Thursday, October 06, 2005

Can you control your thoughts?

I'm here at the AWAI Copywriting Bootcamp and this morning the motivational speaker, Brian Tracy, told this room of more than 300 people that "thoughts are causes" and "conditions are effects."

So if you think about yourself as shy, the condition you find yourself in will be the effect of that thought.

He also said (and I believe this) that our thoughts are the only things we have control over. (In fact, I'm dying to read Joan Didion's new book, A Year of Magical Thinking, in which she talks about coming to the realization that she had control over very, very little in her life, despite believing for so long that she had it all under control. I know I believe that too.)

So here's my question: what steps can we take today to begin learning how to control our thoughts?

24 Comments:

Anonymous Alan said...

We can't control our thoughts. We can, however, choose what attitude to take toward them. Do we believe our thoughts? Do we get angry at having a "bad" thought? Let's try to coexist peacefully with our thoughts. We don't have to take them too seriously. Say, "thank you, mind, for generating the thought that people don't like me [or whatever]. I know you mean well."

9:02 PM  
Blogger Calvin Lee said...

I agree with Alan. I don't think we can control our thoughts. If we could, I would be stress free and have 8 hours of sleep every night.

Bad thoughs can side track you very quickly and casue a downward spiral. I think we can however, think positive and stay focused to keep on track to accomplish your goals.

3:20 AM  
Blogger Ilise Benun said...

hmm, very interesting. Maybe we need to define our terms. What is a thought? Where does it come from? Inside or outside? Are there different kinds of thoughts?

At the opening session of the AWAI Copywriting Bootcamp, Michael Masterson stated that lots of people fantasize about their goals instead of acting on them. Brian Tracy called the place we often go "Someday Isle" -- such as, "Someday I'll start my own business."

I know I can control these thoughts. I can choose to think something else and when I do it often enough, these will atrophy. So are these thoughts or something else?

9:08 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

Although we can deliberately think thoughts, I don’t think we have any control over what random thoughts pop up in our heads. We do, however, have control over what we choose to dwell on and act upon.

The ones that are problematic are those thoughts that interfere with clear thinking, as well as our progress in our careers and life in general.

Beyond this are the “filters” we’ve developed. Our thoughts, good and bad, are colored by our upbringing, culture, gender, education and such. None of us perceive the same world. A poet once wrote, “Two men looked out of prison bars. One saw mud and the other saw stars.”

Also, I think it’s important to recognize what are truly our thoughts and what’s been put into our heads by other influences. For instance, if a child continually hears a parent or other adult saying, “You’ll never amount to anything,” odds are, when that child grows into an adult, they’ll be at a disadvantage without some outside help. On the other hand, if another child gets a lot of support, praise and encouragement, odds are, later in life, they’ll be confident and well-adjusted.

If we take the time to revisit our thoughts and beliefs, it can be amazing how many aren’t really our own. I think for a lot of folks, it’s just plain easier than doing the work needed to come to their own conclusions. I think it’s important to ask ourselves, every now and then, “Why do I believe thus and so?”

Several meditation styles involve allowing thoughts to emerge, acknowledging them and then letting them pass. There are those meditators who have gained enough experience to reach very deep states of relaxation by focusing on a mantra or other focal point, rather than on arising random thoughts. But, that doesn’t mean those thoughts don’t keep on popping up. Their attention is simply focused elsewhere.

Buddha said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” Whether we make our world a good one or a bad one depends largely on which thoughts we choose to entertain and act upon.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my own experience the way that I control my thoughts is totally dependent upon what I spend time thinking about.

Interesting enough, I've done experiments on myself, such as - I'll take on of my undesirable habits and start focusing on it... before I know it I have almost an uncontrollable urge to do that very thing.

I've done the same experiment with desirable habits, such as executing the task that will get me to the next level in my business... the more I allow myself to think about those tasks, the more I do them.

What I've found about my own thoughts is that I can't focus on more than one thought at any given instant. Therefore, my secret to elimiating or drastically reducing them is to choose what thoughts come into my mind. When the negative thoughts try to creep in they're overcome by the thoughts that I choose to dominate.

Jim T.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Control you thoughts? - thoughts are the product of minds thinking, stop your mind from thinking? hmmm this seems like a strange pursuit to me, all for less stress and calm. Dont put down your mind or its products just learn how to use it better. Think more, understand how your thougths shape your actions. We often reach for the well worn excuses like belifes, values and other dogmas religous/psychobable when we feel pain or anxiety. This is a strange process for having a life? Making an excuse. If living your life and having to think about your situation is distracting try this simple exercise.
1. Catch a plane to Central Africa, or southern india, or mexico city
2. Give everything you have (money, ID, jewels, watch, phone) to taxi driver including all your families contact numbers.
3. Tell the driver to take 50km in any direction. Get out of the Cab.
4. Now start counting your random time wasting thoughts now!
5. Are you living yet?

8:31 PM  
Blogger Jeff Fisher LogoMotives said...

I don't know that I would want to control, or limit, my thoughts. Some of my best ideas and project solutions come to me in my thoughts when I least expect them.

I do sometimes need to control the verbalizing of those thoughts. I don't seem to have the necessary mental filters installed to quickly review a comment/statement, that may have been percolating in my thoughts for some time, before it comes blasting out of my mouth.

8:20 AM  
Blogger newnimproved said...

I agree with Alan too. However observing thoughts is not easy. I tried mindful meditation and it was quite a tough task not to get involved with your thoughts. We can't control our thoughts but we can observe them and choose not to react.
In fact I have some notes and old Indian books on the subject and if anyone is interested I can send them across.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

From what I understand, our automatic thoughts come from our beliefs about ourselves, either negative or positive. However, we do have the power to turn around the automatic negative thoughts by asking ourselves if that thought is true, or if it is irrational. That takes just a little more effort, but it can be very helpful to build self-confidence.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Pamela Baggett-Wallis said...

Controlling our thoughts is more of a challenge than controlling our attitudes. Our attitudes control our thoughts. Attitudes are active thoughts.
Positive, sharing, loving, considerate attitudes ultimately shape our thoughts in a beneficial manner. The good ol' Golden Rule is a great guide for shaping our attitudes and ultmately out thoughts.
And this attitude will result in excellent karma to help shape the attitudes and thoughts of others.
Try it. You'll like it!

10:04 AM  
Blogger Lisa J. Lehr said...

Neil said, "Although we can deliberately think thoughts, I don’t think we have any control over what random thoughts pop up in our heads. We do, however, have control over what we choose to dwell on and act upon."

I think this is the key. You can't (at first) control what random thoughts pop into your head. But you can control which thoughts you give power to...the power to control your actions. After a while, you disempower those negative thoughts, and they give up and go away.

Books have been written on the subject, not the least of which is The Power of Positive Thinking, which surely just about everyone has read.

So when negative thoughts come around, just give them a good swift kick and replace them with something positive.

One idea that I just read about and am now actively doing is this: write down the positive outcome that you want in longhand 15 times a day. It will become so ingrained in your thinking pattern that it can hardly help becoming a reality.

Well...that's what the book said, and I'm giving it a try because I'd rather be delusional and happy than depressed and sad. And I think that's the worst that can happen, and the potential is there for something MUCH greater.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can rapists control if they think about girls all day???

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i cant controll my thoughts. it feels like someone if telling me what to say sometimes. it makes me think of killing people. i do not like it at all.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Derek said...

I find it ridiculous when people say "I can't control my thoughts but I can choose how I react to them." What is your reaction to them? Is it not made of another thought? Is choosing anything other than a cognitive process? If your reaction is nothing but a thought then you have no control over your reaction either. In my opinion, this is the fundamental illusion that keeps people trapped in the idea that they are actually in control and doing something when everything is actually arising by itself.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I control my thoughts. Maybe some of you don't. Denying that you control your own thoughts is how you choose to give up that control.

11:45 AM  
Blogger bhavesh said...

I think that how you feel about yourself and the world around you cvreates the random thoughts that pop in your head. so really your random thoughts reflect your true feelings..to change those random you must change the way you feel about yourself and the world around you..then those negative thoughts will disappear. this is why meditation is important because you are constantly in a zone of contentment and happiness and feel good about what you're doing. noone meditates on bad factors but if they did I bet their random thoughts would all be negative.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can stop ALL thoughts any time I choose, for a couple of minutes or so.

If you can, you then one day will realize that what really are is just the awareness which witnesses thoughts, the body and the world.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, but what if you have no control over anything in your head at all? I can't even make up a simple scenario in my head and see it through. My mind takes control and the story ends or goes in whatever direction my mind takes it. It feels like (my mind and I are) two separate entities and I have no input that it's willing to absorb/consider. However I am completely fine on the surface and I have no harmful tendancies (meaning I don't think I'm crazy). It's just weird 'cause even at this very moment, I don't have a clear positive or negative thought in my head. Just random sounds, visions and feelings that surface and affect my emotions (throughout the day, but not all the time) that's where it ends. Nothing dangerous spawns from it. It's all blurred together into something that can't be explained any better than this attempt. Anyways the end result is that I usually feel like I have so much I could be doing with my life, but no way to make it happen and no clear thoughts to steer me in the right direction. Does anyone have feedback on this or is this how everyone else's mind works?

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i get negative religious thoughts..like im dissing my own faith..i dunt believe in any of them! but they randomly pop up or flash by or come when im praying..its been happening for the past 3 and half months. i cant control them..at one point i thought i was goin crazy.. how do i get rid of them??? i want 2 comepletely emilinate them out of my mind

4:26 AM  
Blogger gilbertifeanyi said...

i share d same view wit the guy who has got some bad religious thought.its affecting everything bout me like m goin crazy.i become so scared i dont even noe wer i stand.sometimes i get myself nd m fine the nxt minute its smthin else.i nid help

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that's possible though it would be wondeful to be able to control your thoughts. I couold save the world from at least 75% of problems if the "thought to action" theory is true.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From personal experience I say our thoughts can't be controlled. Our minds way of thinking can't br controlled nor the process. Everyday I struggle with keeping my mind where its needed but not always able to. My mind tends to wonder. Now for example I could be thinking about the words the teacher says and 5 minutes later I'll be thinking about why the sun is yellow and the conversation I had about it a week ago. Now one may call this simple day dreaming yes. But if I could control mu thoughts this wouldn't of happened.
Another problem I struggle with is the inability to see with my minds eye. Think of a car. Doesn't matter of shape type size or color. Imagine your looking to the side with the front to the left. Rotate it 360° and see if there are any deformities. Did the color change? The size? Maybe a huge part of the car got changed to something else. I tried to invasion a head of a pony and rotate it 360° in a circle like on a paper. When I was done I was looking at the back of the head. I can't control what my mind does. It's kind of frighting. Even when I daydream, I cant control in witch direction I want to go. Example. Pretend your walking up steps. I try this and after the first 5 I fall and they brak apart. Or even a side walk does the same thing. Control g my thoughts is something I've never been able to do.

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone that says they control their thoughts is strongly decieved. a random thought is just that. random. they can control acting on thoughts but not what you think in itself. if there is an idea in your head its going to stay their forever. try completly erasing a thought and then never think about it again. impossible.

2:01 PM  

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