The mind is a gift and a curse, both stemming from the free will to choose. Humans are organisms with complete autonomy. You are the driver. Are you in control of your thoughts? What excuses do you regularly allow to stop your progress? The choice always lies in your response. Free will is the ability to accept reality and move on. You must take responsibility for your response because the response is the choice that determines your future. The greatest of battles are fought between our ears. What saddens me personally is the number of people I witness losing the battle. People that have all they need but are depressed and miserable. We are taught how to produce and solve problems but are never thoroughly instructed on managing our thoughts.
We control our thoughts.
Thoughts control our feelings.
Feelings drive our behavior.
Behavior determines our results.
Most of us live in the space between what we want versus what we have. Our “compare and despair” society exacerbate this feeling of inadequacy or frustration. We put pressure on ourselves to appear as what we think the world wants us to be versus who we really are. We are perpetually unhappy because all we can see is what we don’t have, and external forces are constantly battling for your attention and money (government, media, corporations).
How do we begin to gain control of our thoughts?
An essential step in gaining control of your mind is to accept responsibility for everything in your life. When we take responsibility, it is like lifting a burden that has been buried deep inside of us. Every relationship in your life is yours. You can choose your attitude toward the other person, and so you are responsible for how you show up in the relationship. You can’t control how they show up and, therefore, should not burden your heart with hurt or anger. All we can ever do is our best. This is trite but especially true in our relationships. Accept responsibility for how you show up and accept the reality of the relationship. You might not like it, but it is what it is for now. Don’t like your job? Own it. Do your best and search for options. Don’t enjoy your living conditions? Make a plan for change. Don’t like your health? Start by getting around healthy people. Take charge of your life. The accepting of responsibility for everything in our lives is how we begin to take control of our lives.
Be grateful for all aspects of your life. Not much to be thankful for? The likely reason is that you are obsessing over what you don’t have or, worse yet, comparing what you have to what others have. First, we have no idea what the persons’ life is truly like that we are envying. All the world is a stage, and we don’t know what goes on behind the curtain. Second, comparing our lives to others means that we did not act on step one. We take our lives for granted, not realizing that each life is a miracle. Regardless of your station in life, there is much to be grateful for. The only strategy I am aware of to truly live with joy in our hearts is to be grateful for everything. Don’t like your car? Be thankful you have a car. Don’t enjoy your home? Be grateful you have a place to stay. Getting control of our mind and living with joy requires gratitude for what we already have.
Taking time to look back at our progress is critically important to our mental wellbeing. Why? Because most of us live in the space between what we want (the ideal) and what we have (the reality). Taking time to reflect allows us to see where we have come from. We have learned many lessons. We have made significant progress in our lives, but fail to reflect on that progress. Give yourself a break. Look back and acknowledge the effort that has allowed you to arrive where you are regardless of whether you like where you are.
Give Yourself Grace
Who is it that resides in our head to make us feel terrible about ourselves, constantly nagging us for not being enough or slacking. The words it speaks to us are demoralizing and demotivating. Here is the deal – we own that voice, and we have power over it. You have the ability to bring back the narrative that takes place within you. Giving yourself grace for your mistakes is a powerful action to take charge of your life. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake. Learn from your mistakes and move on. This is how we build resilience. Don’t wallow in self-pity, and when you do, get up and dust yourself off.
I have often said that appreciation is selfish because it feels so good. It feels good to the receiver (if they allow themselves grace to accept it) and the sender (assuming it was genuinely shared). Start with your loved ones. Write them a note expressing how much you appreciate them. Some ask – what is the difference between gratitude and appreciation? Gratitude is more of an inward focus, and appreciation is an outward expression. This can be debated and is only my differentiation, but there is a difference. Saying “thank you” is appreciation. Offering unsolicited praise is a demonstration of appreciation. Flowers, cards, and cupcakes are all easy ways to let someone know how much you appreciate them. Showing appreciation feels so good.
Stop Seeking Fault
There is no reward for finding the flaws. This is a real problem that can go undetected. We use the faults in others as our crutch for connection. We want others to think highly of us and that we are smart, so we point out the flaws of others, our companies, our friends, our country, our coworkers, our bosses, our homes, our neighbors. The list could go on and on. Do you remember the Wizard of Oz? The man behind the curtain (the wizard) was no different than the others but used his platform to pretend to be all-knowing. How often do you point out the faults of your spouse or your children or your boss? This act does not form a lasting bond with the person you are commiserating with. It is weak because the other person intuitively knows that when they make a mistake, you will be quick to point it out to others. This will be a difficult habit to break, but it will be a must if you are serious about getting control of your thoughts.
Are you ready to take back control of your thoughts? Remember to be patient and give yourself grace. Everything in your life is your responsibility. Every thought you have is your responsibility. If you are feeling trapped, it is time to own your thoughts one day at a time. Form the habits that will mold your future and the future of those that depend on you!