I’ve been observing my thoughts more than usual these last few days. The practice was sparked by a theme that emerged in many conversations with clients and friends. People seem to be lamenting (obsessing?) over situations in the past, situations that, despite the energy they put into wishing, cannot be changed.
Or they’re worrying about future possibilities that have not yet arrived, even creating detailed mental causal chains. “If this happens, then I will have to do that, and then it will cause __.” (Fill in the blank with the worst possible scenario).
What if thoughts were prayers? What if our minds were sacred mechanisms that direct the flow of circumstances the moment we conceptualize them? I know this to be so in my own life. But just how does this happen?
I’m educated as a scientist. While I haven’t worked in that field for many years, the analytical, hypothesis-forming style of thinking never left me. I find it fun as well as enlightening to examine seemingly un-scientific principles and figure out a tangible explanation for why they work. It’s a way of bridging the mysterious with the material. So this week I set out (once again) to determine some of the ways in which our thoughts become our reality.
Part of it can be answered with a simple economics principle, opportunity cost. If my mind is engaged in futile or unproductive thinking, I quite literally miss out on the moment-by-moment opportunity to learn, teach, connect, find joy or simply observe. This week, I have gently coached others to adopt more discipline in their thinking in order to enjoy or seize the moment at hand.
But there’s more. Why are obsessive thoughts so dangerous? After all, they’re fleeting and hidden in privacy of our minds.
One problem is that they’re laced with emotion – negative thoughts are partnered with negative feelings, positive thoughts with positive one. Test it for yourself. The next time you find yourself thinking a pessimistic “what-if,” notice how it feels. If there’s fear or frustration, you’ll get what I mean. In contrast, the next time you have an inspirational or creative thought, notice how empowered and hopeful you feel.