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If You Don’t Know What Your Next Thought Is, You’re Not Alone

If You Don’t Know What Your Next Thought Is, You’re Not Alone

I find it rather easy to get lost in thought. Although I do enjoy this journey through my mind, there are times where I must pull myself out of this excursion. I am reminded of this every time my 3-year old daughter asks me, “Daddy, are you here?” This question hits deep.

I am learning the importance of being present in the moment. One book I turn to for this is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Let’s take a look at what we can all learn from Tolle in his powerful book.

    Life is a series of present moments

    If I asked you where everything happens, what would you say? The answer should be quite simple – everything happens in the present moment.

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    “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you will ever have.” – Eckhart Tolle

    Tolle teaches us that the past is nothing more than all present moments that have gone by and the future is a collection of present moments waiting to arrive.

    We fill in gaps with painful thoughts

    For some reason we incessantly fill our mind with painful thoughts about the past and worrisome thoughts about the future. Yet, we can only live in the present.

    Think of a straight line. At one end is the past and the other the future. In the center of the line is the present moment, where you exist. Now picture gaps along the line on each side of the center. The center (the present moment) is the only spot that should contain our thoughts. However, we fill in those gaps on each side of the center with painful and worrisome thoughts that do not matter. These thoughts do not matter because we can only live in the center – the present moment.

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    One question to freeze your situation

    There exists one question that can freeze any system in its current state.

    “What will my next thought be?”

    By repeatedly asking yourself this question, you can actually delay the answer to the question – your next thought. This is a powerful way to interrupt your mind and separate yourself from it.

    This is an effect from physics called the quantum zeno effect. Essentially, the quantum zeno effect demonstrates we can freeze a system in its current state by endlessly observing it. The key to being in the present moment is observing the present moment.

    Give it a try now.

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    Pull your mind from your body

    Imagine for a moment that you could pull your mind from your body to observe your thoughts and actions. Well… you can. Think of playing a video game where a dialogue or decision box pops up above the character requiring you to make a decision about what to say or do next. What else is happening in the game? You are freezing the game in its current state – in the present moment. It freezes the present moment in the game and in real life, think about that.

    Now think of a recent moment in your life where you had a negative thought. Freeze that moment and visualize yourself as the video game character. In a video game, we don’t judge the character we are controlling, we simply observe the decision or action that needs to be made.

    “Your entire life consists of the present moment.” – Eckhart Tolle

    We all have negative thoughts for which we cannot wish away. They will continue to flood our stream of conscious. The point is that we must stop judging the thought. We can’t stop the thought from entering our mind, but we can stop the judgement of the thought.

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    The next time a negative thought makes its way into your conscious, just acknowledge its existence and remember… it does not control you. Take a moment to observe the thought and analyze it.

    Finally, if you desire to be more present, you must be present. I am reminded here of one of my favorite quotes by Jim Elliot.

    “Wherever you are – be all there.”

    So, wherever you are… be all there.

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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    Dr. Jamie Schwandt

    Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

    What Is the Point of Life: The Reason Why You Exist 5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain 10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices

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    Last Updated on May 22, 2020

    Think Positive Mantras Help a Lot? Try Value Affirmation Instead

    Think Positive Mantras Help a Lot? Try Value Affirmation Instead

    Positive thinking is one of the most touted philosophies in the world. The advantages of positive mantras have been presented by authors and motivational speakers around the world. However, value affirmation may be more effective.

    Do these techniques really work? Why would repeating a simple, positive phrase change the way you think and feel? Those are the questions we’re going to dive in to.

    Decoding Positive Thinking

    Positive thinking[1] is about developing our mindset in such a way that we expect good and favorable outcomes from events in our life. In other words, it’s the process of transferring our energy into reality by thinking optimistic thoughts.

    This doesn’t mean we are unrealistic about the possibilities. Positive thinking is about recognizing all of the possible outcomes but choosing to focus on those that are positive and offer improvements to our lives.

    Does Positive Thinking Work?

    While many people believe that positive thinking leads you to the path of happiness, there are others who think otherwise. Both sides have put forward many compelling reasons supporting their views. While the argument may never end, the detractors have many reasons to believe that positive thinking, in isolation, doesn’t do much for our mental health. Here are some ways positive mantras can backfire.

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    How Positive Mantras Can Do Harm

    While positive mantras can be a good addition to a routine when understood, there are some downsides that you should be aware of.

    1. Suppression of Negative Emotions

    If we use positive mantras [2] too frequently, it might work for a shorter period, but in the long run, it may cause adverse consequences. Why?

    When we use a positive mantra, it tends to suppress our negative emotions. If it continues for an extended time and becomes a habit, then we might be overwhelmed by even more negative feelings at times when the results are not as expected, as there should be a balance between positive emotions and negative emotions in life. The balance of positive and negative feelings in life is what helps us to accept challenges and overcome them.

    2. Actions Speak Louder Than Mantras

    Additionally, uttering positive mantras in our life might work sometimes, and also, to channel the energy into reality, utter faith and absolute belief are required. However, the mantras most definitely prove themselves useless if we just keep chanting positive mantras but fail to put into action the message that the mantra is supposed to convey.

    As a consequence, we might be caught off guard by negative vibes and feel highly frustrated because our mind will immediately conjure up many negative thoughts.

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    For instance, if you believe that a perfect body is the one with well-toned abs and biceps, and you keep on insisting that you have a perfect body, then your mind will start searching for the so-called negatives in your body. You will be insecure about the little bit of belly protruding out, your waistline, and even your arms. This will make you more insecure about your body and will depress you even more.

    3. Production of Delusional Thinking

    A fact is a fact; it won’t change irrespective of the situations and time and won’t change even when you utter positive mantras your whole life. For example, if you are a little short on money, you aren’t going to miraculously solve your financial problems just because you utter positive mantras a million times. It will be much better if you accept the reality and work towards dealing with it.

    For example, if you have loan problems, you should work on personal budgeting instead of living with a false sense of security. This will make you happier in the long run.

    Let’s take another scenario as an example. You have an exam tomorrow, and you are not prepared well. You’re time would be better spent studying the information you’re lacking rather than repeating a positive mantra to convince yourself that you will be fine. Ultimately, the positive thinking will help you feel more confident on the answers you already know, but it won’t conjure up information you didn’t study for. Conjuring fantasies to wrap up reality is no way to answer any question in the real world.

    Hard work is key to success in our life. If you have worked hard, then despite all the negative thoughts that might surround your head instinctively, you are going to perform better. However, if you haven’t put in enough work, then no matter how many times you say that you are going to be successful, it won’t be enough.

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    4. Increase Low Self-Esteem

    A study has also shown that positive thinking works well if you have very high self-esteem. However, if you have low self-esteem and utter positive mantras, it will only strengthen your negative mindset when there are met by set-backs[3]. This will result in many negative feelings.

    For example, if a good football player believes that he is going to be the best, then it will act as a buffer to help him perform to his potential. However, if a player with low self-esteem thinks that he is going to be the best player in the world, he will get discouraged when he realizes he isn’t doing as well as he hoped.

    Alternative to Positive Mantras

    If you are a believer in positive mantras, and you are beginning to doubt its functionality, what will you do? Don’t fret, because there is another theory called value affirmation that might help you.

    What is Value Affirmation?

    First of all, values are the beliefs which we think are desirable and ideal. Our values are dynamic as they are changing and reshaping as we experience new things in our life. Therefore, it is necessary that we update our values constantly so our objective in life resembles the values we believe in.

    If we are aware of our values, it will help to maintain balance in our life. If there is an imbalance between our value and aim, it will undermine our motivation to do things. Hence, value affirmation is recognizing and defining the values we believe in rather than repeatedly saying positive sentences that may or may not hold significance for us.

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    Do Value Affirmations Work?

    In a recent survey[4], students in one of the universities were chosen randomly to write about their values. Those students who were selected performed very nicely in their college years in comparison to those students who had not taken part. This was repeated again with the same success in the Hispanic community and African-American community.

    Therefore, the next time you find yourself chanting mantras to assure you that everything is going to be fine, stop. Instead, try to recognize your deeply rooted values and check whether your values are in balance with your actions and goals.

    The Bottom Line

    Positive mantras can be a great addition to a regular meditation practice or a good technique to use if you are secure in your self confidence and direction in life. However, if you’re feeling lost or having trouble tracking down your motivation, value affirmations may do more to help you as they’ll force you to take a good look at what really matters in your life.

    More Tips on Values

    Featured photo credit: Kazi Mizan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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