Once upon a time, there lived a wise man. This man was the wisest man the world had ever known. In fact, he was so wise that people would come from all over the world to meet him and hear his wisdom. He became a very wealthy man because of this. Of all his wisdom, there was one truth that he described to be paramount:
Interesting thought, but he is not the only one.
Some years later, another wise man, named Buddha, was also amazed by the power of our thoughts. He passed this wisdom onto those who also wished to discover this power:
And he too was not alone.
Some years later, Marcus Aurelius, the famous Roman senator and philosopher also discovered this truth:
And he too was not alone.
Centuries later, Mahatma Gandhi admonished us:
I think that it is time each of us realized this truth for ourselves.
We think constantly. Our subconscious mind is always at work, filling our heads with thoughts. The average human being has around 60,000 thoughts a day! Thoughts are our most numerous possessions; they are also the most valuable.
If you think about it, everything you have done was a product of your thoughts—you thought it, and so you did it. Everything that has ever been created has been the product of thought—people thought it, and so they did it. The entire world around you was formed as a consequence of thoughts. You yourself have been created and shaped by your thoughts. Thoughts are powerful things!
However, not every thought is a good one.
Scientists estimate that approximately 80% of our thoughts are negative. We think negatively about ourselves; we think negatively about others; we think negatively about our situations; we think negatively about our lives; we think negatively about almost everything.
What happens when we give the power of our thoughts over to negativity? Well, if thoughts have creative power and if everything we are is the sum total of our thoughts, it stands to reason that thinking negatively will create a negative personal reality. In fact, you can create a negative life as well.
Don’t take my word for it. Think about it for yourself. Have you, as a man, ever gone to a bar and seen a beautiful woman and thought about talking to her, but then began to ask yourself negative questions? “What if she thinks I’m crazy? What if she thinks I’m ugly? What if she laughs at me? What if she already has a boyfriend who’s a pro athlete and will tear me to pieces?” You think yourself out of even trying. You sit there and drink in silence, most likely feeling sorry for yourself and berating yourself for what a ‘loser’ you are.
Or have you, as a woman, ever stood in front of the mirror while getting ready for a big day out and thought negative things about yourself? “I look fat in this dress! It’s really a bad hair day today. My skin looks a little droopy. And my thighs…why did I eat that extra piece of chocolate last night? Jenna will be there. She’s so pretty…I’m going to look so ugly next to her. And what will Jake think? He can’t see me like this!” Again, you have successfully thought yourself out of going to the event. You also have made yourself mildly depressed, to which your solution is usually chocolate, which will come back to haunt your thoughts the next time you step in front of the mirror.
I’ll never forget a story my dad once told me about the man who had a flat tire on a country road. He didn’t have a jack in his car, so he decided to go to a farmhouse he had seen a mile up the road and ask if they could lend him one. While he was walking, his head filled with negative scenarios about how they might respond to his request. Each scenario became worse and worse, beginning with a simple “no” and progressing to a ‘family of cannibalistic ghosts waiting to prey on me’ type scenario. By the time he reached the door and rang the bell, he was fuming mad and utterly terrified. The farmer opened the door, the man punched the farmer in the face and ran away, screaming as he went, “You can keep your lousy jack!”
But it goes deeper than that. Negative thoughts can talk you out of picking up a girl, convince you that you are ugly or fat, or can defeat your desire and freak you out before you even ask. However, they can do far worse than this.
Negative thoughts can convince you not to pursue your dreams, leaving you unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Negative thoughts can convince you that you are worthless and have no hope, leaving you depressed. Negative thoughts can convince you that you can’t change, that you are destined to be the way you are forever, leaving you resigned and hopeless. Negative thoughts can convince you that there is no point in living any more because your life sucks, making you want to quit. The side effects of such negative thinking are depression, anxiety, heart problems, diabetes, problems with blood pressure, even suicide.
Scientists have realized this. They have identified that human beings have two types of thoughts: adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive thoughts are helpful, while maladaptive thoughts are harmful to the thinker.
In response, they developed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This kind of therapy focuses on turning maladaptive thinking into adaptive thinking. The premise is that changing maladaptive thinking leads to changes in affect and behavior. Therapists use CBT techniques to help individuals challenge negative behavioral patterns and beliefs and replace "errors in thinking, such as over generalizing, magnifying negatives, minimizing positives and catastrophizing" with "more realistic and effective thoughts, thus decreasing emotional distress and self-defeating behavior." This has successfully been used to treat depression and other mental illnesses.
If changing our thoughts from maladaptive to adaptive can cure us from depression, then it stands to reason that there is great power in positive thinking and we should harness it to the best of our ability.
The negative thoughts influence our sub-consciousness and build a negative image that we have of ourselves. We put limit on ourselves. By changing our mindset we can change ourselves, overcome our fears and lack of confidence, factors that are stopping us from chasing our dreams.
Napoleon Hill advises us that “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve!” What are your big dreams? Do you believe in them? Then you can achieve them. It all starts with getting rid of your maladaptive thoughts that don’t serve you well and replacing them with adaptive ones to help you succeed!
Thomas Edison, the legendary inventor with 1093 patents to his name, set about to invent the electric light bulb in 1878. After one year of trying—and over 2000 failed experiments—he finally made one that worked. When asked by a reporter how it felt to have failed over 2000 times in inventing the light bulb, Edison replied, “I never failed once! I invented the light bulb. It was just a 2000 step process.”
Knowing me, I would have given up after the first 10 times. My negative maladaptive thinking would have convinced me that it was impossible and that I should quit. But Edison remained adaptive and positive in his thoughts and, as such, the world is blessed with light because of it.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world” is what Norman Vincent Peale said. May your world be changed and different and may you have the power to pursue your dreams and accomplish the impossible. That power lies within you. Change your thoughts, change your world!
Thirumur David Kiran
Social Entrepreneur, Speaker, and Youth Training Professional.