I heard someone say over the weekend that the average person has around 6,000 thoughts every day. My immediate thought was, “Is that all?” Allow me to explain. I have been working all year on developing the habits I need to get thoughts out of my head and become better at living from my heart. If you are a person who thinks a lot and doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with others, like me, you know what I mean.
My wife, on the other hand, does not understand. She is very expressive and verbose and likes to discuss the twelve possible solutions to any of our current challenges, such as where to go for dinner. It makes for some frustrating interactions. Thus, my need (after over 30 years of marriage) to adjust and become more expressive.
Here is the bad news about the 6,000 thoughts that I heard. Of the 6,000 thoughts that people have each day, 4,800 of them are negative. In other words, 80% of the thoughts most people think each day are negative, and only 1,200 (or 20%) are positive. The good news is that every one of us has the ability to change our thinking.
I am certainly not a psychologist, nor am I learned in the ways the mind works. I do know, however, things that you and I can do to help train our minds to develop the habits we need to begin thinking more positively. Like any other purpose-producing activity, developing positive habits is simple, but it’s not easy. It requires daily commitment and daily improvement. But the one thing I do know about our minds is that we can train them to do, learn, or aspire to almost anything.
As my friend Tom Ziglar says, “What you feed your mind determines your appetite.” It works both ways, of course, and our mental diet is no different than our physical diet. The more junk we eat, or the more junk we allow into our mind, the more our appetite for junk increases. And the more our desire for the “good stuff” decreases. Fortunately, this theory also works just like the good, the positive, and the powerful. Develop a diet of the things that build you up physically or mentally, and your body and mind will crave more and more.
I can’t help thinking (pun intended) about a verse from the Bible authored by the Apostle Paul which encourages us “to take every thought captive.” Initially, this may seem like a silly, if not impossible, idea. But I believe it is the beginning of starting your positive mental diet. Simply stated, I believe taking every thought captive means gaining control over what you think about yourself and your life.
If you think about it (ok, I promise that’s the last bad dad joke), you have experienced this phenomenon your whole life. As a kid, if you watched a scary movie before bed, you likely had nightmares or woke up screaming and crying because of the images and messages you allowed into your mind. It plays out in situations throughout our life. How many times have you thought to yourself, ” don’t do this,” and that’s exactly what you end up doing?
As an avid golfer, I live this every time I play. I am looking at a shot to my target on the green with the innocuous flag flapping in the wind to show me my target. But where does my focus go to immediately? The water I have to hit the ball over to get to my target. In closing, allow me to suggest a few ideas to take your thoughts captive to get you over your water and aiming towards your targets.
First, evaluate what you are feeding your mind. What are you watching, reading, and listening to? I cannot emphasize enough the importance of feeding your mind the best. If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t. Don’t gloss over that last sentence. It is profoundly true. Therefore, consider what influence your inputs are having on your mindset.
Next, I cannot encourage you enough to begin practicing and perfecting the habit of journaling. I prefer good old pen and paper because I believe that when you are physically writing something on paper, it leaves a much greater subconscious impact than typing something into a computer or telephone. Whether you agree or not, don’t make it an excuse not to start. It is like exercising. You are not going to run a marathon on your first day jogging. Just start and build up to proficiency. Your first efforts will be your worst, but they will improve the longer you commit to doing it.
Finally, I am going to suggest that you pray and/or meditate daily. Of course, as a Christian, I would encourage you to focus on the Word and the promises of God. They are vast, and they are amazing! But certainly, you do not have to be a Christian or a person of faith at all to take time to think and focus on the positives and the things you have to be grateful for in your life. I cannot recommend a better tool to improve your mindset than thinking about, praying, and then expressing gratitude.
I would love to hear your thoughts (sorry, I couldn’t resist) on how you begin to take your thoughts captive. It is a daily endeavor that won’t be perfect, but it can perfectly begin to change the way you think. And once you begin to do that, the changes you can make within yourself, your family, and your community are as profound as your thoughts.
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