Thinking habits

The hardest habit to recognize and then manipulate is your habit of thinking. Not, of course, your habit of using your brain (not so much a habit as a natural instinct) but your habitual way of using your brain.

Certainly we’re all experiencing the challenge of re-building our thought patterns as a result of changing technologies. The codifying of information, for instance, in digital bits is not a way my parents can conceive of things; but it’s the way my generation has come to think.

Feeling stuck, or in a rut, or continually stressed, or oppressed by your job can be the result of thinking habits that no longer serve you well. Can you recognize them? Only through careful observation. Can you modify them? Absolutely, if you’re truly dedicated to the effort.

Here’s one little practice that can help. I am a counter. I count (silently, in my head) everything: if I’m doing anything the slightest bit repetitive, there I’ll be, ticking ’em off one by two by three. At some point, I realized I had this ridiculous habit, though it seemed impossible to shed. It was a habit of thinking that kept me in the quantitative, judgmental, efficiency-obsessed world; and usually made a mockery of me in that context!

So now (and I admit, it’s a continuous effort), instead of counting, I try to remember to use a little mantra, just one word that is about important things, not mere digits. Instead of counting, I repeat this one word with each iteration. It’s not easy after my many decades of the old habit, but it does become more natural with practice. And the result is that I’m not measuring my actions anymore; rather, with each action I am invoking ultimate strength and support.

Not everyone has this strange tic of mental counting, but if you do, maybe you’ll try this modification and let me know how it works.


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