I have watched it play out time and time again.
Everyone around me, every person I have ever been able to observe or read about, seems to go through this process:
Encounter an idea.
“money = happiness”
Allow it to become part of them.
“That makes sense, it has to be true.”
Allow the idea to shape their views.
“I should find a job that pays the most, rich people are where it’s at.”
Allow this new disposition on life to play out through actions.
“I have three job offers and even though I don’t think I’ll have the most fun at the highest paying one, but I should be happier because I’ll make the most money so I’ll work there.”
Finally, see those actions change the course of that person’s life.
“How the heck did I end up in a job I hate for the last 20 years? Why aren’t I happy?”
It’s an incredible process.
It affects my own friends and family in some fantastic and horrifying ways. Family members believing fallacies about who they are and how the world works, taking them down dark paths. Friends changing their views and ultimately, their actions about how relationships and people should be treated. What is crazy to me is that most people don’t think twice about this process. In fact, I don’t think most people think too much about how they think or why they think the way they do at all.
Lets explore a question for a moment.
What makes you, you?
It’s a tough question to ask. Let me clarify what I mean when I say this. What makes up the components of what people see about you and what you know about yourself. The way you treat people, the way you treat yourself, the choices you make, your overall disposition on life, your stress level, what you care about, how tolerant you are of others, and any other thing that you relate to yourself, big or small, that makes you, uniquely you.
Where did these things come from? Why do you act the way you do? Why do you think the way you do? It all stems from the ideas we’ve decided to let into our lives. Let’s go through one small example to see what I’m talking about:
“I will always have debt.”
If someone takes this idea, believes it to be true, lets it shape their view on things, allows it to affect their actions, then eventually their whole life will be changed by this single statement.
I can see someone who has added this idea to themselves think things like:
I will always be in debt so why save anything anyways? I should just enjoy life and what I have because it would be stupid to try to save. What would be the point? That new TV I always wanted? Let’s get it! Take out a loan to get that new sweet car? Heck yeah!
And as they make choices, both big and small, they start to play out this idea and solidify it’s grip on their lives. Add more debt, not pay off their current debt; choice by choice, they are letting an idea dictate their own personal reality. Lets replace this idea with something different and see what happens:
“I can be debt free.”
I can see someone who adds this idea to themselves say something a bit different, like:
I know I can get debt free, how the heck do people do it? I’ll go ask people in my life who seem to know, or maybe I’ll find some great books on getting out of debt, maybe I’ll just watch some video or take a class on it. Heck, I’ll just start by Googling it and go from there! I do not need things that are expensive right now, it will pay off later when I’m debt free. I can find plenty of fun things to do that don’t cost money.
Just as before the idea leads to a different thought about life, the individual, and ultimately a different path through our actions. The ideas that we have about ourselves and the world around us are the powerful building blocks that begin to shape us into who we are, and who we will become.
If you think the world is a horrible place, you’re right. You will find example after example of the disgusting, cold, heartless things this planet has to offer. If you think all people are out to get you, you’re right. You will focus on every single time someone stabs you in the back, screws you over, and is dishonest with you, and the way you treat others will only compound and confirm your suspicions.
Conversely, if you think that the world is an amazing, beautiful place, you’re right too. You will find endless examples of its beauty, goodness, hope, human love and betterment, and every kind act this planet has ever done. And if you think people inherently want to do the right thing, you’ll find that you’re also right. Your focus will be on the good things people have done for you, the sacrifices people have made for you, and the way you treat people will only confirm the goodness of people and yourself.
Crazy how that works, isn’t it? Life can always “suck” or be an incredible adventure. You can change the world or be completely insignificant all by what ideas you have allowed to shape you. But there is good news! Whether you think so or not, you choose what ideas you let in.
Don’t Be Held Captive.
Here’s what I mean. Don’t allow something to control you, you have more power than you give yourself credit. But as soon as you give that power away, you become a “victim” in your own life, allowing life to happen to you. The ideas you may already have accepted may have just come from prior, unintentional, life experience and you’ve just kind of got what you’ve always been exposed to.
Someone once said that life is 10% action and 90% reaction. What I think is implied in that is that there are things that happen to you that you can’t control but that is only a part of life. If you really think about it, you have a lot of choice in life and it’s up to you to exercise that choice. The same goes for what ideas you accept and allow into your life. You choose them even by not choosing.
Think carefully about this.
It is exciting, liberating, and terrifying all at once. Force yourself to keep an open mind, actively look for fantastic ideas about yourself, others, and the world and add them into your life. Analyze what ideas you currently have accepted and challenge them. Throw out the shitty ones, the useless ones, and the destructive ones and replace them with ideas you really want.
Go Forth And Be Intentional.
I want to leave you with a challenge. Set some time aside this week and ask yourself, “What ideas have I allowed into my life?” Write them down. Seriously consider why you let them in your life. Then, start to expose yourself to new ideas every week, write down the ones you like, the ones that challenge your current ideas, and the ones that frustrate you the most. Try to understand them and seriously consider working them into your life.Repeat over and over and over until you die. I hope that all of us are intentional idea collectors and appliers.
It will change our lives; it will change the world.
Title Photo Credit: flickr