Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Penny for Your Thoughts

In one of my previous lives, I served as the director of a family resource center.  At one point, with lots of changes taking place, I noticed that the staff were all becoming 'down in the mouth.'  Moral was pretty low and we needed to make a change, so in an effort to reverse the thinking taking place I reached to my bookshelves and came across a book by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. called, Easier Than You Think.  I had bought this book several years before at a conference in Louisville, Kentucky.  The book had been sitting on my shelf alongside another of his books, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.  As I picked up the book and began to read it, I decided this was the perfect little book to use at our staff development meetings.  The chapters were very short but packed full of quality life lessons, and I'm all about life lessons.

A friend and I were talking about this book just last night and the value of its simple message:  life really is easier than you think.  It's what we do with our lives (or don't do with them) that makes them so complicated and difficult.  Dr. Carlson shows us in a few pages easy ways to make small changes that will have a big impact on the quality of your life.

The first lesson is one that I have taught a lot over the course of my years.  He calls it 'A Penny for Your Thoughts.'  It became a key phrase for those of us at the center.  When one of us heard another thinking and saying negative things, we would simply say, "A penny for your thoughts."  This was just a little reminder that we have a choice of how we look at things. 

Our thoughts are the most powerful tools we have been given in this lifetime.  We can use them ... to create joy, anticipation, excitement, fun, happiness, and peace.

Of course, we can just as easily allow our thoughts to be self-destructive weapons.  We can wake up in the morning with a list of complaints as long as the front page of the newspaper.  And whichever road we take--positive or negative--our choice is likely to have little if anything to do with how "good" our life really is on the "outside."

If you can keep in mind the reality that you control your own thoughts and nothing else, you will be in pretty good shape.  Whenever negativity creeps into your mind (which it will do on a regular basis), remember two things:  You are the one who is creating the negativity with your own thinking.  But more important, you have the power to stop it.

After all, everything that happens in your life is processed in your head.  Your brain, your thoughts, tell you how to feel about it.  It really is a choice.  We all have over 60,000 thoughts each day, most of them the very same thoughts we had yesterday.  We can choose to "switch the channel" and not listen to the negative ones as they come up.  Take a little time today to stop and notice what you're thinking.  Is it helpful to you in any way?  Or does it just beat you up and leave you feeling bad?  Change that channel!  You don't have to listen to it.

Certainly there are times when we need to run a diagnostic evaluation of ourselves.  Are we on target for our goals?  Are we living the life we want to live?  But when the evaluation becomes an opportunity for us to  bloody our own lip and leave us feeling badly about ourselves, then we need to notice the negative self-talk and turn it off.  A simple statement to yourself such as, "I appreciate that these thoughts may have served some purpose for me in the past, but they just don't work for me anymore.  I choose to see this in a different light," flips the switch.  After you've flipped that switch several times, you can simply think or say, "No thanks!" and move on.  

Life is just too short to live it in a world of negativity.  We all  face trials but if we can find some good in each day, in each lesson, then our days will be filled with gladness and thanksgiving rather than despair and grief.  So, today I ask you...A Penny for Your Thoughts?

No comments: