THOUGHT POWER, THE ULTIMATE DIFFERENTIATOR
(May I request the readers to first go through my post
“WANNA POWER???, LOOK INWARDS!!!, TRUST ME, I AM NOT KIDDING!”
in the same BLOG for better understanding)
Having nothing much to do at home being glued to the TV and the laptop alternately for most of the time on the Sunday afternoon, (my only companion at home, my better half, having left me alone at home to mend for myself for not accompanying her to visit my in-laws for a social function), I sheepishly came out of my fourth floor apartment for an afternoon stroll. However, my mood brightened up by seeing a dozen of the kids congregated at the housing society compound and looking up and up at the sky above and engrossed in discussing something with occasional giggles by the girls and laughter by the boys. Thought – “must be very interesting”. I looked up; the sky was cloudy, but not completely overcast. Clouds of different shapes, sizes and hues were marching as if in a marriage procession. How is the idea of going back in the memory lane to the childhood days? I made my cautious steps towards the kids (cautious because I didn’t want to disturb them; but more than that I did not want to take no for an answer to the request I was going to make). I approached-“Guys! Can I join you for some time?” An elderly boy in the group gave me a scorned look – obviously not very appreciative of the idea. But, oblivious of the thought going through his friend’s mind, pat came the reply from a younger pretty tiny-tot – Yes uncle! No issues. Approval was accorded by some more by their smiling faces and nodding heads.
The kids were discussing about the shapes the floating clouds were taking. “Here comes a large one”- a kid quipped – “Look at that! That looks like a temple.” “No” – quipped another, “that looks like a huge dinocerous.” “It looks like a huge warship”- quipped another. Such discussions continued for quite some time, for different small & big fragmented clouds floating on the sky. There were no agreements, no differences of opinions, no attempt also to reach any consensus. Only, everyone was encouraged to develop their imagination of the shapes of the clouds, varying from time to time and everyone was enjoying the conversation. This is the advantage of being a child, mind being free from all inhibitions, all complexities. I was jealous. Alas! If we elders would have continued the child like simplicity in our mind, in our thoughts and in our actions!
I intervened. “Guys! Look at and concentrate on the small gray cloud in between the two bigger white clouds” – I pointed at a small piece on the sky and continued, “Now concentrate; continue to focus on the small grey cloud. Look!. That is vanishing slowly, but steadily. The size is becoming smaller and smaller. Continue to look and you will find that the piece will completely vanish.” Hardly had I finished my words when a tiny tot with bright eyes, but still looking up at the sky quipped back –“Yes uncle! It is now gone.” Followed by this, there was almost a chorus – “Yeah! It is gone.” The elderly boy, who did not initially approve my joining them said – “Uncle! Too much! It is really magic.” Before I could be requested to show some more magic, I smiled at all of them and made a silent exit.
Without going into the magic part of it (you can verify it anytime you like), let me say our mind is like a clear sky and thoughts are the wanderers, which come and go. And, we are responsible to give them different shapes, colors, which vary from person to person, much like the little kids thinking up different shapes for the floating clouds.
Have you ever thought about the thoughts going through your mind?-Innumerable thoughts- Did I hear it right? Yeah! I know the answer. It is “NO”. Do you know the relationship between your thoughts, your belief, your perception, your behavior, your attitude, your action & performance and finally your success? Do you know the relationship between your emotions & your thought?
People generally believe that the way they act or behave are results or outcomes of external events, situations or behavior of others and they only react to such an event or situation or behavior. They also believe that their feelings & emotions likewise have an external linkage. But, in fact, between the Stimulus and Response, there is a something called CHOICE made by us. What makes us feel or behave or respond in a particular way, in fact, is not dependent on the event or situation or the words and actions of another individual. It is guided by how we perceive the situation and what thought process goes inside us. Our thought process influences our feelings, emotions and actions.
Our thoughts have amazing powers that we take for granted. In fact, our thoughts are singularly responsible for all the goals we have achieved or failed to achieve in life. Still do not believe? Take a simple example. If you are a corporate executive, assume that you are going to make a very important presentation in a meeting of the leadership team on certain change management initiatives. Though the presentation is prepared very well, but you do not like the way the things are planned and throttled on you In fact, you have already gone to the extreme thought that the initiative should fail. What do you think? How well you are going to make the presentation, even if you do not want anyone else to know what is going on in your mind. The answer is not far to seek. In fact, Strategies in organizations most often fail not because they are poorly crafted, but because the organization’s senior leadership has not taken the time to truly and deeply question their own beliefs, assumptions and behaviors. If you are a student, think about a particular subject which you did not like or in fact hated for whatever reasons. It is no wonder when you had to do assignments in that subject, you are obviously weakening your ability to focus and do well on that assignment. If you are an athlete and you hate a part of your training regiment, your overall performance will be negatively affected.
Let us try to understand the connection a little better. Do you want to be more successful? Of course, you do. Who does not? In this connection, please remember that whatever you experience in life, it is an outcome. This outcome has not evolved by chance, but it (whether it is success or failure, health or illness, wealth or poverty, happiness or sorrow, friendship or enmity) is the result of some response or responses of yours in the past. Your life today is essentially the sum total of all such outcomes, which is depended upon all such responses made by you. How happy or unhappy you are an aggregation of your responses in the past. Whether you are in a perfect shape or not, is again a sum of your responses in the past. How successful or unsuccessful you are, it is ultimately a result of your responses.
O (Outcome) = E (Event) + R (Response)
If you are not satisfied with how your life is shaped as of now and you are really serious to make it change for the better, you have two clear choices. One is put all the blame on the event for your lack or results. You can blame your parents, your friends, your spouse, the attitude of your boss, the existing system or the lack of system, the lady luck, the weather, the economy, the political condition in the country, the local administration and so on & on. There is no limit. Your second choice is to realize the truth that events are neutral and your responses really decide the outcome. As Stephen Covey has rightly said in 90/10 principle of life, “10% of your life is what happens to you. 90% of life is made of how you react to those 10%.” How true? We do not have control only over 10% of what happens to us. But, our response controls the rest 90%.
Your response depends on your feelings
You respond to an event or happening in a particular way depending on your feeling or emotion at that point of time. You shout at a driver overtaking you on the highway because you become angry. You give a hard hug to your friend meeting after a month because you feel happy. You go to one corner of the house and sit silently when you are depressed. Our feelings & emotions make us act or react in a certain way. If you analyze any action taken by you or even any reaction and start questioning yourself why you acted or reacted in a particular way, you will come to know that every such action or reaction is preceded by certain feeling / emotion.
Who is responsible for our feelings, our emotions?
Some of us believe that our feelings and emotions are determined by external events or situations or behavior of other people. It is not very uncommon for us to hear ourselves say things like, “This reckless driver cutting the corners made me angry,” “My colleague made me so irritated,” “My spouse made me confused”, “My boss made me nervous”, “I am depressed because my daughter could not get admission to a certain medical college”, “My holiday trip to Goa beach made me feel relaxed”, “My increment letter made me sad” etc.
We come to the assumption almost automatically that external event or somebody else is responsible for our feelings because frankly we have never seriously questioned our feelings to understand the cause of such feelings. If we stop to analyze the causes of the feelings and emotions we experience, we will find that there is a small step in between the external situations/ behaviour of others and our emotional experience. It may sound strange, but the small step is our own belief & thought. This could be difficult to believe since there is often a split second between the external situation and the feeling we experience around it.
Events are neutral. We have different feelings because of our own perception, own thought.
Events are neutral. Same event can cause different feelings and consequential behavior depending on our own perception & thought about the event. Let us take some examples to illustrate this.
Example 1 – Your friend introduces you to a person John in a social get-together. You shake hands with John, but finds his hands quite cool. When you talk to him, you find him not looking at you directly, but looking around the room. You are likely think –“What a rude person! He even does not know the minimum courtesy of looking at me when I am talking.” What are the accompanying feelings? It may be hate. You may also think something like this – “John finds me very unattractive and uninteresting. Why it is that I am not able to attract the attention of people wherever I go?” The accompanying feeling could be sorrow & disgust. You may also think – “John is probably waiting for his wife to join. May be he is a bit anxious”. The accompanying feeling could be mild concern. . Situation is same, but it can give rise to three different interpretations & accordingly three different types of feelings and emotions. There is no denying the fact that your actions will be different depending on how you feel & perceive.
Let us take another example.
Example 2 – While walking down the street, you noticed an old acquaintance on the opposite side of the street. You shouted his name very enthusiastically, smiled and waved your hands. You noticed that he only gave a cursory look at you but continued walking without acknowledging you. What thoughts are likely to enter your mind? It could be, “What is the matter? Have I done something to upset him?”. In this case, you may feel anxious or worried. Your thought could be – “Why did not he respond? Does he not like me?” In such a case, you may feel sad. May be your thought could be – “What is wrong with me? How dare he do that with me?” Then, you are likely to feel angry. Or even your thought could be – “Probably he is in a hurry & has not been able to notice me.” Your feeling then could be a mild disappointment.
Often, we are not aware of the split second between our thought, the resultant feeling and the consequential action. But the fact is they are there and they have a great role in how we feel and behave. There is an old saying that “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.
Can we change our thought?
If our success, our habit, our behavior, our actions and our feelings are so much dependent on our thoughts, then is it not natural to think of changing our thoughts for making all good things happen to us?
Most people are oblivious to the fact that they can change their thoughts. You have the power to choose what to think. You’re not an animal that automatically reacts to its environment. You have the ability to choose what to think which leads you to actions that correspond to those exact thoughts you’ve chosen. But it is definitely not easy. It is an uphill task.
Changing your thoughts to positive obviously gives you moments of happiness. Utilize those moments of happiness as critical factors for opening your mind to explore all areas of life. Searching and finding out ways to build positive emotions and more and more moments of happiness to your life by whatever processes – be it through meditation, pursuing a passion or just plain and simple living – will lead to more and more success in life.
I remember the old story about the old man and the wanderer. It was evening and the sun was setting down. An old man was sitting under a tree at one end of the village, when down the road came a wanderer, a stranger to the village. “I am thinking of spending the night in the village”, said the wanderer, “but I wonder what kind of people live around here.” “Well”, enquired the old man, “What kind of people you found where you came from?” “Oh! They are mean, selfish, disgusting and not at all friendly. It is my good luck that I left them behind.” “Is it so?” continued the old man, “I am afraid you will find the same sort of people here – mean, selfish, disgusting and not at all friendly.” Without any more words, the wanderer gave a dirty look and moved on. Shortly thereafter, another passerby came along and enquired from the same old man as to what kind of people live in the village. “Well”, enquired the old man, “What kind of people you found where you came from?” “Oh! They are very generous, very kind and extremely friendly.” “Well”, the old man continued, “you will find the same type of people here – very kind, very generous and very friendly.” The moral of the story nothing is good & nothing is bad. Our own thinking, our own attitude makes it so.
As says Henry Ford – “If you think you can, you are right. If you think you can’t, you are also right.”
You only have control over three things in your life – the thoughts you think, the feelings you associate to those thoughts and the actions you take (your behavior). You have choices to make for all these. These determine all that you experience in life. If you don’t like any, just change your thought. It is as simple. Change your thought and enjoy your life.
In my subsequent posts, we will discuss why we think the way we think, what are the compulsions on us to think the way we do, how can it be possible to change the pattern, what roles our subconscious and conscious minds play and how do we make them in alignment with each other for ultimate success. Please keep in touch. Till that time, Good Bye.