Change your thinking, change your life!

Thinking Your Own Thoughts

YouTube [25min] | MP3 [25min]

by Floyd Maxwell, BASc

Thinking Your Own Thoughts

Some notions are timeless. Man as hunter gatherer is one of them.

Today the Internet has allowed over a billion of us to hunt and gather as never before.

So what is wrong with this picture?

When do we pause?

In today's frenetic world, hunting and gathering has been elevated to the level of a hotdog eating contest and whoever inhales the most information, works the fastest or stitches the most sutures wins, right?

Well, mad dashes such as this are at odds with man's most important activity:  thinking.

Most of us get the importance of peace and quiet, a little 'RnR'. But what good is suntanning when you are forced to be on the go 16 hours a day, day after day, for the other 50 weeks of the year?

Something different is needed.

Me time, any time

We have all experienced the rath of a person disturbed from their work break. But what if you never needed a break?

A documentary was made about a swimmer who, both during and after swimming 15 miles in frigid waters, never had a rise in the lactic acid level of his blood. He seemed to have figured out how to swim forever.

What if the need for a feet-up-on-the-counter break was all in our heads?

Do what you love, the rest will follow

Step one in our quest to go break-free is to be employed at something we actually like.

Having worked at a call center, I can safely say there is not a single person there who likes what they are doing.

So let's say a call center is at one end of the spectrum we are trying to traverse.

At the other end of the spectrum is something we love to do. Having found a few things I love to do, I can assert that this is definitely the "no need to take a break" section of the restaurant.

A change is as good as a rest

So why is it we can do some activities without a break? Either they make the time fly by or they provide us with a creative outlet. TV, video games and social media can make the time fly, but the practical applications of this are not available. Computer programming, on the other hand, can turn a 12-hour day into a 2-hour one...provided you are completely in charge of some or all of it.

So this is what it comes down to. To enjoy your day, get in charge of something. For some this means having a child. For others it means running a company.

For those looking for a lesser financial commitment, or unable to birth a child, consider a third option -- work on yourself.

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.
  - Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Defining the problem

Changing a flat tire is no big deal. Many of us have probably done it, or seen it done by an automotive amateur.

Changing a flat tire on a moving car, on the other hand, is the exclusive territory of "You Asked For It". This 1950s TV show featured unusual requests from viewers and in one episode a flat tire was changed on a car while it travelled down the road at 50 mph. Doing this involved rigging the car in advance with a set of small wheels that could be lowered near the flat tire, taking the weight from the damaged tire. It also required the installation of a running board so the hapless stuntman could climb out of the car and perform turnpike tire surgery.

Working on yourself is like changing a moving car tire. You will be trying to change your mind, while using your mind to do it. Not impossible, but great for those who love a challenge!

The hardest changes are the easiest

Smoking, drinking, meat-eating -- things you wish you could change if it wasn't so hard, right?

Well, believe it or not, these are the easy ones to change.

Part of the reason is that smoking, and not smoking, are two clearly defined states. You are either doing one or the other. Learning to become less teary-eyed when you look at pictures of puppies is much more ambiguous.

Also, these three habits are all bad for you. This gives you an added incentive to quit that you don't have from something like "loving to eat cheesecake". With the latter it is all about quantity. Some cheesecake is awesome, two pieces is at least one too many and more than two-a-day puts you in eating disorder territory.

Small decisions can help

The meat thing can be dropped the quickest:
  • Stop bringing home T-bone steaks
  • Don't go to restaurants that serve meat
  • Tell your friends you no longer crunch carcasses.
  • ...and you are 90% there
Drinking has more physiological hooks, so be careful if you've been chronic for years. Still, the steps are similar -- tell others, avoid drinking situations...and you are 50% of the way there. There may be setbacks, so rather than beating yourself up over them, persist. You can do it.

Smoking is like meat-eating. We crave it but it is mostly in our heads. Write down enough reasons, including all the ways you have been lying to yourself about it, and you are half way. Then become aware of when you crave a cigarette. During those craving moments, you are most vulnerable, so have a plan.

After dinner craving? Go for a walk.

While having a drink? Don't do that either -- find a whole new activity, preferably with new friends, and really get into it! Join a bowling league, take up bridge or cribbage.

You could also start a new hobby -- stamp collecting, home renovation or P90X. The great thing about a hobby is that it doesn't matter what you choose, although I would encourage you to choose a practical hobby. Collecting speed boats is probably not a sustainable leisure choice.

Emotionally upset? Recognize it, diagnose it and put words to it. Above all, try not to give in to it! Instead, give yourself credit, pump yourself up, or support someone else. Reach out instead of collapsing within.

Patience, determination, will

Unlike changing a flat tire on a moving car, the hardest part of changing yourself comes after you make the change.

The reason is that the thing you are trying to change -- your mind -- hasn't fully changed yet.

It is as though you ask someone else to change the tire, and they promise they will get right on it. Some time later you check in on them and find them reading up on the latest sports cars. A stern look from you and they jump to it once again.

You consider the matter settled, until you get a call from them. It seems there is a problem. "Are you sure you want to change the tire on a moving car?" they ask, incredulously.

"Of course", you exclaim, "I could change it myself if the car wasn't moving!"

"But it would be a lot easier if you brought it to our shop."

You hang up and put your head in your hands.

Which cycle are we working on?

And there is the real problem. The tire needs to be changed by you. In exactly the way that you specify.

It is like the teenager's dilemma. Parents are so used to helping their offspring that when it comes to teenage angst they have no doubt that they can help their child get through it. But they can't.

The catepillar needs to become a butterfly...all on its own.

Pirsig's "Zen In The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance" was all about this choice. Do we work on our own motorcycle, or buy a new one (and take it to a mechanic each time it fails us)?

It turns out this is not an easy choice. Arguably there is no choice. Buddhism would say "Suffer, or learn how to fix it."


Just as boys become men through teenage protestations, so do addicted broken adults become healthy liberated ones through refusing to settle for their old rut.

Object to your own bad choices.

Argue against your lesser half.

Put a microphone under the chin of that "still small voice" within.

Give yourself a chance to change by casting your vote first. For your true self.

Eye roll break

Seriously, let's all take an eye roll break. After all, nothing I've said is new, right? Everyone knows this.

So why don't we change?

Because 99.9999% of us never change the most important thing of all -- our mind.

Your brain is not your mind

The 1%ers are pretty busy on the lying-to-us front but sometimes they accomplish the most when they do the least. The only way you can continue to lead masses of people by the nose-ring is to be sure no better alternatives are visible.

Good ideas left without food and water will not flourish. They will either shrivel up and die, or sit on a shelf unplanted. Either is a crime, in my books.

The best idea there is -- changing your name to change your mind -- has been unwatered "forever". Specifically, for as long as the J.C. fiction has been around.


"It can't be that simple."

"That makes no sense."

"My name is just a label."

"Not all DAVIDs are the same."

Agree with thine adversary

You are right, of course.

Only nut jobs change their name, think Oswald was a patsy or avoid fluoridated water.

I'm with you.

Let's go have a beer!

Gung Ho

Gung Ho, the 1986 movie, is on right now. Good timing. But then, it is always good timing.

In the movie, the Japanese buy an American company. Have things to offer in the way of efficiency. But the Americans aren't interested. Eventually each sees the advantages of the other and everyone wins.

But before that, there is a lot of contempt. A lot of "their way doesn't make sense".

So it is with changing your name.

"Come on, you gotta give me a shot here" says Michael Keaton's character.

Change involves change

Most of us think we change. We think we like change. We think we are good at change.

News flash: we aren't, we don't and we don't.

Oh sure, we can change our clothes. Or toothbrush. But changing toothpaste can be surprisingly difficult. Don't believe me? How many of you still use a toothpaste with fluoride in it?

In the movie, Keaton resorts to telling his American co-workers they are second best. The news does not go over well. But then he pumps up their egos and dangles a carrot, and they are all cheers. Until they hear what their new quota has to be. And the crowd turns hostile.

Something for nothing, and a bit of mystery

Whenever we hear of someone struggling and persevering and succeeding in getting their new idea turned into a successful product, we think "That's the American way!"

I'm here to say that virtually never happens. Successful products have deep pockets behind them. Magic Johnson is just the figurehead of the new Dodgers consortium. But, quickly now, name anyone else!

The real American way, the way of the 99%, is a little different.

It is more like "I have a great idea. I tell my boss. Who steals it. Or gives me $50 for it. Or fires me out of jealousy, or fear I might want his job."

It is "Why should I work hard when others don't?" or "Who do I have to kiss up to, to keep my job?" Also prevalent is "Who can I complain about, in order to take the focus off myself?"

For the typical sports fan it's "It doesn't matter what you eat or drink, all that health stuff is for tree huggers."

For a huge percentage of the 99% it is "someone upstairs is in charge and so I am fine with whatever happens." No wonder ghost shows are so popular on TV. Free, and mysterious. The winning formula.

Dressed like work

Good ideas are not fancy dressers.

Changing your brand of ice cream does not take a lot of effort.

Changing your name does. And so you will run into a self-motivation problem.


Unless you really mean it. Then something different happens. You start to get some respect.

Note that I said "start".

That is the real payoff from true change -- life starts to respect you. And when life does this, it starts to make things easier for you.

For example, the minute you make a major change, life with simplify your world by taking half your "friends" away. They never were friends, of course, but it will take you a while to figure that out.

Then life will help you with your work, your hobbies, your passions. And most of these will morph and change, or dissolve into nothing. As they were all along.

You will not be empty handed, however. Life will leave you with all that you need to succeed beyond your wildest hopes. Life will leave you alive, and aware.

And a seed will start to grow. Your true seed. Your only seed.

In a disrespectful society, respect is king

There was a time when we respected each other. It started to end on casual Friday. Gloria had a hand in it, sure, but she was just a front for the taxman who wanted to double dip.

Ironically, respect is most prevalent where it matters the least -- like on the football field.

The more you change, the more you will see the lack of respect.

Except in one area.

Your respect for yourself will grow.

At first it will be the only respect you get. In time, you will get a bit from others. Long before that you will realize that true respect is like gold, with what we thought of as respect being more like those paper debt notes -- a leach-like weapon targetting your life blood.

So, do you want to change?

If you think you want to change, begin by showing some respect to others.

You want to change your diet? Start by assuming others have worked on this and check out what they are saying. Yes you will have to plow through a hundred useless ideas to find one gem. It has always been this way.

You want good looks? First you have to assume someone else knows why you don't have them. Then brace yourself for the real answer. Luckily it is better than "You need to slather these high-priced salves on your face." Still, your looks will continue to be an effect of your lifestyle, rather than a cause of anything good.

In this card game you discard before you pick up

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.
  - Picasso
Wondering where to begin your changeover? Throw something out.

Most of us are not good at this most essential skill

We'd rather accumulate an entire garage full of things so valueless that we can leave our garage door open night and day without loss. [Yes, I've seen this.]

My locker story

At one point I had a downtown Vancouver condo. Beautiful converted office building. Problem was there never was a room designed for tenant storage lockers, so they improvised a solution converting numerous small basement rooms into mini-storages. Each room would have 6 or 8 chicken wire stalls -- they were hardly lockers -- and we dutifully padlocked our cages.

One day we learned that someone had gone through our lockers. I went to inspect what I had lost and received an insight instead. My realization came from learning that though my chicken wire locker had been breached, nothing had been taken.

So it is with much of our stuff. It has little value and often the effect of keeping trash around is much more negative than positive.

So try it. Toss something out today. If you're not sure what to throw out, close your eyes and point.

You'll be surprised how stimulating it can be to toss trash.

[And my condo? I moved to the U.S. a few years later and sold it. But first I discarded two-thirds of my stuff before I moved. And have missed none of it since.]

Get good at discriminating

King had a dream about discrimination. I'm here to say that discrimination is king.

Discrimination, as we are brainwashed to believe, is something we should never do because it is bad. Very bad. And not nice. And illegal.

In reality, discrimination is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Literally.

We discriminate all the time. Non-stop. About absolutely everything. Except for, well, you know, the thing we are told it is morally reprehensible to discriminate about.

Just to be clear, my people filter is based on something other than race, creed and color. It is based on attitude. The better your attitude, the more we will get along and respect each other. The reverse is also true.

But I do discriminate...actively, proudly, and ubiquitously.

Discrimination is not criticism, and vice-a-versa

Criticism is what passes for discernment these days. And there is plenty of money behind it.

How many shows have criticism at their core? How about every news broadcast.

Reality shows? They all depend on it.

The host has spiked hair? Good, someone's gonna hate.

Too many men, or whites, in this movie? We'll write our congresswoman!

Comedians as critics I can see. But what do we end up with when everyone is a critic? Not critical thinking, that much is certain.

Criticism leads to a negative attitude. A negative attitude can't, of course, be positive. So what do we get?

Jaded people, who are not a threat to change the world.

Cynics, who are appreciated by no one and easily dismissed.

Net effect? Success! For the 1% that is.

Criticism is destruction
Discrimination is salvation

It is so easy to destroy, so hard to build.

Compare an arsonist to a building contractor. One burns, the other builds. Which is harder? No comparison.

One of the most famous critics of all time, Roger Ebert, could dismiss a movie with a downward turn of his hand.

Discrimination, on the other hand, takes effort. How do we choose one shirt over another? Well, the red one is softer fabric. Yes but the blue one fits better. True but the red one was a gift from your mom, and you're going to visit her later today. Correct, but the blue one is from your wife.

So you choose the blue one. Change a few variables and you wear red. Thus is discrimination linked to change.

Criticism is conformity
Discrimination is a revolutionary act

In choosing to think, it is imperative that you separate your choices from what the mass is choosing. This isn't easy. It takes mental muscle.

Time for some mental muscle making. Let's begin with a test. Call this one "Reading between the lines".

The story summary says:

Researchers from the New School for Social Research in New York have demonstrated that if you read quality literary fiction you become a better person, in the sense that you are more likely to empathize with others.

What is not said? That reading fiction is a complete and utter waste of time.

Decades ago I made the decision to stop reading fiction. I now read non-fiction, biography, sports, you get the idea. You up for a change of reading material?

At the dentist? Read a car magazine. Got ten minutes to burn before you head off to work? Read your cell phone manual. Reading something real is the first step in taking yourself for real.

What not to do

What do most people read? Junk tabloids and trashy novels. And the text of television advertisements.

It is not by accident that the most popular TV shows require little thinking. "Deal Or No Deal" was perhaps the perfect example, but celebrity shows and "reality" TV are not much different. They all hinge on a simple formula that they stick with for years at a time.

Dumbed down, lowest common denominator programming has advantages, to them. With a low barrier to entry, more people can consume their offering. Unfortunately, the viewers are being taught how to metaphorically tube down a river. Without being told there is a waterfall at the end.

It is bad enough that adults watch this rubbish but what about our children? What they are being taught to watch is even worse. A downward spiral for all but the profiteers.

What is...? Why do...? How can...?

Muscle building involves reps. Mind building requires repetition as well.

If only there was something you could do a lot of each day to build your mind...

Well there is. Ask questions.

"It is the question that drives us."
"What is the matrix?"

"Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself."

"...sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."
  - The Matrix

As great an action movie as "The Matrix" is, it is at least as good at self-motivating. Put it on your "watch again" list. Personally, I take it in yearly.

Take stock

As part of the national deaden-their-minds project, we are taught to save our money, in banks of all places, and plan for this wondrous event -- retirement.

Then, as our bodies fall apart, we will have the time of our lives! In diapers.

Or you could reconsider your present situation:
- You have everything you need right now.
- Filtering is everything.
- You can build up your filtering ability with questions.

There you have it. Well, no time like the present. Get busy!

Are you still here? Look, this article ends abruptly for a reason.


Other writings   Site Map