James Allen says,
“A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”
Ideas or sparks are the bedrock of your character. You are who you think you are. Earl Nightingale says, “We become what we think about.”
Take a moment and reflect on what you think about on most days. Then reflect on whether what you think about determines in any way what you do most of the time.
If you think about becoming a writer, you will write. But if you think about becoming the best basketball player, you will find yourself on the court most of the day.
The good news is that ideas are free. We all get them. The rich and the poor alike. But, the challenge is to get them right and at the right time, and then translate them into action.
Keep in mind that ideas require time, deliberation and action to have a practical value.
This Summer, I was a part of a 30-day Sparks challenge initiated by Darren Rowse of the Problogger. I would like to share some insights from this wonderful exercise. Hope it lights up the sparks of your work and life.
During the challenge, Darren asked the participants these two questions every day: What are the most common things that give you energy? What are the most common things that you do that give other people energy?
He also asked some bonus questions to reflect on. Here are ten examples of the bonus questions:
- What made you feel most alive as a 10-year old?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What sparks have you had in the past that fizzled?
- When has a tiny spark led to something big for you in the past?
- What question do you often have?
- What problems do you observe?
- What are you curious about?
- What dreams and ambitions do you have?
- What kind of life experiences have you had?
- What skills and strengths do you have?
Now take a moment and think if you ask yourself these questions. I am sure, if not all, you may ask a few of them.
These questions are meant to stimulate positive energy or sparks in you. They invite you to deliberate on your everyday thoughts and experiences in the past.
Once you identify the sparks in your life, the next step is to figure out what to do with them. I get it can be difficult but if you ask yourself these questions everyday, you will see the change in the way you think about life and your career.
Robin Williams says,
“No matter what people tell you words and ideas can change the world.”
1. Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl
I spotted this masterwork in a bookstore almost five years ago in San Diego. The title made me curious, so I bought the book. In the book, the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl talks about his experience in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He narrates the stories of prisoners and explores the meaning of life amidst suffering and pain. Frankl developed the term “logotherapy,” a form of psychotherapy, which can also be described as “existential analysis.” I learned that we are borne to bear all that life brings upon us.
This quote from the book stays with me forever:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
2. The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer
The Untethered Soul is a profound perceptive study of the mind. Singer untangles the knots of the human mind and sheds light on the dark side of the psyche. He describes the processes of disturbing thoughts so clearly that it feels as if he is inside the mind and is watching over all that happens there. Singer provides a deep understanding of the constant chatter, the noise that worries many. It is the chatter that you can hear right now somewhere in your head while reading this post. It is the chatter that many feel stuck in while the big life passes by. Singer says, don’t engage with what I call “the beast.” Let it slide while you take charge. You are the subject and the chatter the object.
3. Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
I read Meditations this year. The book comprises of the personal reflections of the Greek Emperor Marcus Aurelius about life, death, sadness, happiness, and numerous other subjects. Aurelius’ thoughts are so deep and truly reflective of the human mind that it is impossible not to feel moved by the book. This is my favorite quote from the book:
“Today I escaped from all bothering circumstances – or rather I threw them out. They were nothing external, but inside me, just my own judgments.”
4. As You Think, James Allen
Earl Nightingale said, “We become what we think about.” This is precisely the philosophy of James Allen’s book. It is the key to unimaginable success. If one thinks about it, the logic of his philosophy is pretty straightforward. We become what we imagine ourselves to be. Of course, it is not easy. Sometimes we think and work hard but still don’t get what we want. But that does not mean the hard work will go to waste. The habit of positive thinking can be useful in so many different ways. Most importantly, what is the use of negative thinking even if positive thinking will not bear fruit, which it more often than not will?
I am a strange creature who thinks ceaselessly. The buzz does not stop. I wait for the night for it to calm down, but that is when it actually stimulates. Sometimes it feels like some sort of a disorder that needs to be fixed. But, on the other hand, it has become the routine, the home that I don’t want to leave. It feels good to be at home even if it is not one’s own.
The current state I am in is that to no think and not wonder is to leave the home, which is to cease to exist, emotionally at least. But think and wonder about what though? About everything. The people on the street. Their lives and stories. Happiness and sadness. What they think about the moment I see them. What do they think about me? The questions get harder and the answers difficult to find. And then I lose interest, but keep wondering.
What I realize is that I can’t know them, or know them enough. Perhaps, I will never. I also realize that to know them is to maybe dig deeper within and find out a word or two about myself first. The maze of my inner world appears to be even a bigger, tangled mess. I discover that the different parts of the mind are extremely unfriendly at coordination. Trying to focus on a singular thought requires cutting through the irrelevant, bossy hodgepodge. The noise, the chatter that is there to prevent you from thinking clearly and purposefully.
This futile exercise in clear thinking sometimes feels like the untying of the kite’s line from the shrubs in the village where I used to fly. The line used to get stuck at countless corner, and so the kite flying adventure more often turned out to be untying the knots than flying. This is strange stuff but I am trying to make sense of it myself.
But untying these very knots of the mind, if one pays a close attention to, gives them some perspective, if not a full view of the picture about others and the world. One comes to know that to think is to get across the ceaseless and disruptive patch of noise. Sadly, many of us get stuck in the patch and never make it across because to dare to go through it is to confront the beast of fear and anxiety that for many is so rampant.
The beast becomes rambunctious if you argue with it. It feels important if you pay attention to it. It gets competitive if you try to beat it. If you try to quash it, it will come at you full of fear and fury. Let it glide on the fringes of the mind while you take control. Don’t advertise it to the beast that you are in control because the one thing it hates the most is the challenge. Don’t challenge. But be aware that you are in control because you are in the driving seat of consciousness. You are the subject and the beast the object because you can see what it does and not the other way around.