Thoughts are more than airy pieces of information that enter our minds and then disappear. The words we think or speak are energy. They produce emotions and feeling sensations. Feelings are energy. Together, they energize action, or immobilize. They have the power to activate neurochemical changes inside, and thus can have a profound effect on our ability to achieve the goals that we’ve set.
We always have a choice to shift to an optimal thinking-feeling state at any moment. Why would you? There are at least three reasons:
1. A consciously optimistic mind is healthy.
Optimal patterns of thinking and feeling literally energize physical and emotional health, vitality and well being. In a nut shell, the former energizes action based primarily on love-based emotion states of mind and body, whereas the latter on fear-based ones. Naturally, since love-based emotions release hormones that nourish cells, whereas fear releases high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, happy people are healthier, live longer, and enjoy healthier relationships. This fact alone makes conscious optimism a necessity, not just an option.
2. Optimal patterns increase chances for success in any endeavor.
When you feel good or deserving of attaining a goal, this energizes hope and belief, you start to relax … and this allows your brain works more efficiently to consider resources, options and possibilities. When you are relaxed, your mind and body work together to generate energy, and your use of energy is more resourceful. In contrast, dwelling on problems, fears, negative forecasts not only wastes your energy, it can cause energy drain. In fact, elevated levels of cortisol from fear-based states can have a paralyzing effect on the mind and body. A positive state of mind and body also makes it easier for you to move past doubts or limiting thoughts that may surface when you face any obstacles, a certainty in realizing goals! You not only have the ability to protect your energy from limiting thoughts of failure, you also have the power to utilize these thoughts to your benefit. Shifting your focus to optimal thought-feeling states, however, does not mean that you ignore difficulties or disregard weaknesses or limitations. It simply means 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 action. To be more precise, there is a formula: spend less than 10 to 20% energy on clarifying what the problem is, and the remainder on solutions. What you’re doing here is conserving energy to evaluate progress along the way, and make adjustments as necessary based on your observations of what works and doesn’t.
3. Optimal responses to challenges cultivate key personal and relational qualities.
Optimal thinking-feeling is simply a more efficient way to realize fulfillment. For positive thinking-feeling to change your life, you must choose to let it be a primary mind-set or approach to life. You don’t have to be happy about a situation to maintain an overall state of confidence, gratitude and joy. Optimal emotion-responses energize other key emotion states, for example, strength, courage and determination. Hope, belief in yourself and others are also key. How about compassion and acceptance for yourself, others, life, ultimately, a deeper understanding and reverence for human nature and life in general, with all its awesome strengths and vulnerabilities. You may not be able to change a certain situation, however, you can prevent this from dampening your happiness in life. Staying positive may not have an immediate effect on a situation you want to change, but it can have a profound and instantaneous effect on your mood and the quality of your experiences.
When you choose to shift to a consciously loving, optimistic outlook and nurture positive thoughts, expectations and beliefs about yourself, your loved ones and life in general, you begin to 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.
It’s how a tennis champion or piano virtuoso intuitively achieves excellence by the way. The universe, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi concludes in his study of the happiness and fulfillment, in a book titled, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, is not designed to make us passively happy. On the contrary, the author states, most people are not happy because they fail to see the value of challenges, frustrations, dealing with difficult situations … and yes … difficult people. The frustration or stress of dealing with a particular challenge can help us grow, and if we’re willing, to also learn how to transform fear and problems into joy, strength and courage — greater happiness and fulfillment. Challenges are essential to cultivating wisdom and understanding, helping us access the inner power (and responsibility?) we have to protect and even generate happiness wherever we are.
An optimal response gives you the necessary flexibility needed to embrace what is yours to own, and let go of what is not.