Two weeks ago I explained how our beliefs drive our emotions and actions. Last week, I wrote about some common examples of stinkin' thinkin' and why it is important to replace those beliefs with thoughts more reasonable and realistic. We truly feel and behave better when our thinking is positive. Today I'd like to share some personal reflections on stinkin' thinkin'.
I can definitely attest to what stinkin' thinkin' does to a life. Growing up I tended to look for the worst in everything. And you know what? I usually found it! That's the thing about this kind of negativity. It made me a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as I assumed I couldn't accomplish something, I couldn't. It wasn't until I had an epiphany in a college TV studio-when I wanted to run a complicated piece of equipment so badly that a little voice inside said "I WILL learn that"-that my life began to change for the better. Life became about possibilities rather than limitations.
It's not easy to cultivate better thoughts-old habits die hard-but the benefits have been enormous. I'm happier. I'm more productive. I experience better relationships. When I find myself feeling frustrated or "stuck" I take some time to examine what I'm thinking about a situation. If I'm being negative or unreasonable, I start thinking in a more positive and sensible way.
I have picked up some new habits over the years that have helped me, too. It helped to consider how I "fed" my mind. Cable got shut off years ago-and I don't miss the put-down humor and TV pundits a bit. I read the Psalms, I read the Gospels, some of the "spiritual giants": John Wesley, Saint Augustine, Brother Lawrence, and Thomas ' Kempis, and non-fiction written by people who have overcome tragedy and adversity. I'm thoughtful about who I spend time with-I don't want to just sit around dishing about people or debating hot-button issues. I spend as much time as I can with people whose values and character I admire. I write a lot-no secret there-and that helps me really reflect on my life, too.
Finally, I'm just discovering a big piece of stinkin' thinkin' I still have to replace. I have always lived in this region, but have recently been doing some continuing education that has moved me around the country. It is interesting to see how other people live and how communities have grown and changed with the times. I'm starting to discern some stinkin' thinkin' that may be bigger than just me Our region falls into both Appalachia and the Rust Belt, and not surprisingly, it seems that our thinking tends to be about "what we've lost," "change is bad," and "hanging on to what we've got." What kind of feelings does that create personally and community wide? What behavior and actions result from this kind of thinking? Some of the other places I've been are talking about what they've accomplished, where they're going, and that change can be good. What kind of actions do you think result from that kind of thinking? Success tends to build on success. It's certainly worth thinkin' about!
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that helps people solve problems and be happier through counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups. Check them out on the web at www.fswc.org.