We make a thousands of choices in our daily lives. Some we are aware of making, but most we make unconsciously. Yet each choice has an effect on the course of our day. Some decisions have minimal consequences; we misjudge how warm it is outside and put on a sweater. As a result, we are uncomfortable and sweaty. Some decisions have much greater repercussions: we get angry and say something hurtful, and a relationship is wounded. Or we decide to skip that job interview and miss out on a rewarding occupation.
So how do we make wise choices? How do we avoid adding pain and suffering into our lives and usher in the good things?
I have a lot of thoughts on this. First, I think we need to look at how we make decisions. Our decision-making processes vary greatly depending on personality, past experiences, age, mood, health, and about a thousand other variables. All of these things influence our thoughts and that is where our decisions are born.
Our thought life has great influence on our decision-making. Our perspective on life, the way we think about ourselves and those around us, and our beliefs about what’s wrong and right, good and bad, are huge factors in the choices we make every day.
Our amazing brains generate thoughts almost 24/7 (Buddhists call this ‘monkey mind’). I picture the journey of thoughts through our minds as a sort of fast-moving, mobile buffet, laden with the wildest variety of food there is. Which foods do we choose? Sometimes we might choose an unfamiliar dish because we want to try something new. But I think 99% of the time, we would choose the foods we are familiar with, the ones we have tasted before. We would choose out of habit. I venture to say that this is the same way we choose what thoughts we dwell upon.
This can be either beneficial or detrimental. If we are a glass-is-half-full type, and we have a habit of choosing positive thoughts, the decisions we make are going to reflect our mindset. Because we believe in our abilities and our worth, we will choose things that affirm those beliefs. The reverse is also true. If we have a negative attitude or a poor self-image, our choices are going to affirm, and reinforce, what we believe. We can get caught in a vicious cycle.
While it comes easily to some, for most of us a positive mindset is something that must be cultivated. It takes real effort to look on the bright side of life. I’m not talking about being full of sunshine and rainbows every day: I’m talking about more of a quiet assurance that all will be well with oneself. And we each have our own crosses to bear. I grew up in an abusive household, and so I learned the habit of thinking that I wasn’t a very worthy person. I also suffer from depression, and even with medication, I still struggle from time to time. I think the thing that has really helped me the most is adopting this belief: our thoughts live in us, but they are not us. We exist separately from them. Therefore, if we don’t like our thoughts, if they aren’t serving us well, we can let them go.
It’s easy, but it takes practice. As with any habit, you aren’t going to change the nature of your thoughts in one day. It requires upkeep, like any other part of wellness. But we can do it! We can choose healthier, happier thoughts-thoughts that affirm our goodness and bring us joy and peace. *Namaste, my friends!*