Our thoughts are helpful. We need them to make sense of the information around us and to take action.
I used to believe this wholeheartedly, but is it really true? Is the stream of words in our heads really necessary?
As far as we know, animals don’t talk to themselves and they seem to manage. Some of our actions are prompted by our thoughts but most of them are the results of outside stimuli and our feelings.
Your Mind in Action
When something triggers a response in us, our subconscious tries to come up with a proper course of action. Its final decision is reinforced by feelings and thoughts that leak into the conscious. These 2 combine to form the motivation for your response.
For example, let’s say you found a mountain of dishes in your sink.
Your brain (the subconscious) analyzes the situation and comes up with a solution (leave them). Your feelings guide you towards the couch and you start thinking about your favorite show.
Again, your thoughts worked against you.
But this is not always the case.
Sometimes, the subconscious comes up with the decision to clean your dishes and so do your thoughts.
Also, you are not at the mercy of your subconscious. You can say no to certain “solutions” by recognizing the feelings and thoughts that are rejecting them.
Don’t Argue with the Mind
When you feel like doing something you shouldn’t, become aware of this fact. Take a deep breath, relax your body, and start focusing on your task.
Most of us try to argue with our minds and the brain always wins.
When you’re feeling and thinking something you shouldn’t, simply ignore it.
If you think you can’t, you are wrong.
You’ve done it before. At one time or another, something triggered a messed up thought in you, like murder, suicide or rape. It happens to all of us.
We cannot control the thoughts we have, as they are simple reactions to the outside world.
If you watch enough news about murder and rape, these thoughts will inevitably end up in your mind. But they are disgusting, so we reject them immediately.
That’s what keeps us sane.
However, we do not reject thoughts of donuts and coca cola which make us fat. We do not reject thoughts of television and YouTube that keep us mediocre.
So, how do we do it?
How to Control Your Thoughts
To fully understand how this works, I recommend reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.
An incomplete summary of what he speaks about is the following:
- Thoughts come and go but you don’t have to accept and ruminate over all of them.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Open them and become deeply aware of your surroundings. Become present.
- In this state, you have no thoughts. You enjoy being. When one comes into your head, make a quick decision: Is this thought useful/necessary or not? If it’s not (most of them aren’t), eliminate it and return to the present.
These steps will not only remove the pointless thoughts in your head but they can also force your subconscious to come up with better, superior ideas. What you’ll basically be doing is analyzing your thoughts, keeping only the good ones, and terminating the rest.
Thinking vs. Being
Most people are stuck in their heads. Instead of admiring the sunset or having a moment with their friends and family, they’re busy thinking about nonsense.
Are you doing the same?
If you are, accept it and start working on it. You can try it out right now or when you’re taking a walk or a shower. If there’s nothing useful going on in your head, simply focus on the now and the present.
By training yourself to get rid of the useless thoughts in your head, you will build the discipline you need to succeed at work and your daily life. The more you do it, the easier it will be to remain in the present.
So, stop thinking. Just listen. Just see. Just be.