Align Your Thoughts
On October 25th, 1999, a twin-engine Learjet pulled out to taxi on the runway at the Orlando Airport. The flight took off with six people on board—four passengers and two pilots. The flight gained altitude and leveled off at about 45,000 feet, going 600 miles an hour. Once the plane crossed Gainesville, GA on its way to Dallas, TX, the plane was to make a left-hand turn and there was radio communication with air traffic controllers on the ground.
Shortly after crossing Gainesville, rather than turning left, the plane began to veer off course. And instead of heading for Texas, it was headed for South Dakota. Repeated attempts to contact the cockpit by radio were met with a deafening silence. Immediately five planes were dispatched from Oklahoma and Florida to chase the plane down and make visual contact.
By now the plane was flying at 600 mph and was on auto-pilot. Other air traffic was rerouted so the FFA and military could try to figure out what was happening inside of the plane. Two F16 military fighter jets finally chased down the learjet and were able to pull within fifty feet of the plane.
The pilots radioed back that as far as they could see there was no structural damage but they were unable to see inside of the plane because the windows were iced over. This was clear evidence that the plane had lost cabin pressure and those inside were certainly unconscious if not possibly even dead.
Further attempts to communicate by radio met with no success. The plane flew some 1400 miles for over four hours until it finally crashed at a speed of 600 miles an hour into a grassy field, while the two F16 pilots watched helplessly and hopelessly at this fatal crash. All six passengers were killed, the most famous being professional golfer Payne Stewart. It was a bizarre and tragic event.
Imagine for just a moment that you are standing on the ground on that autumn day, and you look up into the clear sky and you see that plane screaming across the sky. For all you know the plane is on course. It’s headed for its destination. But little did you know that inside something was desperately wrong.
That is a poignant word picture for what is happening in many people’s lives.
There are people who live life at a breakneck speed, and as far as we can tell externally, it looks like they are on course and they seem to be on auto pilot. Outwardly they seem to have life all together, but little do we know that inside there is a crisis. Something is wrong and things are not as they appear.
All of us have that sense, at times, that even though we project an image of having it all together, we know that internally all is not well. Perhaps the fear of exposure or the pressure to conform pushes us to keep up the facade. If we thought that people could really see inside of us, it would scare us to death.
People would see how petty we can be; how critical we are of others; how self-serving we are; how much we struggle with negative thoughts; or how much we cut ethical corners. It certainly wouldn’t be pretty. The truth is, all of us would be a little more than embarrassed if our thought lives were revealed for anyone else to see, because the reality is not one of us totally has our act together—but there is hope and help.
Steven Covey in his foundational book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” gives us this profound truth:
Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit and reap a character.
Sow a character and reap a destiny.
It is not an overstatement to say that your thought life will quite literally shape your destiny. Here are a few steps that you can take toward a healthier thought life:
1. Celebrate the Mystery and Wonder of Your Mind.
Your mind is incredibly amazing! Part of what makes you human—what sets you apart from all other living things—is that you have the ability to reason, to embrace belief and love, to find meaning in relationships, and to have thoughts.
Stop for a minute and ponder the mystery of your mind. Your brain started to develop the fifth week after conception. Neuroscientists tell us that in your brain you have approximately 100 billion neurons. Each neuron has approximately one thousand connectors. Each of those connectors are capable of 200 calculations per second. That means your brain is capable of something on the order of twenty million billion calculations, every single second!
Decisions that you make there will determine what you do with your time, how you spend your money, who you’re going to spend time with and ultimately where you end up in life. Your mind is an amazing thing—your mind is powerful. As the 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes concluded: “I think, therefore I am.” Your words and actions and outward expressions are windows to your thoughts and character.
2. Think on Helpful Things, Not Hurtful Things
At the core of who you are is your thought life. At the deepest level of what it means for us to exist, is in our own minds and thoughts. Your thought life is a reflection of who you are. Whatever fills your mind, shapes your life. If you want a healthy life, then choose to think on helpful things. Willpower alone is never going to be sufficient to deal with deeply ingrained habits. This is why people who try harder often find themselves in a cycle of defeat. It’s not about trying harder, it’s about training your mind to stop feeding on hurtful things, by feeding on helpful things.
We live in a fairly negative society. Most of what we hear from the daily news or images that we are exposed to from our neighborhoods or around the world focus on what’s wrong, not what’s right; what is missing, not what we have; what’s ugly; not what is beautiful. We have plenty of opportunities to dwell on negative things in our external world, not to mention our inner world where we have thoughts of fear, anxiety, worry and doubt.
An ancient writer, Saul of Tarsus, addressed this issue in his Letter to the Philippians in this way, Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, whatever is of a good report…think on these things.
Think on things that build you up, not tear you down. Think about what you have, not what you don’t have. Think about what is right with you, not what is wrong with you. Begin thinking about what you are thinking about.
3. Think Marinate, not just Meditate.
Meditation is a wonderful and meaningful way to develop a healthy inner life. There is an abundance of information on the web about the practice and benefits of meditation. Meditation is a really helpful practice. Yet as important as meditation is, I like to ask people to think about, “What are you marinating in?” This is a broader question that asks, “What are the influences, values and attitudes that I am allowing to flavor my life—the things that I am “soaking” my life in? When you become aware of what you are marinating your life in, that awareness brings understanding, and that understanding brings agency—you have power to take action.
4. Ask for Help.
Finally, you find yourself overwhelmed with negative thoughts, ask for help. Seek out a friend, a mentor, a life coach or a counselor who will listen and help guide you on a path to a more holistic life. It’s important not to isolate yourself to your own thoughts.
You may be flying at 45,000 feet at 600 mph, and everyone thinks you are really cruising, but you know whether you have oxygen or not. Don’t let pride prevent you from getting the help you need to live your life to the full.
Written by: Dan Hall has a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Masters of Divinity. With over 25 years of ministry experience, Dan has served as a Pastor, Church Planter, Transitional Leader, Mentor, and Coach. Follow more of his writing on his blog, Voce.
Photo Credit: Ashley Batz on Unsplash