Lately I’ve been reading several books which I guess would be categorized as “spiritual books” but an important lesson I’ve learned from these books is of the immense power of the mind, but more so how we are improperly using our minds. Or rather, how our minds are actually using us.
In the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, the author suggests our minds are a magnificent tool for us, but we are not our minds. For most of us, we don’t control our minds – rather, our minds control us. This is apparent in the fact that many of us can’t shut our thoughts off at will and be still, and we’ve become addicted to thinking. The mind has possessed us to the point that we’ve started to believe that we are the possessor! Your mind is a tool in the sense that you pick it up when you need to use it, and place it back down when you’re done. That is how to consciously use your mind, and a great phrase he teaches to help you be aware of your thoughts is by “watching the thinker.” Just simply observe your thoughts as if you were a parent observing a child. What kind of thoughts do you think about on a daily basis? Are they mostly positive or negative?
After practicing this for a bit, I started to realize for myself that actually many of the thoughts my mind produced throughout the day were negative. But that’s OK – you don’t have to attach yourself to your thoughts. They’re just mental constructions produced by your mind, and your mind is not you. But what I did realize is that our thoughts DO help dictate our mood, emotions, direction in life, attitude etc. In this sense, this is an even greater case for figuring out how to control your mind and thoughts, rather than having your mind control you. In the book Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, he states that our minds are filled with a lot of “Sponsoring Thoughts” which are basically original thoughts about major concepts that we hold as truths. However, our Sponsoring Thoughts are oftentimes wrong, cause us to form biases and prejudices that unconsciously repel us from exactly the things we want, and for the most part have been placed in our minds by others. For example, many of us may have sponsoring thoughts about money such as:
- Having a lot of money is bad
- People with a lot of money acquired it through dishonest means
- Only successful people have money, and because I don’t have money now, I am not successful
- Money is difficult to acquire.
The list goes on and on and many of these thoughts weren’t even placed in our minds by ourselves. For example, our parents place a lot of our sponsoring thoughts about life and the world in our mind from a young age. But my question to you is this: What Sponsoring Thoughts do you have and are they true? Are they true statements that align with reality? Are they serving you? If not, simply replace them.
You see, I’ve realized that most of the thoughts we have on a daily basis really stem from a select amount of our Sponsoring Thoughts. If you have a negative Sponsoring Thought about money, all of your thoughts throughout the day surrounding money or finances will stem from that negative, original thought. To try to refresh my mind and implant new, positive Sponsoring Thoughts in my mind, I’ve created a list of thoughts that I repeat to myself every morning:
- I consciously create abundance in my life
- Everything I touch turns to gold
- I am an intelligent, capable, driven leader
- When I act, all providence and life moves with me
- I can do and achieve anything I decide to
- I’m wealthy financially, health-wise, in relationships, and all of life
- I’ve got more money than I know what to do with and there’s always more where that came from
- I create billion-dollar businesses and change the world.
By replacing my existing Sponsoring Thoughts or Original Thoughts with the list above, all of my thoughts throughout the day will stem from these. I want to use my mind properly and have the bulk of my daily thoughts controlled by the Sponsoring Thoughts that were set by me, not by others. It’s been a great exercise for me so far, and I encourage all of you to try it out as well.
I came across this passage in a book today, and I though it was extremely eye-opening. Many of us “want” all of these things and to “have” X, Y, and Z. We believe having these things will allow us to “feel” or “be” a certain way (e.g. be happy, feel powerful, etc). But perhaps we have it the other way around.
Have patience with your Self, especially if your choices are not bringing you what you think you want. You say you want something, but you are not choosing it. You know you are not choosing it, because you do not experience having it. In truth, you have had it all along. You simply are not choosing it.
In the Universe, “havingness” does not produce “beingness,” but the other way around. First you “be” the thing called “happy” (or “knowing” or “wise” or “compassionate” etc.), then you start “doing” things from this place of beingness – and soon you discover that what you are doing winds up bringing you the things you’ve always wanted to “have.”
Look at what it is you want to “have,” ask yourself what you think you would “be” if you “had” that, then go straight to being.
Act as if you are, and you will draw it to you.
What you act as if you are, you become.
Lose all pessimism. Release all doubts. Reject all fear.
“The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more comfortable you will become.”
-Conor McGregor, UFC Champion
Since about 4 weeks ago, I’ve been trying to practice the art of seeking out discomfort. I heard from many different successful people that the feeling of being uncomfortable can be used as a guiding compass to help you identify the direction that you need to be going to become a better version of yourself, reach your goals, etc. Whenever you feel resistance in the mind toward anything, usually it’s your mind’s evolutionary mechanism to keep you safe (i.e. your brain rationalizes that “if you’ve been alive thus far doing what you’re doing, don’t do anything different. Anything risky = a chance of death). The quote that got me most curious about exploring this idea more was something along the lines of:
The thing you least want to do is most likely the thing that you should be doing the most.
And this rang true for me. Haven’t you ever thought “err, I don’t want to be doing this right now..” but in the back of your mind you know you should be doing it? For example, if you’re a startup entrepreneur building a company from the ground up, many of you will probably feel resistance in sending out those cold emails and making those sales calls to build your business. Your initial thought would be “this can probably wait…let me do this other thing in the meantime.” You’re lying to yourself in believing that doing something else would still be “productive” but the action that makes you the most uncomfortable is most likely the action that will lead you to the most success that you’re looking for.
Another example would be a highschool basketball player that has high dreams of getting a basketball scholarship to go to college and eventually get drafted to the NBA. We all see scenes in the movies where these kids are shooting countless free throws in the middle of the night. But in reality, do all of these kids do practice shots for hours every single night for a year? Probably after 2 weeks straight, their minds tell them that it’s OK to take a day off and mental resistance starts to build up. But to get to NBA level of basketball mastery, you have to break through the barrier of mental resistance. An athletic trainer for the Team USA basketball team shared a story of how he was woken up by Kobe Bryant at 4:15 AM to do some 1-on-1 conditioning work. After training Kobe, the trainer went back to bed and came back to the court at 11AM for team training. He discovered that Kobe had stayed at the court to make 800 shots and never left. It’s ridiculous work ethic, but that’s what it takes for him to be at the level he wants to perform at.
For me, I’m trying to develop a “mental radar” where everytime I feel uncomfortable doing ANYTHING, I try to think about why I feel uncomfortable and then just do it. I feel uncomfortable going to the gym? I go. I feel uncomfortable sitting down for 20 minutes to meditate? I do it. I feel uncomfortable at the thought of developing more code for my business and making some business calls over the weekend? I definitely do it. At this point, it’s almost become like a game to me, and 9 times out of 10, I do realize that the things that I feel resistance toward doing are actually things that deep down I know I should really be doing immediately. I feel like I’m developing another mental muscle, and now it’s almost fun when I feel mental resistance, because I feel like my mind is helping me uncover a piece of gold that could really help me if I do it. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Riches do not respond to wishes.
They respond only to definite plans, backed by definite desires, through constant persistence.
– Napolean Hill, Think and Grow Rich
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was an autodidact, who taught himself an extraordinary range of knowledge and skills. He kept a journal from a very young age and by his early twenties had developed a list of 13 values, which he actually graded himself against every day in a notebook. He found that these values were very helpful to him in living his life as a statesman and diplomat and pursuing his career an inventor. While some of these particular values may seem old-fashioned or out of sync with modern life, I find it helpful and interesting to study him as an example of someone who thought deeply and seriously about the principles on which he based his life.
- Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Order: Let all your things have its places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself (i.e. waste not).
- Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
- Tranquility: Be not distributed by trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly. And, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness or weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates. (This one was added later in his life.)