In Proverbs, Old Testament, we find an oft-quoted aphorism, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” If we first accept this aphorism as truth, then the following from James Allen, from “As a Man Thinketh (1903)” can also be presumed truthful. “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts. As the plants springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them.” Bringing into sharp reflection the connection between how a person thinks and their character.
In high school, the football and wrestling coaches played mind games to help us players think and become winners. Then, we went through drills to practice thinking and planning moves, so our most important muscle, the mind, was prepared to act when challenged physically. Likewise, as a firefighter, I know the value of mentally walking through situations to prepare my mind and my fire teams’ minds before being challenged physically to respond to a threat or incident.
I once met a professional soccer player; we shared a bus trip from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah, as he traveled to catch a plane in Denver, Colorado. While I do not envy him, his travel scheduler, we had a very interesting conversation on how thinking builds character. Professional sports players have similar mental walk-throughs as a regular part of their daily exercises. Here I had always been under the impression this was for non-professional sports players and was pleasantly surprised to hear his experiences.
James Allen insists that “Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.” In the US Army, while serving as a Chaplain’s Assistant, I was wandering through the line company barracks and stumbled across a tank crew having “Sergeant’s Time” in the hallway. There I met the most interesting character; he held a doctorate from MIT, he was utterly brilliant, and he was a specialist who drove tanks for a living. When asked why driving tanks and not working in his field of study, he stated, “I do not like my field of study.” Through education, this soldier had made himself tools for building a career he detested in a field he was bored with, and in seeking adventure, he joined the US Army as an enlisted man and found something he preferred.
The tools of education became the chains of bondage and weapons that left him without passion. His thoughts had turned his desires in his chosen field into a trap, where he thought his only way out was doing something radical and “out of character.” Except for those who knew him, his character was always bent towards being a soldier, but he had not thought thru this character aspect himself. His thoughts had already revealed his character, but he had not become cognizant of this aspect of himself. How many times has this happened to you?
President Thomas S. Monson, a previous leader of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints, was quoted as saying, “Decisions Do Determine Destiny” [emphasis in original]. Likewise, James Allen maintains, “… Man is the master of thought, the molder of character, and the maker and shaper of condition, environment, and destiny.” Think of how vital thought is to the grand scheme of a person, and you will find the power to be and do anything! “Man is always the master, even in his weakest and most abandoned state … [as a conscious master] man can only thus become by discovering within himself the laws of thought; which discovery is totally a matter of application, self-analysis, and experience.” Doesn’t this assertion fill you with the hope that the chains of bondage in your mind are only there until you allow yourself to change how you think?
How did I finally kick the cigarette habit, so the mental addiction could no longer tempt me to smoke; I change my thinking. Instead of allowing myself to find second-hand smoke delightful, I began seeing it as something to avoid. As I changed my thinking, my body stopped reacting in a manner to claim a need for the cigarettes. It was not easy, but I had physically quit smoking 10-years before my mental processes, and mental addictions were finally conquered. The power to correct my body’s behavior towards cigarettes was always mine to claim and apply, but first, I had to change how I think about cigarettes, then my mental needs changed, and then I was free of the mental addiction. Changing thoughts and time, experience, was required, and slowly my body obeyed.
I have seen the same occur in reverse. A female friend of mine claims she needs chocolate during her menstrual cycle to maintain mental health. When she discovered that chocolate was the main factor in her deteriorating health and obesity, she still maintained that chocolate was healthy and blamed everything but chocolate for the problems. When she went through menopause, she discovered that chocolate had no power over her body and was left without her mental crutch and excuses. What could have been a life-altering discovery did not change behavior because the thoughts never changed. I moved and lost contact before her story ended, but the failure to change thinking has always left me wondering what thoughts I need to change to avoid a similar fate.
The New Testament records, “He that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” To which James Allen has added, “… for only by patience, practice, and ceaseless importunity can a man enter the Door of the Temple of Knowledge.” I remember reading about a famous diamond mine in Africa, the largest diamond mine in the world, and how even with technology, the mining process continues to be one of patiently gathering, carefully digging, and unending repetition to haul diamonds from the dirt. In L. Ron Hubbard’s book, “Battlefield Earth,” one finds the same pattern in digging for gold. Patience, careful gathering, unending repetition, and still the results are teaspoons of gold for the tons of rock and dirt shifted.
The mind is the same. Changing thoughts requires time, patience with yourself, and care in selecting new thoughts to plant. Care in how old thoughts are removed so as not to damage those thoughts being cultivated, and unending repetition to remove the seeds of thoughts that would be the weeds in your mental garden. But, with the pattern comes the promise; those who put forward the work will reap a garden of benefits. What are those benefits of changing our thoughts, “As a being of power, intelligence, and love, [being the] lord [and master] of his thoughts, a man holds the key to every situation and contains within himself that transforming and regenerative agency by which he can make himself what he wills.”
What benefit could be grander, to will something into existence through the power of thought! How amazing a world we could make when all people realize this power and claim this power by changing how we think. There is a benefit to cause and effect; that benefit is realization, wisdom, and eventually power to will into being that which is powered by our thoughts. So choose to consider changing how you think and watch how the world shifts around you. You can change yourself by changing your thinking!
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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