will begin to see opportunities to achieve those goals.

The important thing is to add the emotion, Nealand said. Fast forward to when you have already done what you seek to do, and are thinking from the other side of the challenges in your way. Manifest the peace your will feel when you think from the right side of success.

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat

Thinking positive takes continuous effort, Nealand noted.

Just like it takes more than one treatment to remove sugar ants from your home, negative thoughts may return, and it could take more than one cycle to banish them.

Think of your goals like a fish, swimming in deep waters. With focus, you can hook the goal, but it will take steady reeling – positive focus – to land it.

Further reading

Nealand shared three books he finds helpful for shaping your positive future.

Additional resources

Kerri Hatt is editor-in-chief, EMS1, responsible for defining original editorial content, tracking industry trends, managing expert contributors and leading execution of special coverage efforts. Prior to joining Lexipol, she served as an editor for medical allied health B2B publications and communities.

Kerri has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia. She is based out of Charleston, SC. Share your personal and agency successes, strategies and stories with Kerri at