A few months ago I saw the movie, The Founder, from which one sentence has stayed with me to date. It was a long quote, but the last bit said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. Or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, ‘A man is what he thinks about all day long’.”
I wasn’t aware of Emerson’s quote, but when I heard it in the movie, it got me thinking about how meaningful that statement is (a man is what he thinks about all day long)! I can remember so many instances in life where just changing a bit of my thinking, and giving the thoughts a new direction, made a big difference in eventually the way I acted on those thoughts and the impact of those actions. Shaped by everything around me, my thoughts have motivated me to be curious, pursue varied interests, and make important decisions such as career choices.
The quote doesn’t tell us what we don’t know but rather what we tend to forget. In the 1600s, English poet and intellectual John Milton drew our attention to the power of our mind in the most famous of his writings, Paradise Lost, where he wrote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Throughout my childhood, I learnt to admire this powerful line, courtesy of my mother, who made me understand its meaning and reminded me at different times how not to let the mind be a devil’s workshop. The quote from Paradise Lost is similar to a quote attributed to Buddha, “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.”
So, if we are what we think all day long, I wonder how many of us consciously train our mind to be good, to do good, or attain a desired outcome. Probably people who follow their passion are good examples of the lot who put this into practice because they think about their interest all day long (how to pursue it, study it, try and be better at it).
Becoming conscious of my thoughts, I am training my mind into taking life a little easy, and become more focused on how I want to live. I am thinking a lot more about how I can do good at my new job, be positive, and leave a long-lasting impact. And these thoughts keep me motivated to read more, learn more, and work better. While these are the thoughts that keep me going, there are also the ones I have no clue how to deal with, such as aging, unfulfilled travel plans, the books unread, the interests that are yet to be pursued but are on my mind. I can see how constantly thinking about a few things has helped me achieve them as I become more prepared to spend my energy on reaching that goal, so the uneasy ones do not bother me much now.
Is this true for you too? I am keen to learn what you think of this and how you are using the power of your thoughts.