Saturday, May 10, 2014

Tell Yourself Positive Stories to Stay Positive

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny
.”   
~    Mahatma Gandhi
The above quote has been stated and restated and rephrased by many different people over time.  If you Google the first line over 38,000,000 results appear. I must have heard it, read it, watched it on a YouTube video hundreds of times in my life, but today as I listened to an audio program I finally understand how it works.

Your beliefs become your thoughts. 

I always mistook that your beliefs meant your values, but notice how values come later in the phrase. 
Belief is first.  What is the belief then?  What I learned today is that belief comes from an activity.  Your belief is the story you tell yourself about the thing that just happened.  Here's a story I could tell myself . . .

My neighbor forgot to take out the trash - again -  and a week later the bin is overflowing and I am angry with my neighbor because they are lazy and forgetful and I wish they would move so I could have a better neighbor.

My belief, in this example is that my neighbor is lazy and forgetful.  Now, if I follow the formula in the passage above, because my belief is negative, all of my thoughts regarding my neighbor are negative. My words to them become negative, I mistreat them and now they dislike me for being a mean person and my destiny is that I am disliked by all of my neighbors for my behavior.  I am miserable and continue to wish that all of my neighbors would move away.

Here's the kicker . . . what is reality?  Is my neighbor really lazy and forgetful? No.  How could I possibly know that?  So, why would I believe it to be true?  The only truth is that I allowed myself to downward spiral because of the story I told myself. My negative thoughts created hurt and suffering. So, who has the problem, my neighbor or me?  Let's retell the story.

My neighbor forgot to take out the trash - again - and a week later the bin is overflowing.  I believe that my neighbor must be very busy and so I ask if there is anything I can do to help.  In fact, they do accept the offer and I help out. Now I see another neighbor in need and help them as well.  My neighbors take note and soon my neighbors are all helping each other and we all marvel in the great community we live in.  I am happy and enjoy living near such wonderful people.
 
Now, I see Gandhi's statement is more than just a nice message.  It is a plan.  It gives us a tool to use when something doesn't go our way.  When something makes us angry, or hurt we need to take a time out.  What story are you telling yourself?  Take a moment to decide what is the reality and decide how to keep your belief positive.  Your belief is your choice. 

p.s. this story is purely fictional.  I am in fact more likely to forget to take the trash to the curb than any of my neighbors.

Step aside from all thinking, and there is nowhere you can't go. ~ Seng-ts'an (the Third Founding Teacher of Zen)

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