Note: This is a guest post from Mark Harrison of Effortless Abundance
First – a sweeping statement. Everyone wants success and happiness. We might not agree about what this means – each of us defines ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ in a different way – but everyone aspires to these things. Yet for so many people, happiness and success are elusive, and we can spend a great deal of time looking for the answers.
For many years I was an avid collector of ‘self improvement’ books – I have several hundred in my collection – and yet, however many I read and enjoyed, I never seemed to get closer to finding what I was looking for. I was looking in the wrong place, of course. I was looking outside when the key was within me all along.
There is nothing wrong with self-help books: they can be entertaining, inspiring and challenging. But they cannot change you. What changes you is the realization that you are in control.
What you control is your mind. What we focus our attention on grows and becomes a more important part of our experience. Many – perhaps most – people tend to focus a lot on negative things. We fret about the past, about missed opportunities, mistakes and failures, we fear the future with all its uncertainty; we worry about our relationships, our investments, and our security. We compare ourselves to others in an unfavorable light, and we fear that we are inadequate. These negative thoughts continually arise and, with attention, they grow and persist.
This kind of thinking is poison: it is corrosive, toxic, destructive, and we need to purge ourselves of it. To attract more positive experiences into our life – to become truly happy and successful – we need to eliminate the negative thinking which, for many of us, has become such an integral part of our life. It’s not so much that we need to ‘think positively’ so much as that we need to drop the habitual, negative thoughts that swirl around our head and make up so much of the background noise in our lives. I am convinced that our natural, ‘default’ state is peace and happiness, and that success comes easily if we have nothing blocking the way.
Dropping negative thinking is, in a sense, very simple. Just don’t do it any more. Take your hand off the stove. And yet we are so used to inflicting this kind of pain on ourselves that just ‘letting go’ can be extraordinarily difficult.
One of the most important and useful things to remember is that your mind is a tool. You are its master, not its servant, so you should take control. Remember that thoughts are not reality. Although we often seem to think that our thoughts are reflections of the way things are out there in the world, the reality is that our thoughts shape the way we experience things. We could say that the world we experience is an echo of our thoughts, our inner reality.
Be vigilant and be diligent in being aware of your thoughts. When you spot a negative thought, just drop it. Just stop thinking about it. Switch your attention to something else if you have to. At first, it might be difficult but, as with everything else in life, gentle persistence will bring results. With practice, you will be able to uproot the old, harmful thought patterns and catch negative thinking before it takes hold.
One of the most wonderful books I have ever read is Awareness by Anthony de Mello. The message is simply that being aware of our negative thinking will change it. Instead of identifying with the negative thoughts in our head, we can be the silent observer, watching the thoughts and deciding, consciously, what to do with them. The only sensible option is to drop them. Why let them dictate how we feel? Why let them determine our happiness?
It is possible to be at peace, to be relaxed and happy and to enjoy every situation in life. It is possible to be successful easily and naturally. It’s all about maintaining the right mental attitude and knowing how to deal with the thoughts that come into our mind. So why waste another moment on negative thinking?
Photo by Kevin Tiqui