Workplace Wisdom

Make Up Your Own Mind

Abraham Lincoln, famous president, folk hero, and a known depressive, said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I’m not sure if this observation had any real utility for Lincoln, but a simplistic explanation of cognitive psychology is that you start to feel pretty bad whenever you think negative thoughts. And those negative thoughts don’t have to be deep cogitations — no, just fleeting, automatic, sub-conscious self-nagging messages are enough to drive a truck full of misery through our susceptible brains.

My grandfather, a card-carrying member of The Optimists’ Club, recognized this truism that our thoughts directed our feelings. He cajoled, directed, and preached about it. “Say it’s good and it will be good,” he would say.

Brain science backs up both Abe Lincoln and my grandfather. To put a finer point on it, our negative thoughts and the emotional reactions they trigger truly are fleeting. They only last about 90 seconds, according to neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor in her astounding book, My Stroke of Insight, about her experience observing her own stroke and its impact on her own brain function. Taylor explains left brain/right brain functioning, and how we can harness those differences to change the way we think, feel, and respond to the outside world.

So make up your own mind. You have more control than you think — actually you have just as much control as you think! You can shift your entire sense of things, reactions, emotions, just by making the decision to think a different thought. And that’s where change begins.

What would you rather be thinking?

Onward and upward,

LK

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