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Life Lines: Harnessing Our Thoughts

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Victoria Sarne

By VICTORIA SARNE

Why should we try to harness our thoughts, understand them or rein them in when we are frequently told to “think things through”. Certainly we need to “think things through” objectively and in a realistic way before taking certain actions which could be either physically dangerous, risky economically or emotionally hazardous. In other words, exercising some common sense in everyday situations.

But that’s only one aspect of our thinking process. I wonder sometimes if all of us understand how powerful our thoughts are and how much power they have over our behaviour. Thoughts are repetitive; do you know for instance how busy our brains are – generating anywhere from 12,000 to 70,000 or more thoughts a day? But, here’s the catch: 80 percent are negative and 95 percent are repetitive. As you can see, this looks like a circular path leading us nowhere except back to the beginning with no visible results.

First of all, we have to understand that thoughts are just thoughts. They aren’t real nor are they the actual worldly environment we live in. They are influenced by our view of the world which is formed by our interpretation of the outside influences we are subjected to. Our thoughts may be a projection of many things: our socialisation, education, our ethnicity, our environment, community norms or expectations, family and friends and any biases we have learned along the way.

It’s a scientific fact that if we constantly repeat the same thought it will create a pathway in the brain which means it becomes the automatic response to any given situation. Clearly we don’t want negative thoughts to prevail once we understand this. The upside of that is it doesn’t need to be so because we have the power to change our thinking process. Not just alter the way we think, but control our thoughts and create positive pathways in the brain. Athletes do it all the time – they train physically and mentally, repeating the same actions over and over again, training their muscles and their minds until their actions and responses become spontaneously automatic – no thinking required, it’s already there lodged in the brain making the body react. We don’t all want to be athletes, but we should want to bring our best selves to every situation for maximum enjoyment and success in what we do.

Mastering our thinking means we are in control of that power. It is not controlling us. We go to the gym to train our bodies, we work out, we diet and enjoy the result of looking and feeling better. Why not think of changing our thought process in a similar way, as a diet for the brain? Our brain is the control centre, our own personal computer and just like the computers we work with, it needs us to input the right questions or information before it can produce what we need.

I read somewhere recently that the way we see a problem is the problem. Wise and perceptive words because we all have preconceived notions and biases. We have to learn to be more open and flexible in our thinking. We must master the art of critical thinking; learn how to deconstruct a problem taking it apart and breaking it down into bite size manageable pieces to understand each component of that particular view. Then we will understand the basis and validity of that particular thought.

How often have you heard that phrase “think outside the box’? I find it really irritating and irrelevant. Here’s my thought: the reality is that there is no box. The only box is the one we create or build. So let’s get creative and kick that imaginary box down the stairs and harness our thoughts.

• For questions and comments, e-mail victoria.conversations@gmail.com or visit www.victoria.blogspot.com and www.lifelineswritingservice.com.

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