Words of Wisdom: Insightful And Provocative
“Change Your Thoughts and You will Change Your World…” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
How does this work you may be asking? Change your thoughts and you change your world?
I believe it’s true, but before I explore how it works, I want you to take a minute or two to think about how you experience the world around you. And to help with that, I’ll describe two extreme worlds knowing that you are probably somewhere in-between.
Two Extreme Worlds
One extreme world tends to be chaotic, urgent, full of busyness, and has an overall sense of feeling overwhelming. This world tends to be unpredictable and uncertain which leads to feelings of worry, fear, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The other extreme world is the complete opposite. It’s calm, less busy, pleasant, and full of deep, meaningful relationships. This world leads to feelings of optimism, fulfillment, hope, excitement, and a sense of community.
Okay, so how does the process of changing your thoughts to change your world work? What Dr. Peale is referring to is more than just your thoughts. He’s referring to your thought patterns which we all unknowingly have. And the extremes of these thought patterns tend to be either narrowly focused “inwardly” and primarily about self, or they tend to be expansively focused “outwardly” and primarily about others. And here is what I’ve learned about each extreme pattern.
Ins and Outs of Thought Patterns
“Inward” thought patterns tend to be fear based and limiting while “outward” thought patterns tend to be opportunistic and wide-ranging. More specifically, “inward” thought patterns tend to lead to anxious, chaotic, and urgent experiences while “outward” thinking tends to lead to peaceful, calmer, and more fulfilling experiences. Which pattern more closely describes your thought patterns? Your answer can be found by reflecting on the thoughts that occupy most of your conscious thinking.
“Inward” thinkers tend to focus on themselves and are somewhat cynical. Their primary thoughts compare themselves to others while focusing on competing, proving, immediate gratification, and external approval. “Inward” thinkers also tend to have low trust of others as well as resent the success of others.
“Outward” thinkers tend to focus on other people and are more optimistic. Their primary thoughts are more about delayed gratification, contribution, collaboration, inclusion, acceptance, and certainty. Also, “outward” thinkers are more trusting while promoting the success of others.
Interpreting Life Experiences
So, the question is why are some people “inward” thinkers, if this thought pattern leads to such undesirable worldly experiences of chaos and struggle, while other people are “outward” thinkers living in a world that is more peaceful and fulfilling? The answer to this question is complex and requires some outside-the-box thinking, so stay with me on this.
First, “inward” and “outward” thinking patterns share the same origin. Simply put, they are a result of a person’s prior life experiences.
Where the difference occurs is the interpretation of those experiences relative to the person’s identity.
“Inward” thinking people tend to believe past external events in their lives happened to them, so they interpreted them as personal affronts. This is observable as “inward” thinking people tend to react to external experiences defensively with cynical and blame oriented behaviors. They deflect responsibility and as a result, distance themselves from others.
On the other hand, “outward” thinking people view external events as happening through them, not to them, and they interpret them as learning experiences that are not personal affronts. This is observable as “outward” thinking people are more responsive versus reactive. They are able to calmly accept responsibility for what happens next in ways that encourages collaboration with others.
Held Captive or Free?
So, what does all this have to do with current thought patterns and ultimately the life experiences that people experience in the present?
“Inward” thinking patterns tend to hold people captive to their past. Literally, they unknowingly recreate their past which is observable in certain people who chronically worry, struggle, and just can’t seem to get a break. Why is this you ask? It is because they did not take responsibility for their contributions to their past life experiences and as a result didn’t learn from those experiences. Additionally, the emotions created by current experiences, which were experienced in similar past events, cause them to repeat the past cynical and blame oriented behaviors that occurred when the emotions were originally felt. This is why I reference “being held captive to their past.”
“Outward” thinking patterns free people from their past experiences and allow for more optimistic responses that have little to do with the past. This is because “outward” thinkers tend to be more creative and, therefore, more responsible for what happens next. Why you ask? Because “outward” thinkers tend to have higher self-esteem, are more confident, and more creative.
So back to the beginning of this article. “Change Your Thoughts and You will Change Your World…” In other words, if you tend to be an “inward” thinker living in a chaotic, stress-filled world and want to change your world, just become an “outward” thinker which will lead you to a more optimistic and fulfilling world.
Easy to say, but unfortunately, while this type of personal change is desirable and understandable, it is extremely difficult to accomplish. So, if you want help in “changing your thought patterns to change your world”, look for my next Throomers article titled, How to Become the Person You are Meant to Be.
In the Spirit of Learning through Life…
James H. Blackburn
Senior Partner and Bestselling Author