May 25, 2008

Your Thoughts Matter

Do you remain optimistic about the future during downturns in the housing market and threats of recession? Or are you one who tends to lend your voice to doom and gloom? When you hear reports of rising unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcies, what is your response? The reason I ask is because of the messages of fear that emanate from newscasts. Like exposure to a virus that comes through the sneeze of another person, if we are not careful we can fortify the virus and pass it forward.

I see fear-based messages as contagious diseases. Those who are weakest will be targeted first. In the case of disease, it is our bodies that succumb. In the case of fear, it is our minds. All of us are familiar with the anxiety that causes the mind to create potential catastrophic scenarios. Mark Twain knew of this tendency when he said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”

We are currently in one of these times when the news we read or watch on television is filled with fear. Well, it ordinarily is, for that matter, which is why I typically avoid it, but particularly lately it has gotten right under the skin of people whereby it convinces them that their survival is at stake. When we go into "survival mode" fear is a natural consequence. Our homes, jobs, and bank accounts feel threatened. We don’t like them threatened. We want to live where we want, work how we want, drive forever on cheap gas, and be free. We want the promise of security. We want things to go well.

Fear comes when we believe things might not go well. And the truth is, sometimes they don’t. But when they don’t, we have choices. We can contrive doom and gloom, worry about money, our homes, our jobs, and our very lives. We can create potential scenarios (most of which will never happen) and pass the fear on to others, who will catch it and become carriers themselves. Or, we can see circumstances for what they are - passing circumstances; opportunities to practice moving through life with grace and ease; chances to increase our resistance to dis-ease (of the mind) and instead accept the old adage, "This too shall pass."

This is your challenge and it is mine - how to take the ordinary and not-so-ordinary events of life and remain balanced, optimistic, hopeful people. How to take news of change, potential hardship, loss, and even illness and death, and not allow ourselves to be crushed under the weight of it. I believe, and I’ve seen it happen too many times to count, that the power of thought is key in these situations. Instead of diving into the pool of doom and gloom, you keep your face turned toward the possibilities. It is both simple and difficult at the same time. Simple in what action needs to be taken (monitoring the thoughts). Difficult in that we can be lazy about taking this action. (Oh how we love to wallow in a somebody-done-somebody-wrong song!)

Positive thinking got its start during the Great Depression, when people lost almost everything. What did they have left? It wasn’t money, jobs, homes, or food and clothing in many cases. They had the command over one thing only: the power of their own minds. For those who recognized this fact, success followed. And today, though we are not in the dire straights our grandparents might have been, it is important to carry their legacy forward – to remain focused on what is possible, rather than on any predictions or worries or frets.

So when you hear a fear-based newscast, see if you can consciously take note of how the words are spun to create worry. Worrisome news sells, that’s all. And you might really be personally affected by the news in some way. In this case, you have a greater challenge to keep your attention on the one thing you can truly command – your thoughts. Whatever our own situation, we can turn our attention to what we want to see happen, rather than on what we fear could happen.

Some of you are familiar with Les Brown, a motivational speaker whose life began in complete poverty. He tells us, “If you view all the things that happen to you, both good and bad, as opportunities, then you operate out of a higher level of consciousness.” This higher level of consciousness begins with becoming aware of what you think, about the thoughts you allow into your mind. If you find yourself continuing to have thoughts of doom and gloom, particularly after reading the paper, watching the news, or “catching” the dis-ease from someone, you can practice gaining leadership over where your mind goes.

Here are two simple ways to be the leader of your own mind. Look at the scenarios you fear and ask yourself what opportunities could come from them. Then, make a list of what you want to see happen in your life, for example, your home value remains stable or increases, your income remains steady or increases, your health is optimal. Keep this list in a place where you will see it often. This focuses your thoughts on what is possible, because after all, if your mind is going to create a scenario (and it can), it might as well be one you want.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that naive optimism feels healthier than pessimistic realism. However, it can be important to try and see the environment as it really is (not necessarily as the media are telling us how it is). There are two ways to do that: use your ability as an individual to sense what you can sense and know what you can know about the environment you live in. Do not spin the media or get spinned by them. The difference is: confirmation being independent or dependent. Independent confirmation leads you to realistic truth. Though you must withstand rejection a lot as well. Optimistic realism, it ìs conceivable.