Solomon wrote, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” (Proverbs 4:23, GN) It’s been said, “You’re not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.” Mohandas Gandhi wrote, “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”
The way we think determines the way we feel, and the way we feel determines the way we act. So if you want to change your actions, change the way you think. If you want to change your attitudes, change the thoughts you put in your mind.
Granted, this is easier said than done. But let me give you some practical steps for positive thoughts.
- Make your first thoughts God-directed. Before you face the day, face the Father. Before you crawl out of bed, crawl into his presence. C. S. Lewis wrote: “The moment you wake up each morning . . . [all] your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”
- Focus your waiting thoughts on uplifting ideas. Consider that by the time your life is over, you will have spent six months at stoplights, eight months opening junk mail, a year and a half looking for lost stuff, and a whopping five years standing in various lines. In the waiting moments, the common becomes the uncommon, by becoming a cathedral as you pray, or a classroom as you learn from a teaching CD or read a book.
- Center your repeated thoughts on the winning outcome. We all talk to ourselves often saying the same thing over and over again. Make sure those repeated thoughts are positive and will benefit you, not bring you down. Positive self-talk is one of the most powerful tools we can use. We are going to talk to ourselves (some of us will even answer ourselves). The point is to make those words uplifting and encouraging. We, in many respects, are the benefactors of self-fulfilling prophecy. We become what we think and say to ourselves. I remember when I was playing competitive tennis I had a few phrases that I would repeat to myself. I would say, “One point at a time,” or “Concentrate on the ball and hit a winner,” or “Racquet back, watch the ball, follow through,” or “You can do this. You’re a winner.” I would repeat those phrases throughout the course of a match. These repeated thoughts helped me to stay positive and focused. Likewise, we need to utter repeated positive thoughts so we can stay positive in everyday life.
- Give your final thoughts to God. Conclude the day as you began it: talking to God. Thank him for the good parts. Question him about the hard parts. Seek his forgiveness. Seek his wisdom. Seek his strength. And as you close your eyes, take assurance in the promise, “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4, NIV).
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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to www.1160hope.com for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.