As a Man Thinketh

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A man is what he thinks about all day long.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The central principle behind affirmations is that the thoughts I choose to think are powerful.  Although I have always believed that this was true, I also sort of found it be cliché or even overstated and unrealistic. But my journey has brought me to the conclusion that my thoughts are the fruit of my consciousness and the seed of my circumstances. If I become master of my thoughts I will find all that I seek.

I love the proverb, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” because the way I think creates and defines me.  And what is even more exciting is that I get to choose how and what I think.

There is an original intelligence within each of us. It has been called different names, but in essence it is the being or the I.  Charles Haanel wrote of this I:

“The I is not the physical body, that is simply a physical instrument which the I uses to carry out its purposes.  The cannot be the mind for the mind is simply another instrument which the I uses with which to think, reason and plan.  The must be something which controls and directs both the body and the mind … When you say ‘I think,’ the I tells the mind what it shall think. When you say ‘I go,’ the I tells the physical body where it shall go.  The real nature of this I is spiritual and it is the source of the real power that comes to men and women when they come into a realization of their own true nature.”

It is so important to recognize, appreciate and even defer to the power and wisdom of our original intelligence.

Most of us live blindly from the outside-in, allowing the outside environment to control us.  We can become consumed by an unrealistic expectation that things should be a certain way.  For man years, I was deeply bothered by people and situations I did not agree with. I think this is a very natural (or natural man) way to exist in the world, but it breeds misery.

Stephen R. Covey invited us to become inside-out people.  When we have an inside-out worldview, we worry much less about what other people should be doing and concentrate on what we should be doing.  He said, “Inside-out is a dramatic paradigm shift for most people, largely because of the powerful impact of social conditioning.”  We are more or less taught to look at things from the outside-in.  I know that I had a lie deeply imbedded in my consciousness that it was something on the outside that would make me happy.  But the truth is that happiness comes from the inside-out; problems are solved from the inside-out.

I’m not going to lie, an inside-out worldview requires a lot from us. It means that, as Dallin H. Oaks taught, we must not just act, we must also become. According to James Allen, “Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves.” People often hope to get by on personality alone without paying the price for solid personal character.  But, there is no escaping the truth that the development of our character is essential to our happiness.

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior emphasized the ultimate importance of what takes place inwardly, the thoughts of the mind and the desires of the heart.  Whereas the Law of Moses had forbidden the outward act of murder, the Savior invited us to guide our thoughts away from anger.  He showed that by inheritance we are thinking and feeling beings—agents to act and not objects to be acted upon.  Although others may seek to provoke our anger, we can choose our response.  While others may breed strife, we can direct our thoughts to diffuse contention, choose forgiveness and make peace.

 Whereas the Law of Moses had forbidden men from committing the physical act of adultery, the Savior invited us to guide our thoughts away from lust.  He placed greater significance upon the impure thoughts that produced the impure actions.  He said “blessed are the pure in heart,” which I have come to understand as those whose thoughts and desires are good and who are doing the right things for the right reasons.

Conversely, the Savior condemned the thoughts of the Pharisees.  He said, “Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.” The Pharisees pretended to love the law, but they thought only of power. Their thoughts were wrong no matter what their actions may have been. And according to Mahatma Ghandi’s words, we can never find happiness when our thoughts, words and actions are out of harmony with each other and with correct principles.

Some of us think that our thoughts are ours alone and can be concealed from the world. But James Allen said, “Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystalizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstances.”  This is consistent with the Savior’s assurance that “by their fruits ye shall know them.”  In time, our internal character will be evident to all who know us.I love the sentiment of George A. Smith, “I will be, when my life’s labor is complete, the sum of my thoughts.” I am coming to believe this more and more each day.  How I choose to think and what I choose to think about matters!

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.

What we think we become.


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