The Pursuit of Excellence Practical steps toward happiness

11Mar/150

New acts, new thought

Your thoughts manifest reality.

Consider the story of two twins born with the same degenerative disease that left each unable to walk at age 20. One fell into despair and died two years later. The other rejected self pity and led a full life. Did their minds create their fates?

Why is is that so many seniors die soon after they lose their beloved spouse of 40 years? Do they give up?

You've heard of post-traumatic stress disorder, where traumatic events continue to afflict a person. But there is a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth, in which the same events lift a person to new heights of resilience. Why leads one airline crash victim to fall apart and the other into noble purpose? No doubt brain chemistry is part of the answer, but how much credit belongs to our choice of thoughts? The great majority, in my experience.

But what happens when we can't change our thoughts?

When I left a career that was no longer right for me I wandered for a year along deepening mental grooves, panicked about money, lacking identity, fearful I would never find purpose. I tried but could not change my thoughts. Exasperated, I changed my actions, and the negativity evaporated. I learned that the thought-reality connection works in both directions.

A psychologist wrote a beautiful magazine article about a woman who came to see her. Her husband had become unhappy and listless. He put all of his energy into a job he hated and at home watched TV all night. This woman convinced her skeptical husband to see this psychologist, who gave him one task: when you park your car at work tomorrow, take a winding route to the front door.

On Monday morning, instead of making a bee-line to the office, he walked around his car, turned left, walked two cars up, turned again, and walked forward in an arc to the door. He tried small variations on this route for the next few days. After a week the wife returned to the psychologist.

"What did you do to him?" she asked. "He's a completely different person!"

At home he was funny, thoughtful, and gave up TV.

The smallest act can be the catalyst for great change.

These last few weeks my major project has led me into a routine and life has turned grey around the edges. Today I'm exploring the city, far from any familiar grooves.

If you find yourself in a grey space, do something new. Playing banjo in your underwear in the bathroom could lead you to something great.