The way I think about someone affects the way I treat them. If I admire a person I am more likely to listen to them, respect them and follow them. If I see a person and am instantly reminded of any hurt they have caused me, I am likely to build barriers to protect myself and keep them at a distance. The same is also true with regards to the way I think about my work.
The way I think about my work affects the way I apply myself. If I think people value and appreciate my leadership, I am more likely to apply myself and make greater sacrifices. If I think people take me for granted, I will either hold back or shine a spotlight on every little thing I do.
The biggest battles are won and lost in the mind – Author Unknown
Your life today is the result of your thinking yesterday. Your life tomorrow will be decided by your thinking today – John Maxwell
If these quotes are true, then our thinking deserves a certain amount of attention. If we’re facing the same negative feelings this year that we were facing last year towards God, towards our job, towards our family or a friend, then the problem isn’t going to change by thinking the same way we’ve always thought. If we change our thinking, may be we can create a change in our lives.
A Healthy Thinker Has Healthy Emotions
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things – Philippians 4:8
Most people want to be strong, healthy and positive thinkers who regularly think about the kinds of things mentioned above. But one of the biggest obstacles to this kind of thinking is a person’s feelings.
Here’s what we need to know:
- our feelings and emotions come from our thoughts
- we can control what we think about
- we can better control our feelings by having better control over our thoughts
If we can discipline our thoughts, we can take control more easily of our feelings, emotions and reactions towards different people and situations. If we don’t think God can love us or forgive us, then we are going to feel as if God is moving further and further away from us each time we make a mistake. Our beliefs are powerful because they affect our expectations towards God.
When I first became a pastor I tried very hard to change people – and it didn’t work! My intentions were genunie and good, but I often ended up feeling frustrated and useless at my job. I remember realising that one person cannot change another person: I can introduce you to Jesus or share biblical principles and truths with you, but I cannot make you believe in Jesus or follow his example. Believing and following Jesus is your freedom and choice. Once I understood this simple fact and embraced it in my thinking, I felt less frustration towards myself.
2 …be transformed by the renewing of your mind… – Romans 12:2a
As I journal and pray my thinking towards a topic or situation is either transformed or renewed, but each time it is strengthened.
Know How To Think, And Not Just What To Think
I am sometimes tempted to repeat the same statement to my children as my parents repeated to me: ‘Good grades at school will lead to a better life’ or ‘The more higher education you have the more successful you will be.’ Of course, like my own parents, I want my children to do well at school and I want to help motivate them to study and learn things that will benefit them later in life – but there is line I need to be careful not to cross. Education alone cannot promise a person a successful life. Successful people have more than knowledge, they also know how to make wise choices.
It is not uncommon to hear stories of people who have graduated from a famous and reputable university with the highest of grades, only to become unsuccessful later in life. May be they experienced a number of failed marriages, may be they barely had a relationship with their own children, or may be they ended their life friendless or drunk. They might have had a good education, but it didn’t necessarily provide them with the things they needed in order to make wise choices and be successful later in life.
At the other end of the same spectrum are those who dropped out of the education system at an early age - people like Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, or Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Mac. Both of these people went on to become successful individuals who are also viewed by many as being some of the greatest thinkers of their generation. I would never suggest to my children that they should drop out of the education system if they want to become successful, but I would encourage them to think carefully as to how they view success.
There is a belief within certain cultures that seems to suggest that the more education we pour into our children, the more hours we make them study facts and figures, the more money they will earn later in life and the happier they will be. Education is definately valuable, but perhaps parents should take the time to think about the kinds of education that would benefit their children most – rather than simply following the flow.
Many educational systems simply teach people what to think, and not how to think. I believe that the best education I can give to my children is one which enables them to think for themselves. If they have the capabilities to make wise choices, then they are more likely to stay on the right path a long time after I have gone.
6 Train [start off] children on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it – Proverbs 22:6