Yes, I’m still here.
I’m on a particularly difficult leg of my journey that’s kept me behind closed doors and really, a closed heart. I’m working on it though, and being mindful of the universe and it’s messages, I was led to this incredible post by Entheos.
Positive thinking and optimism are two goals that elude and challenge me on a daily basis. It’s incredible how something so simple at its core can be difficult to embody. The obstacles are everywhere. Negative work environments. Financial woes. Toxic relationships. Unhealthy and inactive lifestyles. And those pale in comparison to the walls we put up internally that keep us trapped in a cycle of fear and immobility.
The unpredictability of my personal journey this past year has left me feeling somewhat bewildered. I strive to keep my eyes open to the signs that will hopefully lead me to a new cycle of love, gratitude, and a celebration of self.
This post by Brian Johnson from the Entheos Academy is one of those signs. I’ll take it where I can get it.
Are you actively working towards optimal living? If so, how are you reaching your goals? What words of wisdom can you share?
As always, stay healthy and keep paying it forward!
How to Get Your Mind Right
“Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.” – Marcus Aurelius
Optimism. It’s huge. In fact, everyone from old-school philosophers to modern-day scientists tell us that being able to put our attention where we want when we want is one of THE keys to optimal living.
Before we jump into my Top 10 Big Ideas on how to get your mind right, let’s get a handle on what optimism isn’t!
== What Optimism Isn’t ==
1. ANTs, Teflon & Velcro. Researchers like to say that we have “automatic negative thoughts.” They call them ANTs for short. (Apparently we have 60,000 thoughts/day. 95% of them are the same as yesterday. 80% of them are negative. That’s 45,000 ANTs/day!! Yikes.)
Unfortunately, our brains evolved to be “Velcro” for the negative stuff and “Teflon” for the good stuff. It was helpful for our survival but now? Not so much. We need to use some organic “ANT spray” on the automatic negative thoughts and create some automatic positive thoughts instead.
“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.” – Buddha
2. Monkeys & Cars
–> Monkeys. Eastern philosophers like to say that when we’re stressed, it’s as if we have little out of control monkeys in our minds swinging from thought to thought to thought to thought to thought to endless looping thought. When we’re really stressed, it’s as if the monkeys are drunk! And they’re a little crazy! And they act like they just got stung by a scorpion! Yowsers. Know this: a) it’s normal + b) you can do something about it.
–> Cars. In Sanskrit, the word dukkha means suffering. It comes from two little words that describe a wheel that isn’t spinning properly. Imagine driving a sweet car with a wheel that won’t spin. You’re going to have problems. That’s EXACTLY what happens when our MINDS get stuck on a certain problem. We screech to a halt and suffer. Another way to look at it: Imagine having that sweet car with 4 good wheels but, unfortunately, you’re stuck in 1st gear. Or 5th gear. Or reverse. D’oh. Same thing. We suffer when we’re stuck!!
3. Learned Helplessness vs. Learned Optimism. Martin Seligman, the godfather of the Positive Psychology movement and resident genius of the University of Pennsylvania, studied helplessness. Fascinating research. He could expose dogs (and people!) to shocks and create “helplessness.” But he noticed that some people NEVER dropped into helplessness. They were optimistic. We need to learn what they do.
Victim vs. Creator. There are basically two ways we can orient to the world: as a victim or as a creator. Scientists call this an “external locus of control” vs. an “internal locus of control.” It’s *really* important that we know that we always have the ability to choose an empowered response—that we have an internal locus of control and that our happiness is not determined by things that happen to us (external) but by how we choose to respond to those events (internal).
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset. Quit trying to “prove” yourself and have fun “improving” yourself! Celebrate the effort you put in and let go of the results!
Time to Hit the Optimism Gym. First thing we need to know: Scientists tell us that even if we’re currently a little more cranky and pessimistic than we’d like, we CAN become more optimistic.
How? We build our optimism the same way we build our muscles: Via consistent training! So, let’s hit the optimism gym.
The Top 10 Big Ideas
1. Choose the Most Empowered Response.
2. Put Your Bouncers & Attorneys to Work.
3. Be Grateful.
Anytime you’re feeling your inner Crankysaurus Rex rearing its head, step back and imagine all the amazing things you’re grateful for. That’s grateful flow. It’s awesome.
4. Think About What Went Well Today.
5. Play the Equanimity Game.
Next time you get off balance, see how fast you can get back on balance. Make it a game!
6. Look at You vs. The Size of Your Problems.
7. Find What’s Funny.
Going to laugh about this in 10 years?
8. Use Some Mind Tools (aka Mantras).
Good: “I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.”Not so good: “I’m an idiot. I’m an idiot. I’m an idiot.”
10. Practice, Practice, Practice.
Now, all of these ideas are nice, but if we don’t PRACTICE them they’re useless.We can’t expect to try them out once in a while and get results. That’s kinda like Ben Stiller’s character in Zoolander who goes into the coal mine, works for 5 minutes and then comes out thinking he has black lung.Uh, yah.We need to work diligently, patiently and persistently at *anything* we want to master and there’s nothing more important to master than our minds.Buddha tells us that little by little a person becomes good just as a water pot is filled with water. We need to add little drops day in and day out and as we do that, our water pots will be brimming with joy and happiness and mojo and all things good.
- Gratitude journal. Write down 5 things you’re grateful for. Really feel into it. Do that once a week and watch your happiness soar.
- Practice choosing a more empowered response! Can you think of an incident over the last 72 hours when you might have gotten a little more stressed than useful? How could you have responded differently? Think about that and practice this week!
- Play the equanimity game! Find yourself off balance? See how fast you can get back on balance. Take a deep breath, notice your thoughts and get your mind balanced!
- Are you facing any challenges in your life right now? What’s the silver lining? What lesson or benefit might be hidden in the challenge?
- What was your favorite Big Idea? How can you start practicing it in your life starting TODAY?