There is a war raging on inside our heads each second of everyday.
A barrage of duplicitous dialogue and thought that consumes the battlefield of our mind. Worse yet, it’s of our own doing and invariably dictates our actions.
Now that is something worth thinking about.
Amidst the everyday goings-on, it barely registers what’s happening inside our heads, or we choose deceptively to pretend it doesn’t matter.
“I hate going to work. … I feel guilty putting the kids into care…… What happened to that dream of mine working freelance from home? It’s never gonna happen now…… Wow, my skin looks terrible this morning…….
Man, I need to lose some weight …….. maybe this green smoothie will be the start of a new regime. ….Crap, I forgot to buy bloody eggs… again! ……Jeez, I need to get more organised….. I can’t wait to get a coffee and muffin on the way to work …… screw the diet.”
We know how it goes. Everybody does. The trouble is, it’s a habit. It’s an ongoing battle to berate ourselves for all that we haven’t done, can’t do or don’t like about ourselves.
And if it’s not that, then we’re chastising ourselves for the fact that we continually do this to ourselves!
“Don’t say you’re stupid,…..you just forgot…….. It’ll be ok, the world won’t fall apart because you didn’t buy eggs…… Stay positive….think positive…… I’m feeling great! Oh stop it, you sound ridiculous!”
Our days are punctuated with nano-second thoughts, a blow-by-blow account of what we think of ourselves, our experiences, our lives and the people in it.
Life is busy.
Life can be tough.
But we need to save ‘us’ somehow, from this war we wage with ourselves!
The How and Why?
When we are so consumed by our existence, our responsibilities, our ‘to do’ jobs, it feels like there is no time for us to stop and consider the battle raging on inside of us.
It’s just always there.
But, if we were able to do just one thing for ourselves, surely it should be this; to stop the war and broker an amicable peace deal.
We’re all prepared to put a lot of time, effort and money into all other aspects of our lives: our physical fitness, our jobs, our wardrobe, our relationships.
But how much time do we commit to considering how we can better understand and maybe even change our thoughts and in turn our experience of life?
“Know yourself” Socrates
If we did, how much of everything else (our actions, behaviour, relationships, everyday experiences) would begin to follow a more ‘peaceful’ path?
Now, I’m no experienced soldier on this battlefront, but I have become curious and more conscious of my war. In the last 18 months I’ve taken up the challenge and begun to grapple with my thought processes.
Me the Guinea Pig
So the good news is that research confirms what we possibly already know; what we tell ourselves, directly influences the experiences we have.
It is, according to ‘Flow’ author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (no I didn’t make his name up!) all about perception. Control the way we view things and we dictate the life we lead.
“How we feel about ourselves, the joy we get from living, ultimately depends directly on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experiences”.
Powerful stuff, but easier said than done, I hear you mumble. And you’re right.
From as far back as we can remember, we’ve pumped our minds with thoughts; all kinds, with little attention given to the quality of them or the helpfulness of them.
It would certainly require a great change in our thinking habits and a quiet dedication interpreting the inner workings of our minds. Daunting and deep stuff I know!
“We are too scared to stop and think because it is in those moments of quiet we realise that we are not living the lives we would like to, worse yet, we are not even trying” M. Csikszentmihalyi
Meditation, yoga, self-help books aside, it’s clear to me that I needed to throw our whole self into this fight.
Ultimately, if we want to be more than the thoughts that we let infiltrate the battlefield of our mind, we have to want to think differently first, then take action. DO something.
So in an attempt to quash my own war and in an effort to find a method in the madness, the last 18 months have been quite experimental.
I’ve read, I’ve taken courses, I’ve had deep conversations with those around me, I’ve listened to experts, I’ve reflected and I’ve written a lot of these thoughts down, … here in this blog as well as in my personal journal.
And that’s been, dare I say it…..life changing.
The chance to read, reflect and record my thoughts in a journal or more aptly referred to as a ‘Commonplace book’, has been….. enlightening.
Nothing revolutionary you might say! Not especially time-consuming or particularly draining. In fact quite the opposite; practical, immediate and worthwhile.
Reflecting on our thoughts and recording these down has been an undertaking many great and ordinary people alike, have committed to; Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius kept one, Thomas Jefferson kept one, Napoleon kept one. Bill Gates keeps one.
And this is why….
- Reflection: Asking the big WHY questions matters. Being strong and still long enough to listen properly to the answers is key to understanding why we think and behave the way we do. Reflecting gives us a chance to sort through our confusion, review our perspectives and reassess our priorities. What could be more worthwhile than that?
- Doing: it’s not enough to simply think about things. It is in the DOING after all that we achieve actual change. In committing my reflections (fairly regularly, usually daily) to paper or text I am letting them loose and I have a tactile, retrievable point of reference. In doing this act, I’ve taken the first step in beginning to solve some of my personal dilemmas or at the very least, acknowledged their existence.
It could well be more complicated than this, but for me, for now, this is working. I’m making good ground on the battle front.
I’m no saint; some days I let my emotions drag me about, other days I just don’t want to think, and I’m ok with that.
But just like healthy eating keeps our bodies in order, I’m attempting to cultivate a habit. I’m trying to make my thoughts count, my perspective healthy and my experiences of life meaningful.
All great change starts with a small step, repeated regularly, until it becomes habit.
Committing to writing in a Journal or ‘Commonplace Book’ is one way I’m attempting to master the way I view things and think about them. And if I can do this, then I might just be closer to dictating the quality of my life and shaping the experiences I have.
It’s worth a shot!
In next week’s blog, I’ll run through what my Commonplace book looks like, what goes in it and how you can start your own.