Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.”
~ The Buddha
The mind is a powerful piece of technology. It has an amazing capacity for data storage and information recall. The good, the bad and the ugly live side by side in the human mind.
Think about how old you are now and the thousands of programs written and stored in your lifetime of memory. Each program is created and influenced by what you have seen, heard, read, and experienced.
The person we are at this very moment is the product of what we think. It plays out hundreds of times a day in the things we do and say. Our actions are guided by what we believe to be true. You may not realize it but your mind has 60,000 thoughts running through it every day. Each and every one of them reflects who we are and what we believe.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. The introspection started when I heard myself say something that I did not consciously plan to say. When we moved Dad into assisted living we were faced with a monumental task and parts of it were very difficult. My husband and I both have jobs in the high tech industry and when it was time for the move we took a week of vacation to make sure it was done with care and compassion.
Mid-way through the process I was overwhelmed with the enormity of it all. I was sad, discouraged, angry at my siblings for not being there; and resentful that it was using a week of my vacation. Part of me wanted my Dad to have taken ownership for this decision years ago and pro-actively managed it. In that moment, I did not want to be there and my words reflected all of those emotions.
An old tape began to play; part of a family legacy I was convinced I had not inherited. When I listened to my words I heard my mother talking.
My mom came from a family that knew how to hold a grudge. It fractured them into so many pieces they were never able to heal their relationships. It became part of who she was; reducing her ability to forgive or let go. I watched it take root in one of my sisters and vowed I would not allow it to happen in me. But it was there, programmed into my mind and inviting me to embrace it.
I heard myself saying words that were harsh and misguided; as if they stored themselves in the back of my mind waiting for the moment that would set them free—and there they were. I knew my foot was at the beginning of a dark road. Life-changing events write programs not only in your mind, but in your heart. I did not want to live into the legacy.
You can’t fight your way into or out of your feelings. You must change the way you think about them, which means confronting what made you think them in the first place. An old tape can’t be destroyed until you admit it’s there. It was in my mind, I did not want to invite it into my heart. The only way to stop that is by living out the change I wanted to see; erasing the old program to create a new one. Not easy, not fun.
Everybody’s view of the world is different and it all comes down to the thinking patterns you use in daily life. If you think life is good you notice the good things in your life. If you feel burdened by life, you live your life as if it is a burden. When you change your thinking you literally change the world you live in.
Changing the Way We Think
What happened to me was unusual because I was certain I had dodged one of the bullets I was exposed to growing up. I have seen the damage this kind of thinking leads to and believed myself incapable of it. It shocked and scared me to learn I was not.
In the book, The Happiness Trap, author Russ Harris says 80% of everyone’s thoughts contain negative content. The difficulty isn’t that we have negative thoughts; it’s when we believe they are true and act on them. It was a relief to read these words.
I found additional inspiration in a few simple sentences that, when applied, really do empower you to change the way you think because you are what you think.
- Get up every morning and choose your attitude
- Life is too short to resent all the people who may have hurt you
- Acknowledge the negative things, then let them go
- Embrace a set of guiding principles and consciously live them
I also found this quote and placed it next to my computer. It offers me a humble reminder that we can be the change we want to see in ourselves. I read it every day.
Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
~ Author unknown
Thank you for sharing this part of yourself. It must have taken courage.
Your piece hit home with me on so many levels. My mom had early onset Altzheimer’s at age 60, and I had 20 years of caregiving that took me through a long journey with, and without, my brothers. And as I lost her a little at a time, I had time to examine my legacy from her; what was healthy and what was not, what I chose to keep and what I chose to let go.
And for about six years, hanging in my son’s bathroom over his toilet was a poster with the quote you had in your article. It hung there at an impressionable age for him and actually an impressionable time for me as well.
I believe the tough things that we have been through in our lives are meant to count for something. There is wisdom gained that can be shared to help others cope or to not feel so alone in their journey.
Again, thank you for your honesty and sharing part of your very human journey.
I look forward to seeing you in October,