Friday, January 27, 2012
The Power of the Mind
I've been reading a great book lately by John Ortberg called "The Me I Want To Be." John is a pastor in California and formerly a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, where I first heard of him. He's a great communicator and does a great job of making complicated issues understandable for the rest of us.
In his chapter called "Think Great Thoughts" he talks about learning how to monitor our thought patterns. For years now I've been speaking about the Biblical mandate to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind," so this was particularly enlightening to me. It's amazing how much our thought patterns control us, and also how we can deliberately reshape those patterns to make positive change. Here's a great illustration John uses:
Excerpts from a Dog's Diary
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!
Excerpts from a Cat's Diary:
Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue
to taunt me with bizarre,
little dangling objects.
The only thing that keeps me
going is my dream of escape.
Two animals, identical circumstances; totally different experiences. The point is that the focus of our thoughts has a great deal to do with our outcomes. On what do you focus?
I speak to people often whose focus is on their problems and how life has done them wrong. Their mindset filters out any of the good things that may be happening around them and, instead, picks up on, and magnifies, any real or perceived slight. Over their lifetime they have unwittingly helped to create a reality for themselves that is far worse than it needs to be.
This is now scientifically verified. As Ortberg writes, "Even twenty years ago, researchers thought the adult brain was genetically determined and structurally unchangeable. But they have since found that even into adulthood the brain is amazingly changeable - it has neuroplasticity. Which synapses remain and which ones whither away depends on your mental habits. Those that carry no traffic go out of business like bus routes with no customers. Those that get heavily trafficked get stronger and thicker. The mind shapes the brain. Neurons that wire together fire together. In other words, when you practice hope, love or joy, your mind is actually, literally, rewiring your brain!"
It stands to reason then, that Scripture would speak to this. Colossians 3:2 tells us, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." One of my life verses, Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Ultimately, how we choose to think is up to us, which is why we can point to people of similar backgrounds who chose radically different paths. Your past, your circumstances, your family background doesn't need to define your future. What I have found helpful is to use God's Word as a filter through which I can interpret events. For example, Jeremiah 29:11 - "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Or Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
So, here's a question, where are your thought patterns taking you? Again, Ortberg writes, "As a general rule, our emotions flow out of our thoughts. Discouraged people tend to think discouraging thoughts. Worried people tend to think anxious thoughts." Conversely, positive people tend to think positive thoughts. Why not begin today to take charge in this area? Think better thoughts to start moving in a better direction.
Developing Great Habits
“Put God First” - The Principle of Priority
"Take Out the Trash" - The Principle of Transformation
"Write It Down" - The Principle of Clarity
"Turn It Off!" - The Principle of Restoration
"Do It Now" - The Principle of Inertia