How Much Does the Thought Count?
Over the past several weeks, we have been giving thought to overall health and considering our “heart, soul, mind and strength.” If you missed any of the previous lessons around relationships and/or spiritual health, you can find them here:
Today I’d like to consider the third quadrant or the “mind”.
As many of you may know, my background is psychology and I worked for more than 25 years as a school psychologist completing assessments for a number of things to include intelligence and personality. I have ALWAYS been fascinated by our minds and our behaviors – and how the two relate – which is exactly what psychology is. I know from my professional experience the importance of being careful about what we allow to consume our thoughts, but I thought it would be way more fun, and likely more relatable, to share my own personal example with you.
About six months ago, I voiced what I thought was a crazy idea to my husband and assumed we’d both have a good laugh about it and move on. In fact, when I think about why the thought ever even entered my radar, I have no idea. But then to find out that my husband was also having the same ideas and was totally on board made us scratch our heads and wonder if it was one of those “this is meant to be” moments. If you had told us five years ago that this is what we might be considering, we would’ve collectively smiled condescendingly and told you there was absolutely no way.
So, what are we dreaming of? RV living. Not permanent RV living (although my husband doesn’t hate that idea either), but rather purchasing a truck and RV to travel the United States to hopefully see some amazing things and make some great memories.
Because we know NOTHING about RV life, we started where one starts to learn anything new these days…YouTube. What we didn’t realize was the magnitude of incredible people creating weekly content to help us learn all about it and to help us fall more in love with the idea through each episode. I am so grateful for these families who have literally taken us around the United States and beyond during a time when we were asked to shelter in our homes and avoid travel. It has been such a blessing to live vicariously through them from seasons past during the pandemic.
As is the hope if you are a content creator of any kind, your audience will often begin to feel as if they know you and will look forward to spending time with you – virtually of course. The few favorites we now follow on every platform have certainly succeeded with that goal and we have binged going on ten seasons of our favorite channel. In other words, we’ve spent a lot of time with these people. We’d like to think we’re friends.
As I am writing, I recall having had the same experience when I binged 13 seasons of “Heartland” on Netflix from March to August of last year. By the end of season 2, I was sure I needed a pasture full of horses and horseback riding is still on my bucket list – only now I’ll probably travel West in my RV to do it. Sounds heavenly.
So, what do my stories about binge watching various series have to do with our minds and behavior? Because in the words of Lysa Terkeurst, “You steer where you stare.”
Right now, I notice every RV we pass on any road – Before a few months ago – I couldn’t have told you what one looked like.
I have vivid nighttime dreams about RV life and find myself doing Google searches to look at floor plans when I should be doing other, much more important things.
I daydream about trips we will take and envision how I will decorate my new home on wheels.
My thoughts are consumed with RV life…and my thoughts guide my behavior, even when I don’t realize it.
My example may seem silly when the reality is that what consumes our thoughts can be paralyzing. Many of us struggle with jealousy and comparison because our thoughts are consumed with how much better others have it than we do in every area of their lives. I’ve noticed in my own life, as well as in the lives of so many around me, the struggle with anxious thoughts has increased at an alarming rate. Anxiety is impacting children as young as five or six years old, which just should not be. I can’t help but wonder if the source of much of the increased anxiety we are all feeling could possibly be the exposure to information, much of which is negative and depressing, at any time we choose to access it. Is it possible that by filling our minds with the problems and opinions of people, many whom we don’t even know, we are creating worry that might not otherwise exist? Whether it be the world news, local news, or simply social media feeds, it doesn’t take long to find a story that promotes fear, worry, anger, heartache, jealousy or a host of other negative emotions in us. We are inundated with sadness and bad news at every turn.
In Philippians 4 (Message translation) we read:
6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
God isn’t silent on how to be sure we fill our minds with those things that will minimize the angst we often feel. Here are just two verses that provide prescriptions for what we are to do with negative thoughts:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT
We are told to take our thoughts captive and we are told to think on good things. When we do those things, we will find ourselves feeling more positive and behaving more positively. We have a choice to do so. We steer where we stare and we find what we look for.
“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Jeremiah 29:13 NLT
If you are struggling with negativity, anxiety, or even an unrelenting temptation to sin – consider what you are allowing into your mind that could be causing these things. Take those thoughts captive and turn your thoughts to those things that are good for you. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes.
I hope that these words offer encouragement to you. I look forward to sharing more about our RV journey with you through my social media accounts. Be sure to follow if you are interested in seeing what we choose and where we go first! (And if you have tips and suggestions about what we might need to know – reach out! We’re learning something new every day!)
Stephani Cook is a life coach, speaker, writer, podcast host and creator of On Purpose Coaching. Through On Purpose Coaching she helps others to improve relationships and to discover intentional abundant living. She does that through encouraging devotionals, a weekly podcast, group and/or individual life coaching, and live event speaking or Enneagram workshops.
To connect with Stephani visit her website http://www.stephanicook.org.