Secret to Being: Just because you think something does not make it true. Thoughts are incredibly powerful and can take control of our lives. Some thoughts are meaningful and are worth paying attention to, and other thoughts are noise that are renting too much space in our brains.
Imagine you are introduced to a business associate named Mark. When you shake Mark’s hand, you notice him look away. What you say to yourself about Mark’s behavior will be automatic, and will determine how you feel about the encounter. If you say to yourself, “Mark is rude. He insulted me by not looking at me,” you may feel angry. If you say to yourself, “Mark could tell I am uninteresting,” you will feel dejected. If you say to yourself, “Mark must be nervous because it is his first day,” you may feel compassion. How you act toward Mark will directly follow your thoughts and feelings. If you thought he was rude you might avoid him. If you thought he was feeling nervous, you might try to make him feel welcome.
Life provides us with an endless supply of opportunities to create meaning and it is how we interpret those events, and what we decide they mean about ourselves and the world. To a large degree our thoughts determine our feelings, behaviors and outcomes. But YOU are not your thoughts. You are the consciousness from which your thoughts arise. The human capacity to think (while great in comparison to other living creatures) is incredibly susceptible to error. Cognitive bias, false assumptions, misinformation, ego and limited beliefs are just a few patterns of unhealthy thought processes that can interfere.
The average person thinks between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day. Ranging from the mundane — I need to buy milk, to the significant — I love you, to the self-destructive — I’m not good enough. In the moment, our thinking seems logical. According the Psychology Today, “When we examine long patterns of brain activity, it’s clear that thoughts can be unstable and often arbitrary, shifting depending on context and contradicting our better instincts.”
Our internal decisions/thoughts determine whether we are “rich” or “poor,” happy or sad, angry or joyful, appreciative or resentful. Unfortunately, we give our automatic thoughts too much power. When you choose to believe a thought your mind works to find ways to support that idea with evidence that may or may not be based on pure truth. Many of us do this on a daily basis: we find a thought that we believe to be true and we build ideas around it to support or deny it. We don’t always use facts or truth; often relying on emotionally driven concepts or feelings. By becoming aware of our thoughts, evaluating them, and changing those thoughts that are inaccurate or unhelpful, we can improve the quality of our lives.
Are your thoughts serving you well? If you suspect that your automatic thinking may be having a negative impact on your mood, relationships, financial health or quality of life, consider the following techniques to maximize productive thinking and minimize mental clutter.
How do you react when you believe that thought? Is the question to ask yourself when you are unsure of whether or not to believe what you are thinking. Consider what the thought does to you. Even if it is 100% true and valid, it is important to now look at whether or not the thought is worth having. Is it helping you in any way? Is it bringing you down? Is there any value in the thought? If not, you need to let the thought go — or take action so you can let it go.
Know the difference between Ego and Higher Self. Your Ego is your lower animal nature. It is all about self, fear and survival. The Ego talks very loud and is hard to ignore. By contrast, your Higher Self is your wisdom, creativity and intuition. The Higher Self speaks very quietly and can be difficult to hear. Listen closely to the Higher Self (and edge out the Ego). It will create a healthier, happier mind. Bottom line: listen more, react less.
Focus on the narrative you want to live. Mental clutter distracts us from our personal mission. Because what you focus on for a sustained period of time becomes your reality, it is essential to decide the purpose you want to fulfill and direct your mental focus toward this narrative.
Meditate. Businesses executives, entrepreneurs and artists are using mindful nonthinking to achieve higher levels of creativity and success. Twenty minutes of meditation each day gives you a break from your thoughts and helps other aspects of your life and business fall into place.
In summary, what we CAN control is our response to these thoughts. By becoming aware of our thoughts, evaluating them, and changing those thoughts that are inaccurate or unhelpful, we can improve the quality of our lives.
Note: this is a repost of my January 2017, Capital City Hues article.