A diet of the mind

by Kim on November 22, 2013

I think I’ve mentioned that part of my new job is to stay up-to-date on marketing and social media trends—aka to read blogs. (Not a bad thing to get paid for, right?)

One blog I’ve been totally fascinated by lately is this one, written by this brilliant quirky bald dude named Seth Godin.

seth godin

He’s well-known in the online marketing world as the guy who says a lot with very few words. Like, he literally writes 2-sentence blog posts that somehow expound deep, earth-shattering truths (and then get tweeted, liked, and shared a kajillion times).

He also wrote a bunch of books I’m dying to read, like this one and this one.

Anyway. I swear I’m getting to a point (that’s actually not related to marketing at all).

Recently, Godin wrote a blog post called Not a Gift. Like all his others, it’s short enough that you could go read it in ten seconds and come back, but if you’re not in the mood, here’s a summary of his argument:

“Someone who is likable, honest, curious and thoughtful is easy to think of as gifted.

The thing is, it’s a copout to call these things gifts. You might be born with a headstart in one area or another, you might be raised in a culture or with parents that reinforce some of these things, but these are attitudes, and attitudes can be taught, and they can be learned.

We can own these things. What a privilege.”

This really resonated with me. It’s actually something I think about a lot.

I completely agree that attitudes can be learned, and I think the way to do it is to become a proactive manager of your thoughts.

Recently, a friend of mine was telling me a story involving another person, and she mentioned how guilty she felt about the bad attitude she had toward that person. She wrapped up her story by saying: “Obviously, I don’t want to think that way.”


If you don’t want to think a certain way, why don’t you…stop?

Yeah, I know you’re thinking, “Ughhh, it’s not that easy, Pollyanna,” but hear me out.

It’s not fair to go through life thinking we have no control over our thoughts, and therefore we’re justified in having them and everyone around us just has to deal with whatever the repercussions of that are.

We can train our brains to think differently the same way we can train our bodies. This is why people say the brain is like another muscle you have to exercise.

Just because our thoughts pop up in a knee-jerk way doesn’t mean we’re helpless against them.

It’s easy to think of your brain as a safe little corner where you can take all your negative thoughts and air them out, safe from any judgment from other people. No one has to know the dark stuff going on in there.

Just know that, when you do that, you’re playing with fire.

How you think is how you will feel. And how you feel is how you will act. If you want to act and feel differently, think differently.

It reminds me of John Nash’s quote in A Beautiful Mind, where he talks about how he controls his schizophrenic tendencies with “a diet of the mind.”

We should all put our minds on a diet. We should practice censoring our thoughts the same way we censor the words we say out loud.

When you have a reaction you don’t like to something, or you feel a negative thought broiling up, just shut it down. Think about something else. Distract yourself. Whatever you do, don’t let it play out in your head, and definitely don’t feed it with justification.

Too often, we get negative thought patterns stuck in our brains, and we just cycle through them over and over, making them stronger every time we give them attention.

What if, instead, we just recognized a bad thought for what it was, and then moved on? No need to dwell, and dwell, and dwell on that thing that happened last week, or last year, or when we were kids. It’s not helping, and it’s just driving those negative attitudes deeper and deeper into our psyches, until they start showing up in our actions and behavior.

This is something I think about a lot because I’m working on it myself. I shut down bad thoughts all the time. Sometimes it takes me a minute to even realize I’m having them, but the second I do, I try to jolt myself out of it rather than letting my brain run away.

It does work. And I think I’m a much happier, calmer, more balanced person because of it.

We’re not victims of our own thoughts, or of the impact they have on our lives and personal interactions.

If you want to change your attitude about something, then do it. Start with your thoughts.

Do you have any negative thought patterns that tend to pop up over and over again?

What do you do to get your mind off something you want to stop thinking about?



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali November 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

That’s such a good idea… we aren’t prisoners of our own thoughts. We do create them. A certain someone in my life has hurt me more than anyone else and disappointed me more times than anyone else and therefore I cringe when her name comes up. I have been known to “wish” I didn’t feel that way too and could just turn it off. You’re post resonated with me in this situation. I do need to just turn it off and forget about it. It’s over and done with and I need to just move on and not let this person hurt me.
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Britt @ A Life Worth Living November 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm

This was kind of my feelings on having negative thoughts about my body. I finally decided enough was enough and any time I looked in the mirror and started to think something could look different or sucked my stomach in, I would stop and think of something positive about myself. It changed my outlook on how I thought about myself.
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Alex @ Alex Runs For Food November 22, 2013 at 2:43 pm

A negative attitude is definately learned and it has a lot to do with the people you surround yourself with. I used to be friends with some really negative people, I noticed my attitude changing when I was around them. I separated myself from them. I pride myself on always being a positive person. I continually tell myself that everything happens for a reason. Life is to short to think negatively.
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ErikaMC November 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Interesting. This is actually something that I have done and still do. However, it has a negative side effect. I am always thinking and saying the positive or just not thinking/saying anything at all. If my friends are “bashing” on something or somebody I don’t say anything. If my husband is complaining about a coworker I’ll point out all the positive things about the situation… In doing all this I’ve come to be known and the “goody-goody” girl and the “perfect” one that “never has anything bad to say” about anything and also that I’m “better than” the others. I take this as their way of being insecure with themselves but it does kinda sting sometimes – doesn’t mean I’ll change though :)


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