Because we are not our thoughts!
Around ten years ago, I read Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’, and what I can tell you is that I went on to buy a copy of the book for each member of my family, so yes, I highly recommend it. I was fascinated by the concepts of consciousness, awareness, the ego and how our identification with things as well as with our own thoughts impact our beliefs and sense of self.
I have come to realize that, at the end of the day, the main message being reiterated by philosophers, writers, speakers, therapists, coaches and the like are derived from one core principle:
‘We have the power to control our thoughts, because we are not our thoughts!’
Eckhart Tolle said: ‘Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them’.
Marcus Aurelius said: ‘Very little is needed to make a happy life – it is all within yourself – in your way of thinking’.
Experts estimate that our minds think between fifty to eighty thousand thoughts per day. That is around 2,700 thoughts per hour; and ladies and gentlemen, thoughts pop into our minds without our permission – because our minds secrete thoughts like our bodies excrete enzymes.
I am sure you will agree therefore, that we can become consumed, even obsessed by our thoughts. We can ‘get stuck in our own heads’.
Our thoughts, however, appear only to us and are not heard by anyone else – we live in our own separate theatres. And because thoughts exist only in our own awareness, they are not real unless we identify with them and give them enough attention. Can you recall a stressful time or situation in your life when you became so immersed in your thoughts that you were no longer aware of your own feelings and behaviours?
Dr. Steve McSwain wrote: The fact that we can think, reflect on the past, imagine the future and even be conscious of our own consciousness is what distinguishes us from all other animals.
However, the fact that we can think, reflect and so often regret the past, imagine and so often fear the future and even be unconscious of our own capacity to be conscious is the biggest curse we live with.
If you close your eyes for about 30 seconds and:
- think of a prior sad experience that you’ve had, then
- think of a prior fun experience, and
- whilst doing 1 & 2, watch, listen and pay attention to your thoughts as they occur…..
you will realise that having been able to switch from a negative to a positive means that we can control our thoughts.
I quote an extract from Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich: “When Henley wrote the prophetic lines, ‘I am the Master of my Fate, I am the Captain of my Soul’, he should have informed us that we are the Masters of our Fate, the Captains of our Souls, because we have the power to control our thoughts. He should have told us, too, that our brains become magnetized with the dominating thoughts which we hold in our minds, and by means with which no man is familiar, these magnets attract to us the forces, the people, the circumstances of life which harmonize with the nature of our dominating thoughts’ (whether these are constructive or destructive in nature).
Research in neuroscience and epigenetics have shown that our thoughts, feelings and perceptions have a direct and significant effect on our genes and cells; clearly illustrating that they are much more powerful than we realise. The ‘placebo effect’ is a very good example of this.
They go on to conclude that 15% of our well-being is due to circumstance/luck, 35% from our genetics and 50% of our well-being/happiness is due to our mean-making or MINDSET (how we perceive and make-sense of situations in life).
Success therefore does not lead to well-being/happiness – in fact it is well-being/happiness that leads to success.
A related topic to look at here is Carol Dweck’s Fixed vs Growth Mindsets.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing………………………
- We are not our thoughts!
- Our minds become magnetized by our dominating thoughts, whether these are positive or negative!
- Our health, wellbeing and happiness are dependent on our mindset!
And because we have the power to control our thoughts!
The only sensible thing to do is:
- to regularly take a step out of our theaters and watch our thoughts and feelings as they occur,
- to notice the thoughts that do not benefit us, and
- to guide our minds towards more positive thoughts.
Not an easy task but it’s worth a try!