“You are what you eat.” We often hear these words in the media. This month I’d like to offer a spin on that: “You are what you think.”
Every action, every decision starts with a thought. It’s your thinking, i.e. your mindset and attitude, that drives your behaviour. When setbacks and challenges occur in your life, do you get trapped in a cycle of negative thinking, criticizing, blaming, justifying, allowing the situation to consume or overwhelm you? If so, how does that make you feel? What impact does that have on others around you? Is this way of dealing with the situation helpful? Does it move you forward? Usually the response is no, not at all.
Maybe you are better able than most at standing back, getting perspective on the issue and deciding what to do about it (which could include doing nothing). When problems arise, or events unfold that are unexpected and unwelcome, do you focus on what you can do about it; are you able to “let go” of things that you can do nothing about, or that don’t really matter? That doesn’t mean that things don’t bother you, or you don’t show emotion. You simply focus on being proactive; thinking about how you will respond to whatever has happened, rather than getting stuck, going around in circles and getting nowhere.
Some of the things we’re unhappy about, and wish were different, we’re unable to change. If this is the case, the best thing you can do, as far as your well-being is concerned, is to accept the situation, learn from it (as appropriate), and give yourself permission to move on. The alternative is to keep heaping stress onto yourself, by constantly focussing on your concerns, and yet doing nothing differently to influence the situation or change the way you feel.
Whatever your approach to the challenges life throws at you, it’s how you think about what happens to you, not the event or circumstance itself, that makes the difference. It’s helpful to remember that while you do not have control over these inevitable setbacks, you do have control within those circumstances. You are in control of you and that starts with what’s happening in your neck-top computer — your head. This is the only place a negative or positive thought exists.
When was the last time you thought about the way that you think? How might your attitude be affecting the quality of your life? Your performance at work, for example?
Thinking is like breathing. We do it all the time, mostly without conscious attention. Most of us have experienced the consequences of a negative attitude, of limiting assumptions and destructive self-talk, even if it’s only temporary. For some people, this kind of mindset has become a habit, a way of life, and they are convinced that’s just how they are and they can’t change.
The good news is that you can change the way that you think; you can change what you focus on, what you pay attention to. You have the ability to choose your response to setbacks and issues. It’s not easy to do, but it is possible with some discipline and practice.
“We are what we think. All that we are arises from our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world.” – Buddha
What kind of world are you creating for yourself?
Hazel Morley is principal of Think Smart: Training and Coaching with Change in Mind. She can be contacted at email@example.com.