Our brains are always firing. For instance at times you wake up with the answer to a question you couldn’t solve earlier that day. Information bounces around constantly, signals are sent and received, pain clouds this and that, the struggle for concentration in the present, and the most consuming is the useless thoughts we continue to pound our already overloaded brains with. There is the “what if’s”, the “I should’s”, the “I wish’s”, the “if only’s”, and the never-ending predictions, assumptions, and unrealistic expectations, and finally the comparisons. Let us go over why all that are mentioned in the previous sentence are over crowding our minds with useless thoughts.
The infamous “what if” is a power player in the great mind game. We all are guilty of wondering what if something bad will happen. We imagine a scenario and put invaluable and needed else where, faith into the outcome. For example: a child is struggling with their behavior so the parent starts replaying a what if -“what if my child grows up to be a criminal?”. We are prone to accepting the worst case scenario over a more likely better outlook. Why is that? Are we all “drama queens” at heart? Do we revel in hardships? Is it our natural instinct as problem solvers to seek out problems to solve. Maybe we, as humans, no longer rely on the part of our brains that problem solves for our survival and in return it seeks out new ways to be useful by creating problems before they become relevant? Whatever the reasoning, this is useless behavior. A behavior we can control. Living in a “what if” world can be gloomy. So let’s set ourselves free from the “what if’s” and replace them with the present and focus only on the problems at hand, not in the future.
I recently realized how many “I should’s” replay in my mind and it’s a lot. I should do this, be like this, should have done this different, should have known better, should, should, should, should… If you are like me, you struggle with releasing your “I should’s” because you fear utter chaos. Once again, “what if” I let go and I don’t remember to do this -whatever- or “what if” I don’t learn this lesson or “what if” if I will quit striving for the best or ultimately lose control. There it is. Control. This is when I must remember I am NOT in control, ever. Besides a little chaos never hurt anyone, has it? …see, I am slow to release my “I should’s”. Dun, dun, duuuuunnn… I should know that God has my back at all times, no matter what. I should remember my mind is not as fickle as I believe. I am learning in every moment rather I acknowledge it or not. I should relax in the present and make choices in each moment that will help me to become the best version of my imperfect self. -Now reread the last few sentences and replace the “should’s” with “can”. There is the answer to our useless “I should” thoughts, simply replace the heavy word “should” with a lighter and inspiring “can”.
The “I wish’s” and the “if only’s” fall in step with each other. I wish I was better in this way or that. If only I was stronger, smarter, prettier, taller, …etc. Do you see the similarity? They both fall into the wishful thinking category. This thinking does not allow us to accept our bodies or to be proud of who we are as a person. It encourages us to seek out our self-proclaimed issues and wish for what we deem better. That is a slippery slope with no end. Satisfaction will continue to elude us if we continue these kind of thought patterns. The root of this problem is the inability for self-acceptance. God made us to be individuals with our own flaws and attributes. Once we look at ourselves as we can imagine God does, we can then become forgiving with ourselves and learn to fall deeply in love with our person. We can leave useless ‘wishful’ thinking behind and instead think about our good qualities and only examine our inevitably imperfect qualities when we are seeking to heal and repair. Loving and nurturing ourselves instead of a continual loop of self-bashing.
Predictions, assumptions, unrealistic expectations …are we kidding ourselves or what?! We are not in any position to make predictions, assumptions, or unrealistic expectations. These thoughts will only set us up for disappointment. Predictions are the lesser of the three evils. However just yesterday I heard a “prediction” on the radio about the ice caps melting in the next thirty years and flooding the Earth, this filled me with dread and worry. But who can really predict such a thing? Who knows what the next ten years, twenty years, or the next thirty years of weather will do for our ice caps? I chose to think positive and faithful about this issue. Why waste precious brain power on dread and worry? Especially since God is on my side and will forever be my protector. Even if my Earthly body succumbs to painful wounds and death, my soul will live on full of love and peace. Assumptions. These bad guys will always do more harm than good. Assuming you know all the facts is plainly arrogant and an extreme waste of thinking. I say, always give another the benefit of a doubt. We would desire the same in our own situations. Unrealistic expectations are relationship killers. Any type of relationship. Expectations have their place. A wife can and rightly so expect her husband to treat her with respect and honor, vice versa. Realistically, though, she/he can not expect the spouse or even a child to meet or to exceed their every expectation -examples: go about a problem the same way, want the same things, think the same way, do in the same way or in an expected manner, on and on. Each person is different and unique. Expectations that expect thoughts and manners of another in a way that meet one’s own are unrealistic and unnecessary. We must remember that expecting another to be something they are not will only hurt us and them and most likely strain our relationships. Let us be forgiving and honor each other’s uniqueness and ban these unrealistic thoughts.
Comparisons are heartbreakers and distractions. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the multiple Facebook/Pinterest inspirational quote memes often remind us. I dream of being a professional painter, a novel writer, a strong, effective, and wise mom, heck even a NBA star… blah, blah, blah… eyeroll. We all have our treasured intentions. However I notice when I glance over at another’s success, I then feel unworthy and uncapable. It smashes my motivation and, at times, breaks my heart. Can you relate? The classic turtle never leaves his lane and focuses only on his finish line, while the rabbit watching the turtle, compares and then gloats by taking a nap. This distraction costed him the iconic race. That probably explains that. Comparisons are not essential to our success and therefore we can exclude them from our thoughts.
Imagine if we cleared out all of those useless thoughts. Our brains would purr like a kitten! We would be focused and steady. Our lives would be less stressful and more enjoyable. We could then notice things we may have missed before. Solve actual problems with precision and hold on to our motivations and reach our goals with more ease and with better quality. We could give God and our families more of ourselves. We would be happier. Who’s in?
Feature photo is of a brain CT scan.
Tree -my photo
Overlay imagine -Erkin Demir
Painting -Dream by Poplavskaya