Presence of Mind

"A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth." James Allen


Although thoughts are not facts, sometimes the condition that significantly affects our functioning is the way we THINK. This idea may seem foreign, given we do not see thoughts; we see behaviors. Internally, our thinking reinforces our behaviors. Our thoughts have the potential to form habits that drive our behaviors that are either helpful or unhelpful. Hence, the need to cultivate our thoughts intelligently and not allow them to run wild.


Most of what we do is patterned, and things can become stagnant at some point in life. Yet, in times of stagnation, for generativity, some of us would instead think to escape where we are now. Still, we would have the same preoccupations even in this new place. Whether consciously or ignorantly ignored, we are limited by how we think. This limitation is reflected in our behaviors as long as we believe conditions outside ourselves are solely responsible for our functioning.


Once we understand that our thinking influences our behavior, we must consider re-educating ourselves to not repeat our old thought patterns. Consequently, it becomes necessary to discover a new perspective, be encouraged, and be challenged to change.

The change we desire comes from behavioral activation. For example, suppose you consider yourself physically weak. In that case, through diligent training, you can develop physical strength, but you must train to accomplish your goal. Likewise, you can train your mind to become stronger by training your mind in the right way of thinking. Consequently, learn to identify your automatic negative thought patterns. Then make the new thoughts actionable by DOING.


Thought prompts:

  • Are you stuck in evaluating negative situations in the same way without examining the evidence for your interpretation?

  • Do you apply all or nothing thinking?

  • Do you overgeneralize?

  • Do you apply a mental filter?

  • Do you disqualify the positives?

  • Do you jump to conclusions?

  • Do you magnify or minimize the importance of your negative experiences?

Your automatic thoughts are immediate, triggered by an unpleasant experience. Cognitive reappraisal is a strategy subdivided into positive reframing and examining the evidence. This strategy can help deal with unpleasant experiences.


Positive reframing:

  • Considering the upside of the experience, and

  • Make a note of what was learned from having the experience.

Examining the evidence:

  • Recognize the assumptions you are making about the experience and the people involved.

  • What is the evidence for and against your automatic thought?

  • Look for cognitive errors in the way you are thinking.

  • Document your new thought and a plan to put the new thinking into action.

As you read these words, you may consider them simplistic. Still, I encourage you to reflect on them in the context of thought and behavior. For example, when you learn to think with purpose, you should begin to mentally map a pathway to re-authoring your story.


Indeed, change can feel like an existential crisis, and while change feels like a crisis, it is worthwhile to recognize and accept when things are not working. Learn to accept your imperfections. For example, when you get into the self-protectionist mode, are you helping or hurting yourself?


This is not to question your strength of character. Nevertheless, an opportunity to ask and reflect on your response to the poignant question: Are my current thoughts and behaviors getting me what I want? Depending on your answer, are you prepared to find solutions to make changes and improve your decision-making to get closer to your preferred future? What alternatives are you ready to explore to address your pressing concerns?


Structurally we build our houses differently from a bird's nest. We do not design our homes in defiance of geometrical proportions because we are fully aware of the consequences. In the same way, a building needs a sturdy foundation. We need a sound mind to grow and improve.


Stay Naturally Curious


Reference

Corey, G. (1996). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (5th ed). Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

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