Few people think what they think they think. Do you know what you think about? The answer is revealed by the life you lead. If you are happy and successful, you are thinking thoughts of happiness and success. If you are wading through an endless stream of problems and finding life painful to bear, it is caused by thoughts of doubt, failure, anger, helplessness, incompetence, and pain. In other words, whether you think life is miserable or great, you're correct, for life is whatever you think it is.
Yes, I'm writing about our THOUGHTS again. This article is prompted by a reader's question, "When you are facing one disaster after another, making compromise after compromise and failing your family time and time again, how does one keep getting up to face the next problem without losing the will to live?"
Let me begin my issuing a few warnings.
1. If you are so mired in problems that you are on the brink of depression, you may be unable to work things out without professional help. If this is your situation, visit a counselor or mental health professional at once. Your life is too precious to dawdle away.
2. Even if you have some semblance of control over your thoughts, if you are entrenched in dark thoughts, it may not be possible for you to see the sun unaided. In other words, the thoughts I share may fall on deaf ears. As Nietzsche said, "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." If you cannot hear the music, what I say will make no sense to you. If that is the case, seek professional help to get you to the point where you can start to help yourself.
3. When we face one disaster after another, it reinforces the false belief that the cause of our suffering is external events. Be careful not to get caught up in this lie. The problem lies within. It is your thoughts. And you can change your thoughts for the better. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings, positive behavior, positive consequences, positive beliefs, and a positive life.
4. When you are used to living a life of negativity, any advice you get may appear more like salt in the wounds than as help. That is, you are likely to interpret sound advice as a personal attack. Rather than help you, it may appear to you that the only thing your friends are interested in is in blaming you for your unfortunate circumstances. Because you interpret offers of help as personal attacks, you will resist and fight any thoughts that you are responsible and that you can change. Instead of changing yourself, you will insist that the world change for you, which it will not. The result is endless frustration, with no progress in sight.
5. When you become enmeshed in a web of negative thinking, you are likely to develop a victim's mentality. You will cry out to be rescued. "Help me! Save me! I don't want to change. I don't want to accept responsibility. I don't want to make an effort and work hard. I don't want to struggle. No, I don't want any of that. All I want is to be saved. Won't you rescue me?" All such pleas for help are made in vain. Don't seek to be rescued. Instead, try to reach the point, with or without the help of others, where you will be able to rescue yourself. You are the only one who can do it.
Now, let's look at what some of the brightest minds had to say about the power of thought:
"What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind. Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts. But once mastered, no one can help you as much." Buddha (568 ~ 488 BC)
"A man's life is what his thoughts make of it. Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking." Marcus Aurelius (121 ~ 180 AD)
"There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so." William Shakespeare (1564 ~ 1616)
"Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts." Soren Kierkegaard (1813 ~ 1855)
"All that you accomplish or fail to accomplish with your life is the direct result of your thoughts. You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you." James Allen (1864 ~ 1912)
You may think that what you think about is unimportant, but your thoughts are the bricks you use to build your life. Negative thoughts build a prison. Positive thoughts build a comfortable home. But beware of intruders in your home. Beware of a home invasion. When a sudden disaster strikes, don't let negative thoughts ransack your home; don't allow these intruders to steal your happiness. Chase uninvited guests out of your home (mind).
How can you master yourself and master life unless you master your thoughts? But how do we master our thoughts? Although the techniques are simple and straightforward, I cannot cover them in any detail in such a brief article. However, I can refer you to two modern classics. These short and powerful documents are ESSENTIAL READING. The first is Ralph Waldo Trine's "Character Building Thought Power," which was written in 1899. The second is "As a Man Thinketh," by James Allen (1864 ~ 1912). There is nothing to buy; you can read both documents at http://cornerstone.wwwhubs.com/framepage.htm.
So, what is my advice to our reader? Simply this: if you cannot help yourself, get outside help at once. And if you can help yourself, read, study, apply, and master the material in the above two documents. Welcome the challenge that faces you. With effort and patience you can change your thoughts and change your life. After all, "There are only three conditions necessary for the acquisition of any physical skill, mental power, moral virtue or personal excellence. The COURAGE to try something you do not know how to do, the PATIENCE to try again once you have discovered that you don't know how to do it and the PERSEVERANCE to renew the trial, as many times as necessary, until you do know how to do it." (Thanks, Bruce, for this quote which comes from "The Five Western Philosophies from Plato to Christianity," written in the 1920s) Finally, have faith in yourself. And remember the words of William Sloan Coffin, "Faith is not believing without proof, it is trusting without reservation." Trust yourself. You can do it. Start today. Start now.
We mustn't be surprised by calamities and hardship. Such obstacles are the admission ticket to life and a small price to pay to gain admission to the endless joy that await those with a positive outlook. Let's abandon the attitude of a victim and replace it with that of a victor. So, when the going gets tough, keep in mind the following poem (author unknown):
I asked God to give me happiness. God said, "No. I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you."
I asked God to spare me pain. God said, "No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me."
I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said, "No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful."
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. God said, "No. I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things."
I asked God to help me help those weaker than myself. God said... "Ahhhh, finally you got the idea."