In A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose Eckhart Tolle quotes Shakespeare in writing “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” In highlighting this passage, Tolle presents one of the key ideas in self-healing: our life experience is dependent almost entirely on our perspective.
Take Viktor Frankl and Epictetus for example; the former showcased an impenetrable inner strength while spending 4 years in a German death camp during World War II, and the latter overcame being birthed into a 30-year slave sentence to become one of the most revered philosophers of all time. In both cases, the men were presented with what could have been insurmountable hardships, and yet they both chose to see these experiences as opportunities for life-defining personal development.
Why It Matters
It is this choice of perspective, more than anything else, that determines the quality of our lives. If we allow our thinking to be controlled by external factors such as our emotions or the opinions of others, we will never evolve past our experiences.
Instead, we must learn to take control of our thoughts and use them constructively. As Tolle so vividly puts it,
"Thinking is a wonderful tool if it's applied. Thinking, however, can not become the master. Thinking is a very bad master."
When faced with difficult situations, it is often tempting to give in to negative thinking. We may tell ourselves that we are not good enough, that we will never succeed, or that we are powerless to change our circumstances. However, these thoughts serve only to keep us trapped in a cycle of self-doubt and negativity.
If we want to improve our lives, we must learn to question our negative thoughts and reframe them in a manner that promotes healing and growth. No matter what life throws our way, we always have a choice in how we respond. By taking control of our thoughts, we can choose to see even the most difficult situations as opportunities for growth. In doing so, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities and set ourselves on the path to self-improvement.
How To Change Your Thinking
If you find yourself struggling with negative thinking, there are a few things you can do to start changing your perspective.
- First, try to become aware of your thoughts. This may seem difficult at first, but it is important to catch yourself in the act of negative thinking to change it. One surefire way to improve this ability is to practice meditation. Although its description as 'the hardest easy thing to do,' is well-deserved, meditation remains the most powerful tool in our arsenal against negative thinking.
- Second, once you are aware of your thoughts, start to question them. Why am I thinking this? Is it factually and undeniably true? Is there another way to look at this situation? How would I engage with it if I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it manifested solely to teach me something or help me grow?
- Finally, once you have started to question and reframe your negative thoughts, practice gratitude. In every situation, no matter how difficult, there is always something to be grateful for, even if only having a deeper understanding of what a human being can endure. By consciously shifting your focus to the positive aspects of your life, you can begin to change your overall perspective.
Most importantly, keep in mind that changing your thinking is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be setbacks and relapses along the way, but as long as you keep moving forward, you will eventually reach your goal. Remember: every thought is an opportunity to make a choice between growth - and stagnation.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” - Viktor Frankl