Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will – Zig Ziglar
The goal behind a good mental diet is to avoid what author Gordon Macdonald calls “mental flabbiness” in his best-selling book, Ordering Your Private World. He says, “In our pressurized society, people who are out of shape mentally fall victim to ideas and systems that are destructive to the human spirit and human relationships.” He then provides a gloomy forecast for those that fail to pursue mental growth, “Not having the facility of a strong mind, they grow dependent upon the thoughts and opinions of others.” Be intentional about pursuing mental growth. For your thoughts become your words, then your decisions, and ultimately your actions. To address areas of mental flabbiness and perform a thought check-up, we must first deal with mental residue.
We all carry “mental residue” from past experiences whether positive or negative. Trauma creates neural pathways and thought patterns that are deformative and materialize in a life held hostage by the residue of bad experiences. It is a difficult hurdle to overcome without a proper interpretation of what we have been through. Experiences act like lenses through which our perspective is created. It’s easy for experiences to distort our view of current realities. Use the questions below as a guide to check your system of interpretation:
- How am I interpreting your present predicament in light of your past experiences?
- Has my past created a faulty filter for processing what is happening to me now?
- Does my past inhibit me from living my best life now?
- Am I willing to detach from a past experience in order to live a better outcome?
The inability to escape old and destructive thought patterns keeps us from pursuing a better and higher quality of life.
To explain this, Pastor Andy Stanley once used an illustration of trapping monkeys worth mentioning. A coconut would be hollowed, and a banana placed inside. The other end of the coconut was chained to a tree. The hole in the coconut was large enough for the monkey to fit his open hand into but small enough that his clenched fist could not come out. Not willing to let go of the banana inside the coconut, the monkey became a captive of his own choice. We end up banana monkeys, incarcerated by what we won’t let go of. What patterns of thought served you well in the past years but have become inhibitors to the place you desire to go? Like toxic water breeds water-borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and dysentery so do toxic thoughts infected with stale and stagnant cause thought-borne effects as shown in the table below:
|Personalizing failure||This materializes when we interpret failure as a personal and permanent deficiency rather than an opportunity to learn, stretch, and grow. Don’t allow failure to become a ding on your identity.|
|Regret||Our thoughts stay stuck in the past of missed opportunities, all the while blinded to what’s still possible. Remember, the rearview mirror of your past is smaller than the windshield of your future.|
|Catastrophizing||Characterized by always thinking of the worst-case scenario. We remain stagnant, and our thinking stalls us from pursuing our dreams.|
|Blame Game||As long as we maintain the luxury of excuses and never search our thoughts for how to improve we are hamstrung by the pointing of fingers.|
Assess Your Thoughts
Author Shane Parrish says, “the best thinking is rethinking.” Without this, it’s possible to remain stuck in thinking ruts that lead to stagnant living. Anything stagnant eventually stinks. Use these questions to avoid stinking thinking and stay effective:
- Why am I thinking this way?
- Where did I get this thinking?
- How has this way of thinking benefited my life?
- Can this way of thinking benefit my life regarding my purpose, vision, and goals?
- Do I need a new way of thinking?
Final Thought: By challenging your current thinking process, you make room to sow new and fresh thoughts that help you overcome sedentary thinking. These new thoughts ignite a fresh perspective. As you water these thoughts, the garden of your mind blossoms.
Keep on Keeping on!