Thoughts on Thoughts

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Great things are made up of little things, whether it is a cathedral built of individual stones, a Lego Death Star built from individual blocks, or the world around us constructed of atoms.  All things are built off of a vast collection of tiny pieces, and our lives are exactly this way too.  But instead of being built by blocks made in a factory, our lives are built in our minds.

Years ago I worked with a sports psychologist named Pete Greider, who had worked with both the St.  Louis Cardinals and a variety of NBA teams.  One of the demos he did during a talk was to show the sheer volume of our thoughts.  He dropped a metal BB onto a steel plate and it rolled into a container, representing a single thought.

He then opened the upper chamber to release all 50,000 BBs, streaming down for several minutes in a hammering cacophony reflective of what we do stretched out over a day.  Thousands of thoughts an hour, every day.

95% of these thoughts for most people are repetitive.

80% are negative.

So we tell ourselves over and over and over, 40,000 times a day negative things.

No wonder we are beaten down and make poor decisions; we have a critic in our head constantly berating us and tearing us down.  Not a good thing.

Change your thoughts and change your life.

Expose yourself to some positive reinforcement in the morning (like reading or meditative music or positive statements, I use Youtube while working out) and you can drop that negative proportion pretty dramatically and lead to a better attitude and outcomes.

Canadian psychotherapist Jordan Peterson mentions in “12 Rules for Living” that we make 500-1000 decisions a day, based off of those 50,000 thoughts.  If 80% of the thoughts are negative, it is reasonable to assume that 80+% of our decisions are going to be suboptimal because of the negative biases and stresses we have internally.  400-800+ poor micro-decisions (and a few major ones) daily. 

As a pledge in my Fraternity decades ago I was taught: make the less bad choice.

Generally, we have two options on most choices (“Do, or Do Not” to quote Yoda).  The easy choice, or the fulfilling one.  Current, momentary pleasure or deferred gratification.  The harder choice is almost always the better one overall, but we are constantly seduced by the “just” (I’m just having one cookie, I’m just hitting the snooze button, I’m just missing doing x for today, I’m just looking for some excitement, etc.) instead of the right one.

If we could make a handful of better decisions a day, even on the micro level, it would shift our Good/Poor choice ratio by a full percent.  That is not a huge deal, and only takes a few seconds and some tiny action alterations.  But if you were a single percent better today than you were yesterday, it would slow your descent into the pits.

And in a few days make a few more good decisions on average, and get a percent better again.

Further slow the decline.  Maybe even pause it.

And then again a few better micro-decisions about what we put in our bodies or minds, how we chose to spend time or with whom.  Another 1% swing, maybe to the positive direction. 

A few more tiny better choices lead to the once in a while big decision for the excellent outcome versus the convenient one.  One big good decision can be a difference maker overall.

You are creating better micro habits that can compound and reinforce and lead to further better decisions, a positive flywheel in motion as discussed in Good To Great by Jim Collins.

You change the destination of a rocket by tiny adjustments to the path that over thousands or tens of thousands of miles produce a radically different destination.  Same too with ourselves.  Little course corrections yield ending up in a good place instead of a bad one.  Those course corrections are swapping some of the negative thoughts for positive ones and the bad choices for better ones.  Nothing radical, but consistent slow improvement over the days and months and years.

Imagine the You of a few years hence with these small micro-decisional improvements.  What does your body feel like, look like?  What is your educational and professional achievement?  How do your relationships look?  When in a while the majority of your little and big decisions improve your life instead of harm it, how much wealthier do you believe you will feel across whatever dimension you wish to look at?

It will be good, maybe even great.  Because you got your positive choice flywheel going through little incremental decisions and pushes.  The little things matter.

Better BBs.  Better building blocks.  Better thoughts to build more optimal decisions.  Little constant choices to be better or ultimately bitter.

You get to build your future with your thoughts and choices.  Think about that. 

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