“What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve.” – Norman Vincent Peale
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it,” remarked the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
If you were to read no further than that line, this article has served you well and imparted what is needed to direct your thoughts. Mastery of one’s mental faculty is not an elaborate undertaking, comprised of complex rituals. It is recognising that thoughts come and go from the mind, comparable to radio signals that deliver songs to your music device.
They are similar and yet dissimilar. Unlike a music device which can be turned off, or the stations changed to suit your preference, thoughts are fixed. That is, they are part of your mental landscape. You cannot stop thoughts passing through your mind, although you can reduce the intensity of the thoughts by remaining attentive to them as they arise.
How do you empower your thoughts and why should you care? You know the expression, “Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” And there lies the answer – thoughts build character.
Your thoughts shape your identity – those fragments of mind which pass through your brain 70,000 times a day, create the fundamental person that is you. If you are not convinced of this, recall your last angry thought and note how it affected your physiology. Man’s orientation toward stress nowadays stems from recurring restless thoughts which become stuck in a feedback loop.
Use the following points to empower your thoughts without succumbing to the incessant inner dialogue. I encourage you not to be besieged by thoughts since they do not happen to you. Thoughts arise through you, as long as you remain in a state of equilibrium.
“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” – Helen Kelle
1. Observe Your Thoughts
The first step to empower your thoughts is to realise disempowering thoughts are part of your mental landscape. Change cannot take place in the midst of uncertainty. We must measure the impact of our thoughts to modify our default setting. Consider your answers to the following questions. When do disempowering thoughts appear? When you’re tired, hungry, or emotional? What is the theme of the thoughts? Are they self-deprecating, shameful, or resentful? Attentiveness is the act of triggering consciousness to witness thoughts, without creating the accompanying storyline. In his book, Simply Notice, author Peter Francis Dziuban states, “Similarly, just by being the simple, clear awareness you naturally, normally are, the fog of excessive thinking evaporates too.”
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness means being aware of your thoughts by bringing them to the forefront of your mind. You need not examine every thought. Instead, you become awake and mindful of disempowering thoughts as they appear, intending to trip the circuit before they become runaway thoughts. You refuse to accept your thoughts as real, knowing they constitute your mind’s biological landscape. You recognise they are conversations taking place inside your head, that naturally arise and fall. Their ebb and flow is transient, without a need to attach meaning to them. In his book, Positive Intelligence, author Shirzad Chamine states, “The most effective strategy for weakening your Saboteurs is to simply observe and label your thoughts or feelings every time you notice them.” The author implies perceiving your thoughts is enough to disarm the inner critic, which we are predisposed to feeding.
3. Navigate Your Thoughts
Drop the relentless stories which play out in your mind. Why do we accept certain thoughts while discounting others? Thoughts are those fleeting episodes which come and go with no agenda. We are quick to question the thoughts of others simply because we cannot hear them, so why contemplate your own? Second, step back from your thoughts by refusing to become embroiled in them. Certain thoughts are prone to last longer than others, yet that does not mean you should give them more attention. To create a storyline based on thoughts which periodically pass through the mind is not conducive to your mental wellbeing. By accepting thoughts as real you fuel them with energy, like pouring kerosene on a burning flame. Witness them and stay detached so they don’t spiral out of control. As you practice this skill, your brain becomes adept at managing such thoughts.
4. Practice self-compassion
Self-compassion invites you to develop an attentive and sympathetic relationship with self. It is challenging to uphold empowering thoughts when the mind is turned on itself, amid the backdrop of incessant chatter. In her book, Self-compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, author Kristin Neff states, “Compassion is, by definition, relational. Compassion literally means “to suffer with,” which implies a basic mutuality in the experience of suffering. The emotion of compassion springs from the recognition that the human experience is imperfect.” Witness your inner dialogue when life does not go according to plan. Many people continue to perpetuate a sabotaging inner dialogue acquired during childhood. Self-compassion is effective for enhancing self-esteem by reinforcing the image of a secure self.
5. Reframe Old Beliefs
Your beliefs hold the key to empowering thoughts as they represent your accumulated experiences. The sum of your thoughts decide your reality. As a result, your perceptions form the lens in which your deeply held beliefs are realised. It makes sense that your attention be directed towards your wishes. However, far too many people waste countless hours recounting what they don’t want. Whilst merit is obtained in knowing what you don’t want, the contrasting view invites you to focus on your desires to bring them to life. Consider destructive thoughts as a car sliding out of control. Your task is to command your thoughts by directing them in the desired direction. As you become proficient at this, your thoughts are less likely to become uncontrollable.
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