I’ve used the analogy before: attitude is to an airplane as attitude is to a human being. Your plane is your body and the pilot is your consciousness. If you focus on the negative you will orient your plane toward the ground and it will build emotional momentum until it finally hits the ground with depression, a breakdown or even suicide. Likewise, if you’re pointed in a stable direction—willing to bob up and down as you slowly rise, then you will be able to see farther and farther the higher you climb.
What you consider to be your personality is simply the “normal” setting for your attitude. Meaning; most often you greet the world the way you were taught to by your early experiences and the people around you. You can be cynical or angry or wounded or aggressive or loving, but those will all be composed by your most common internal narratives. So if you think cynical thoughts then you will feel cynical. If you think about your victimization, you will feel weak and vulnerable, and if you think loving thoughts you will feel compassionate and connected. The important part about this is that our most common choice is only made because we generally aren’t even aware that it is a choice.
Every morning you wake up and you—and I’m not exaggerating or kidding or metaphorizing here—you voluntarily load up the same thoughts you habitually do. You have your same conversations with yourself. Maybe it’s cold, or you want to keep sleeping, you hate your job, or your back hurts again blah blah blah. None of that self-talk accomplishes anything but dumping unpleasant chemicals into your brain. And you continue that unconsciously all day.
Like a fish you swim around in your own thinking and you mistake that for what you see with your eyes. You think the outside world and the inside world are in alignment when in fact there is no objective outside world. There is only our perception of it. Even house cats can perceive all kinds of things you can’t, so obviously you’re not seeing the whole world. So you build your story based on what information you have available. That’s why you act so different as you age. You gain experience and can appreciate values that younger people can’t hope to because they don’t have those comparative experiences available.
So what does all of this mean? It means you have to start getting conscious about your day. You can’t just let your thoughts take over and dictate your life when it’s you who controls the thoughts. Become more aware of your role as The Thinker. Realize that all day long you’re talking to yourself. Start paying attention to the tone of the narratives. Because that will be what sets your attitude for the day. Whether you’re gracious or patient or rude or intolerant or furious—you would have chosen that state of mind by allowing those sort of thoughts to play out in your consciousness. Fortunately, despite how it feels at first, cute puppies are always only one thought away from whatever you’re thinking now.
Start being aware. You don’t have to stop the thoughts. You just have to maintain the separate You that observes them and recognizes them as choices. As long as you are aware that you are thinking, your thoughts will have far less sense of power and they will feel much more understandable and controllable.
This isn’t hard. You don’t have to climb a mountain and I don’t have to sit in a loin cloth on a cliff. We’re equals. I’m just telling you about this truth I stumbled into: start paying attention to the choices you’re making regarding your thinking and you’ll start to gain the sort of control over your enjoyment of life that other people only dream of. It’s what you did as a kid. It’s inherently you. Go back to that. You had fewer opinions and you laughed more. And that’s a great litmus test to know if you’re succeeding. If you have fewer opinions and you’re laughing more, then you are definitely going in the right direction. Have fun. 😉
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.