February 2, 2017
Law Three: Our Thoughts Matter
The thoughts we think affect our external reality. They tell us what to look for and how to react to what we experience. The more we repeat a thought or a thought pattern the more it influences our state of mind, which is how we see and perceive the world. And, how we see and perceive the world is, in fact, our reality—regardless of who else see it that way, it’s real to us. In that way, our thoughts affect our reality.
This is why we will never meet a truly happy person who has mainly negative thoughts—that is, thoughts which dwell around bitterness, resentment, judgmentalness, anger, jealousy, and impatience. Because happiness is a state of mind, it can only be produced or created by thought patterns that promote this state of mind. After all, we cannot plant an apple seed and expect oranges.
To take it a step further, some would even argue that our thoughts create our reality. Or, in a phrase: Our thoughts become things. This is not necessarily saying that everything that we think about turns into a physical reality. No way. It is, however, saying that when we focus our conscious attention on an idea or thing, we are more likely to bring it into our experience.
To be clear, a person who imagines an object—say, a blue coffee cup—doesn’t magically bring it into existence from the ethers. That is not what is meant when one says that our thoughts create our reality. Instead, for example, if a person imagines a blue coffee cup and thinks about it all the time, they are giving their mind something concrete to look for in the world. And “like magic” their mind will notice the next time that a blue cup is around and point their attention toward it. Whereas, without such prompting to see and find that object, the mind would simply gloss over it, filter it out, and not register it.
So, let’s take it to the next level. Imagine that there are two people standing in a room and looking out the same window at a park outside. One person has been told that something fun and exciting is about to happen while the other person is told that something illegal and dangerous is about to go down. Despite the fact that both people are looking at the exact same park, their attention will be drawn to entirely different aspects of the outdoor scene. Each person will interpret the actions and activity of the passersby in different ways, each finding “evidence” of what they think will happen. Because they are looking for different clues, they will be seeing differently and “reading” the scene in a particular way.
The mind is a scanning system. It takes in stimulus and turns it into information. Because there is a lot to take in all at once, the mind grows selective about what info it lets in and evaluates. The value of this information is based on the significance that we attach (with our thoughts) to it. The scent of cigarette smoke will trigger an array of different responses based on who is smelling it and their particular history with the odor. An avid non-smoker might recoil, while another person, a smoker, might be drawn to it—meanwhile, someone else might not even notice it at all. Same smell, different responses. And, this is happening every second of our lives.
So, the thoughts that we attach to the various elements of our lives influence how we react and respond to the world. In this way, the inner informs the outer.
In many ways, our reality boils down to what we notice in our surroundings as opposed to what all is there. For example, if we happen to notice that someone has a habit of saying “um” a lot, we pick up on it every time they say it—and, it likely gets exaggerated in our minds and really sticks out until we can no longer concentrate on what the person is actually saying, because all we can hear are the “ums”.
The thoughts that we think matter because they encode our brains through repetition, which allows us to scan for some elements and ignore others. Again, our reality is based largely upon what we notice in our environment. By acknowledging this Law of Life, we are acknowledging that we have choices. When we practice noticing qualities in the world that promote our best self and feed our brain those thoughts, we, in a way, change our reality. Some would call this “counting wins” and it can be developed by taking a moment before bed to jot down the day’s “wins”. This gives the mind a fixed point to focus on that is positive and after about a week of this practice, it becomes easier and easier to find and focus on the qualities of our lives as opposed to the perceived defects.
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.
Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com
His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.