What is your life? Your experience of life takes place in your consciousness. So if you’re somewhere pleasant but you’re thinking unpleasant thoughts, you will have an unpleasant experience that you will blame on the subject of your thoughts, rather than on the fact that you are choosing to think them.
Growth comes when we recognise our own culpability in our experiences. When we stop blaming others, or the world, or some event, and instead we accept that our life is like any other and it is not made better by having this or that thing or person or experience. It’s made better by what we choose to think about.
So what do you spend your day thinking? What battle are you forever locked in? Everyone has at least one: what’s yours? Do you feel forever scarred by a betrayal and you perpetually tell yourself what you would say to them if you had the chance? Are you a victim of some terrible event that you keep telling yourself shouldn’t have happened? Do you spend your time speculating about what you suspect are other people’s judgments about ? Or are you like Mandy Patinkin, and you live telling yourself a story about how you in particular were ripped off because your dad died when you were young?
Those stories take up a lot of time and energy. They are far more of your day and life than you realise and changing them will make a big difference. But as Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So being lost isn’t a problem. That’s life. But having an insight—realising that you make more sense than you thought—is a profound moment, as is evidenced by Mr. Patinkin in this video. It’s not like his life still wouldn’t be grand without this knowledge, but there’s no doubt that being aware of that choice and choosing something different is a giant opportunity in life that you should seize as soon as you are able.
Figure out your central story. Listen to your thoughts and you will see strong patterns emerge, and those patterns will tell you who you are subconsciously being. Make the subconscious conscious and you are free. Pay as much attention to the quality of your thinking as you do to the quality of your clothing, cars and phones and you’ll have profoundly improved your life.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.