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.
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).
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?