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Timeless Wisdom & the Science of Happiness: To Change Your Life, Change Your Mind (Not Others…)


The mind is everything; what you think, you become.” ~ BUDDHA

Thoughts are not simply airy pieces of information that enter our minds and then disappear. The words and ideas we think, and the accompanying feelings they spark, shape our lives and behaviors, driving us toward success and happiness … or failure and distress.

Thoughts are energy. They produce emotions and physiological feelings, and these are powerful forces that, literally, produce structural changes inside.

When thoughts and emotions work together toward the same goal, for example, they energize us to take positive action that support our goals and life feels overall balanced and secure. In contrast our life feels off balance when they work as opposing forces, causing us to feel immobilized or stuck in reactive patterns that we know are detrimental.

In other words, there’s a direct cause and effect relationship between how you think and feel, and in turn, this can have a profound effect on your ability to recognize an opportunity, perform to the best of your ability, or achieve the outcomes or goals that you’ve set for yourself. Though now proven with recent advances in neuroscience methodology, this wisdom is timeless, found in quotes of amazing thinkers past and present.

We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” ~ CARLOS CASTANEDA

An overall optimistic mind is also an honest one (though a pessimistic mind may disagree). Consciously shifting your focus to thoughts that produce positive love-based feeling states inside your mind and body does not mean that you ignore difficulties or disregard limitations. It means your relationship to challenges and limitations is set on a course in which you’ve made a conscious commitment to spend less time brooding over problems or obstacles, and proportionally much more time generating solutions, considering possibilities — and taking positive action — in particular that keeps your mind and body in learning mode — versus survival mode.

To be more precise, depending on the type of problem, you need to spend less than 10 to 20% of our energy on clarifying what the problem is — and the remaining 90 to 80% on solutions. All the while, these optimal thinking-feeling states allow you at any given time to flexibly evaluate your progress, and access amazing inner resources, such as possibility thinking to make adjustments, awareness of what works and doesn’t work based on past experience, and so on, to realize your vision of success.

There are at least two very good reasons you want to practice conscious awareness and choice of your thoughts:

  • First, positive thinking-feeling states energize your health, vitality and well being; they keep your body in “growth” mode where cells are replenished and regenerated, and all systems are working toward a hardwired directive of the body and mind to ever reach for optimal health, healing, wholeness … well being!
  • Second, your brain can only solve life and relationship problems in this growth and learning mode. In fact, that’s the problem. Most persons attempt to solve life and relationship problems in fear-based mode, however, when the body’s survival system is activated, the higher thinking brain is switched to offline mode! We may “think” you’re using logic, however, either-or black-and-white thinking is useful in limited circumstances in which physical survival is literally at stake.

Chances are, any attempt to solve life and relationship issues in survival mode is likely to trick you into taking actions that are counterintuitive. In fear-based mode, actions have a desperate quality that tends to make things worse, never better. You’re better off to take action that goes “opposite” a programmed reaction of fear, otherwise, you may miss the mark by 180 degrees. In fact, there is a proven technique, known as “going opposite emotion,” used in research-based dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

Our lives are shaped not so much by our experience as by our expectations.” ~ GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

In contrast, optimal thinking-feeling states dramatically increase your chances for success in any endeavor. When you feel worthy of achieving your goal, and believe its achievement is within reach, you start to relax, lowering levels of cortisol so that your brain and body work more efficiently together to consider resources, options and solutions and so on. When you are relaxed, your mind and body generate energy that is more resourceful. You know this, you’ve been there, experienced this.

In contrast, dwelling on problems, fears, negative forecasts not only wastes your energy, it also generates low levels of energy to begin with. Even worse, fear-based states can have a draining, or even paralyzing effect, on the mind and body. You want to achieve a laser focus to whatever degree possible, when it comes to reaching your goals and becoming the person you yearn to become, otherwise your energy in fear mode is scattered, out of control, hit or miss, and even worse, potentially dangerous or detrimental to you and those close to you…

A positive state of mind and body also makes it easier for you to move past any doubts or limiting thoughts that most always surface when you face any obstacles. You not only have the ability to protect your energy from limiting thoughts of failure, for example, you have a beautiful responsibility — if you want to become a champion who realizes successful results in your life and relationships — to utilize doubts and fear-based thoughts to your benefit and transform them into assets. Your awareness of potential obstacles helps you to better prepare, and strengthens your determination to deal with and overcome any roadblocks efficiently.

When you rule your mind you rule your world. When you choose your thoughts you choose results.” IMELDA SHANKIN

Did you know you have a choice? That you can shift to optimal thinking-feeling states of mind and body at any moment? You do. Without question.

You have to feel this, know that you have this capacity, however. It’s not yours until you own, believe, and make it yours.

The question is whether you really, really want to think/feel yourself as the agent of your life and experiences, responsible and capable?

You are the driver of your life-bus. Always have been, always will be. To really want this means to let go of thought-feeling states that make you feel/think of yourself as helpless in a certain situation or a victim of someone else etc. These are fear-based thinking patterns picked up and learned in early-childhood (from other fear-based inefficient thinkers) that need to be unlearned.

When you transform your thoughts and feelings consciously, you transform your life. 

When you choose to shift to a consciously loving, overall positive and inspiring, optimistic outlook, you generate positive and creative thoughts, expectations and beliefs about yourself, your loved ones and life in general that, in turn, create the circumstances conducive to achieving more of what you truly desire. More and more, you feel in control of your life and few if any challenges seem overwhelming because it becomes your nature to expect a positive enfolding of events and believe you can handle any problem that comes your way.

He that is merry of heart hath a continual feast.” ~ PROVERBS 15:15

If you’re thinking this sounds too good to be true, or wondering what the catch is, you have reason to question. It is both easy, and yet not. Thinking positively is easy because it is an innate ability you already have to shift the focus of your attention to an optimally positive thinking (and feeling) state at any given moment. At the same time, it is not easy because it is largely a mind-set that must be developed. To make it yours, it must be practiced. Like other deeply rewarding endeavors, it requires commitment and challenges you to reach in deep places to find resources you did not know you have. It calls for determination to make changes in old habitual ways of thinking. It necessitates resolve to face the mind’s natural resistance to changing ingrained habits or replacing them with new ones.

And, perhaps the greatest challenge is that it obliges you to simultaneously develop prerequisite qualities inside you, without which you cannot accomplish the task, for example:

  • Compassion and acceptance for yourself as well as for others — you need both.
  • Gratitude and an ever deeper understanding and reverence for life and human nature in particular with awesome strengths and vulnerabilities that work together.

Among others, these are critical components that expand a conscious awareness of the intricate connections between yourself, your life, and those people closest to you, those you touch and are touched by.

He who wishes to expand the field of happiness, let him lay the foundation of it on the bottom of his heart.” ~ TAOISM

Once you embrace positive thinking as a commitment to yourself and life, you’ll start believing that everything you desire is within your reach. It will change your life because you will grow to more easily accept aspects of a situation that cannot be changed, and change what you can. Increasingly, you have the wisdom and understanding to know the difference because your mind functions more optimally in a relaxed, happy state. If this sounds familiar, this proven nugget of wisdom from the well known and loved “Serenity Prayer” has helped many free themselves from the clutches of an addiction. In an optimal thinking-feeling state you have the necessary flexibility to embrace responsibility that is yours to own and let go of responsibility that is not yours.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude of mond.” ~ WILLIAM JAMES

You have within you a tremendous energy waiting to be harnessed and utilized to create the joys of a more satisfying and successful life … regardless of what is going on around you. This energy is available to assist you to life a life filled with meaningful contributions to your personal world, as well as to your loved ones and community. What you think about yourself and life, your relationships and the people in your life, in particular, makes a great deal of difference. Every aspect of your life is affected by the way you think. 

In Part 2, the concept of “flow” and the science of happiness.

Timeless Wisdom & the Science of Happiness: To Change Your Life, Change Your Mind (Not Others…)

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2015). Timeless Wisdom & the Science of Happiness: To Change Your Life, Change Your Mind (Not Others…). Psych Central. Retrieved on February 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Apr 2015
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