Becoming Our Thoughts

Photo by Dylan Alcock on Unsplash

I often remember this quote first heard long ago when I began learning how to manage my stress and anxiety:

If you want to know what you were thinking six months ago, look in the mirror.
– Deepak Chopra

We truly are what we think, conditioning and molding ourselves by our thoughts:

Color it with the wrong thoughts and your life will be dyed the same.
– Ryan Holiday

My adopted Stoic philosophy approach relies on focusing on that which I can control, while ignoring that which I cannot. This keeps me from becoming complacent or negative, while avoiding toxic anxiety and sedentary thinking. I credit this approach for keeping me sane and productive throughout these pandemic days.

I’ve never embraced positive thinking as something that should be an autonomic mantra, a mindless denial of reality. Tony Robbins once said you don’t get weeds out of your garden by applying massive amounts of positive thinking: you simply pull the weeds up and move on. Trusting my ability to cope and adapt regardless of those realities outside of my control helps keep my old, tattered rose-colored glasses locked away unneeded.

The irony is like a vegetarian diet, you can’t just eat the veggies you like: you need to eat across the broad color spectrum available for it to be healthy, robust, and beneficial. We can’t isolate in a bubble, associating only with like-minded people or kindred spirits that align well with our preferred thinking. Doing so ignores the wisdom of the **African parable of the monkey and the termite mound.

While a significant part of one’s growth depends on finding others in the same grooves as ours, we equally need the stretching and challenge that comes from those outside our comfort zones. The thinking that we should only gravitate toward and associate with like-minded people would have us in danger of becoming sterile thinkers, unable to consider alternate ideas and ignoring that we don’t live in a perfect world. Exposing ourselves to ideas and thinking we probably won’t adopt doesn’t lead to becoming someone we don’t want to be. These aberrant yet new flavors can help validate and enhance our thinking, while opening us up to better tolerance and acceptance of others. The alternate of closing off our thinking from other views and values is a sure path to becoming closed-minded.

In a world of dualities, we have trouble defining ourselves without something opposite, and can’t discover who we are. Without challenge, there is nothing to do and nothing to discover. – DailyOM article, The Kaledioscope of Life

Living in 2021 certainly has more challenges than seems possible to deal with. Finding ways to be at peace with our reality while using that opportunity for personal growth, greater tolerance, and compassion is a worthy goal for the days ahead.

**The parable: Tribesman of Africa used to (may still) catch monkeys by hiding and waiting until a monkey would take a stick, make a hole just big enough to reach into the side of the tall termite mounds, then grab termites (one of the monkey’s favorite foods). When the monkey’s fist is in the mound, tribesmen rush out from cover and capture the monkey. While the startled monkey had plenty of time to escape, it won’t let go of the termites to pull its arm out and flee. Its mind refuses to let go and grasp the reality of the situation, thus it's easily captured.

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