Managing Your Thoughts

Too often, we get caught up worrying about things that we can’t do anything about or have no control over. We constantly think of our past, things we could/should/would have done, or we worry about the future. In thinking about these things, we forget to live in the present. We lament about the weather. We enslave ourselves by thinking more about what others should be doing or should have done in past situations as opposed to thinking about our own actions and focusing on ourselves. We end up focusing on things that we have no control over — things that include the weather, our past, spending time regretting things from the past, getting anxious about the future, etc. We focus our efforts on others’ problems, disagreements, and circumstances rather than concentrating on what we can do. Contrary to popular belief, we have more control over ourselves (our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, etc.) than we are led to believe.

Here are some ideas for managing your thoughts:

Mark Twain said it best when he quipped, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Either accept things (and move on) or change things, but stop complaining or worrying. When you can’t change things, learn to accept them and move on. Stop focusing on things you have no control over and start focusing on things that you do have some control over, (such as yourself) and other things that you can do something about.

By the way, when we keep thinking about what others should have done in past situations, we let our ego get in the way, and we know that because our focus has shifted from ourselves to others.

Here’s the thing. We can either choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Of course, it’s always proactive to focus on the latter. Instead of blaming others or pointing fingers at them for their follies or mistakes or making them responsible for the current situations or circumstances, which is counterproductive anyway and doesn’t help improve the situation at hand one iota, we need to focus on what we can do to improve our situation. Criticizing them (unconstructively) will only reinforce their reactiveness and weaknesses, which won’t improve your circumstances.

For instance, rather than complaining about your boss, friend, colleague, or spouse, find a way to work around it, avoid judging them, and use your strengths to make their weaknesses irrelevant. By the way, just because they are being reactive doesn’t give you the permission to be the same. Stop relieving yourself of responsibility in the name of others’ weaknesses. You can always act out of your own integrity regardless of others’ actions. That is a choice only proactive people can make. Always remember what you do is more powerful than what you say, as we are defined by our actions, not our words.

We think by venting about things with others can improve our situation, but it never does. All it does is put the spotlight on the problem and make it worse. Not only that, it leaves you feeling drained.

Similar to the example above, we forget that others’ misguided actions do not relieve us of our responsibility to act out of integrity. When it comes to others, we question their actions (and ignore their intent). But when it comes to us, we are quick to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt by questioning our intent (and not judging ourselves from our actions). We need to extend the same courtesy to others.

For instance, focus on things that you can do to improve your relationship with your partner rather than criticizing them (or complaining about them in their absence) since it will only validate their weakness, will likely make things worse, and won’t improve your situation one bit. But, by focusing on yourself (and your actions), your partner might see your positive ways and reciprocate kindly. Regardless of what your partner does, you choose to remain proactive because your response is not dependent on theirs.

Nobody is perfect, but instead of complaining about others or blaming them for things, learn to focus on their positive traits by always seeing the good in them and by enjoying, affirming, and appreciating them.

I wrote in my piece on working on self that a lot of times we worry about the future because of how things have been difficult in the recent past and/or continue to be in the present. Once things start getting difficult, we tend to throw in the towel. Rarely, do we take the time to list (and differentiate between) the things that are out of our control (that we can’t do anything about) versus things we can do something about, despite the challenging situation at hand.

For instance, if/when the market conditions are unfavorable due to recession or what have you, we know that there is nothing we can do directly to change that, but there is always something we can do to change/improve how we run our business (reduce cost, improve sales, etc.), things that are directly under our control. We are not ignoring the market by any means, we are acknowledging it (and accepting it), and at the same time working on things we have full control over (such as our business). To summarize, you could think about what is happening now to your business in the market place, what is the worst that could happen in the future, then focus on what you can do as a business. Simply worrying or complaining about things won’t improve your situation, no matter how tempting it might seem, but acknowledging (and accepting) it and choosing to do something about it can make a difference. This, of course, goes back to being proactive.

Where are you focusing your valuable time and attention? Make a random list of things that you think about or concerns that you might have at any given time. Examples might include problems at work, your health, finances, national war, political debates, local crimes, new taxation laws, your relationships, etc. Then, separate the list by things you have control over and you can do something about versus those you cannot. Now, you can focus on things that you actually can do something about rather than concerning yourself with things that you have no influence over. Other things you can control includes your attitudes, thoughts/beliefs, behaviors, how you understand situations, how you respond to things, your ability (and capacity) to remain proactive especially in challenging situations, etc.

It’s up to us what we choose to think about. We can either concern ourselves with things we have no control over and can’t do anything about or we can put our limited time and attention to things we can do something about. We are either part of the problem or we can be part of the solution. We can choose to be reactive or we can choose to be proactive. That is our choice.

If you liked this piece, subscribe to the Weekly Newsflash to read my latest writing. Topics include mental health, simple living, and true success: