Choosing one thought over another

Bruna 38

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James

In our busy lives we often forget that the real source of our stress is not the things on our to do list. It is how we think about and relate to the things we have to do, as well as our hopes and desires. Rarely is the activity that we are currently engaged in the actual source of the stress that we feel. Our stress is more directly related to our attachment to having things turn out in a particular way and a fear or concern that they may not. Unfortunately, our attachment is usually tied to an exaggerated view as to the actual importance of any particular outcome.

We can all relate to the stress we’ve encountered being late to an appointment, hurrying to catch a flight, preparing for a job interview, being stuck in traffic, worrying about some test results, or wanting to make a good impression when meeting new people. In the moment, the stress around these types of activities, depending upon our attachment to any particular outcome, can become quite intense. However, if we look at the events themselves, as well as the numerous stressful events we encounter daily, we will find that the outcomes are never nearly as dramatic as they seemed at the time. We’ve all been late for appointments, missed or had flights delayed, either done well or poorly on job interviews, lost jobs, gain new jobs, and made good or poor first impressions with people we’ve met. Instead of those events leaving some lasting imprint that is irreversible, they simply became part of our past and we continued with our lives, ready for more stress and things to worry about.

Today’s quote provides us with the most valuable resource we can develop, the ability to choose one thought over another. With mindfulness, we can develop the ability to catch ourselves when we get caught up in exaggerated states of mind and rumination about things that we ultimately don’t have any control over. Instead of allowing our mind to worry about being late, we can remember and accept that all of us have been late at times in our lives and what is truly important is being present when we got there. We can develop the ability to let go of unhealthy rumination and patterns of thought that lead to needless stress and worry about things we don’t have any control over, and bring our attention back to the present moment and things that we can do. For every one thing not going our way, there is always hundreds more that are. Instead of letting our attention be consistently drawn to one or two things that we fear, we can bring our attention to the vast resources and support we have available to us to deal with any challenges or events that may come our way.

I invite you to be aware of stress as it arises. When you notice stress, instead of reacting, take a few breaths, let go of exaggerations and gain some perspective, remember these are just moments that will come and go and what is important is how you show up. Then redirect your thoughts to the resources you have available and do the best you can under the circumstances. – John Bruna, May, 2016.


The above is a an excerpt from one the daily emails sent to the members of the Mindful Life Community. I invite you to explore our community and consider joining.

Copyright © 2016 John Bruna. All rights reserved.

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