What we do begins in our thoughts and eventually is translated into our actions. In light of this fact, if we truly wish to develop our capacities and live more effective and productive lives the place we must begin is with our thinking. The formula is really quite simple. Positive thoughts translate themselves into positive actions. Negative thoughts translate into negative actions. Positive actions, in turn, promote growth and development. Negative actions result in wasted effort, stagnation, and lack of fulfillment.
The good news is that we are fully capable of changing our patterns of thinking. It may take personal effort and persistence, but we can rest assured that progress can be made and change can be realized. We can base this optimistic outlook on both the successful experience of others and on the promises of God contained in sacred scriptures around the world.
Thought is the ancestor of action. In our journey to become the optimal version of ourselves, we must keep this principle before us at all times. You will learn to live the way you want to live when you learn to think in ways that are constructive and in alignment with valid spiritual principles. It all starts in the mind. This is why Paul, an early visionary of the Christian tradition, repeatedly reminds us that becoming masters of our minds is essential. The Apostle stresses that our minds must be renewed and that part of this process involves taking every thought “captive for Christ.” Further, we are instructed to think on positive, beneficial themes that flow from the reality that we are “new creations” in Christ. Granted, there are many things in the world that you cannot change through your thinking. But the one thing you can certainly change is yourself! So start with yourself. If you want to improve yourself remember:
Create your own positive thought and you become what you desire to become because the truth of the matter is that your thought creates your experience.
Let me repeat, it is your thoughts that determine your attitudes and it is your attitudes that determine your actions. The great American President Thomas Jefferson said it far better than I can:
Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
Attitude is everything. The fact is that we often defeat ourselves before we begin a project or pursue a goal. The cause of this self-defeat is negative thinking. In order to grow and develop we have to embrace a more positive outlook on life. We must incorporate into our being the firm belief that I can if I think I can. It really is as simple as that. Base your life on this belief and you will have at your command the single-most effective tool for spiritual growth.
Many of you may read this and think, “This all sounds great, but it is just too simplistic. Life is a lot more complicated than that.” Well, both statements are somewhat true. Learning to think in a more optimistic, positive manner is simple in principle. There is nothing complicated about the theory involved here. However, no matter how simple it may seem does not reduce its effectiveness one iota. And, yes, life is quite complicated at times. Rarely are events and situations the result of only one factor, but instead, are combinations of causes. Learning to think in an optimal manner does not deny problems exist, nor does it view life in an overly simplistic way. What optimal cognition does is help us deal with these difficulties and respond to life’s complexities in a more skillful and productive manner.
One of the greatest lessons that I have learned in my life, and learned with great difficulty I might add, is expect the best and the best will come to you. Get out of all your old negative habits of thinking and be open to new, positive patterns of affirmation. Develop a joyous and optimistic outlook on each day. Fall in love with life and live it fully. Above all, develop the habit of positive thinking. Believe in yourself! Believe in your abilities! Be confident! Be Proactive! This may seem very simple and, in fact, it is. Yet it is this very simplicity that makes positive thinking so powerful and profound. If you don’t believe, try it out for six months and see what happens. The results will surprise you.
In addition to being positive about our potential for personal change, we also need to develop an attitude of openness. By this I simply mean that in order to make progress, we have to do things differently than we have in the past. This, my friend, means we have to encounter change. Many of us avoid change, choosing to stay with the familiar, with the status quo. Unfortunately, if we want to grow we have to change. And, if we want to change, we have to be flexible in our approach to life and open to new ways of doing things.
The one sure thing that can keep a person in everlasting ignorance is a closed mind. To live a life based on spiritual principles is to always strive to be open to new ideas, new concepts, and fresh and invigorating ways of doing things. So often many of us go about our daily rounds, living life in the same routine way and responding to the events of the day in the same old ritualistic ways that we always have. The same is true for our thinking. We think the same kind of thoughts, hold the same views and opinions, and approach life in the same timeworn way that we always have. No matter that some of these behaviors and thought patterns are non-productive and destructive. We cherish them because they are familiar and comfortable. By living this way we never have to stretch our minds.
God’s desire is that we realize our potential and he challenges this unskillful, habitual way of being. He encourages us to venture out into new ways of doing things and fresh ways of thinking. We are challenged to look at things from a different perspective and, when we do, we are transformed – changed in a positive way. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it so well:
Man’s mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension.
These basic ideas may seem a bit new and strange to you, especially if you are a person who has habitually engaged in negative and self-defeating thinking. If you want to be successful you must learn to cast off these habits of negative thought and replace them with a more positive, optimistic, and fresh outlook on life. In short, what you need to develop is a new perspective on things.
Here at LifeBrook we often encounter sincere spiritual aspirants who ardently desire positive spiritual fulfillment in their lives. It is our hope that you, too, will be motivated to develop a fresh perspective on yourself and your abilities. You will need to let go of old self-limiting ideas about your abilities and learn to see yourself in a more positive and self-affirming light. You will need to come to the realization that you are a unique individual with unique and individual talents and capacity. The truth is, the Universal Intelligence hardwired you for a specific purpose or mission and he also gave you the software (talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts) to be successful in carrying out that mission. Further, you will need to understand that your mind is an amazing and mysterious treasure that can either be your greatest ally or your worst enemy.
The choice before each of us is whether or not we truly want to change. If we do, it is imperative to walk daily in the process of cognitive renewal. With renewed minds, filled with the positive promises of God and a sincere wish to become the optimal version of ourselves for the sake of others, the possibilities are limitless.