Personal Development and the Curse of Useless Thought

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I'm writing this article on a Friday morning. A couple of years back, I did a breakfast seminar - a short discussion on effective personal development - for a large organization in Dublin. Early on in my presentation, I mentioned that fact that I was greeted at the door by a particularly good-humoured doorman and that when I'd mentioned to him that he was in fine form, he replied "Sure, isn't it Friday!" As a throwaway remark to my audience I asked "Would he be a grumpy old man if I arrived here Monday morning?" - and everyone shouted "Yes - he would!"

Each day of the week is a day to be lived, to be savoured, to be taken on its own merits. Unfortunately, however, our normal minds interpret what's going on through a fog of completely useless thought. In fact, it's worse than useless, it is downright destructive because it prevents us from doing our very best today - whatever day of the week it happens to be - from being at our most effective, most productive and most alert to the inevitable opportunities that life holds for us today. Inevitable? Opportunities? Yes, they're all around you, but the normal person can't see them as a result of that fog I just mentioned.

Research indicates that we're bombarded by somewhere in the region of fifty thousand random thoughts every single day. Research also indicates that we're more likely, as normal adults, to dwell on negative than positive thoughts that flit through our head. The important thing is that a thought is a nothing until we dwell on it and, once we dwell on a thought, we end up dwelling in it because our useless thoughts wreak havoc in our lives. They lead us to believe that we're inadequate, that we're shy, or stupid, inept or bored, stressed or depressed. Yes, there is a long, long list of conditions that we believe we find ourselves in that are nothing more than the product of us, ourselves, of our own free will, dwelling on some niggling useless thought that gets stuck in our head.

Thought is the root of all evil. I'm not talking about the intellectual operations that we perform every day as experts in our field - whether that's driving a tractor (quite literally in our field!), analyzing a set of financial
accounts, preparing the family dinner or performing brain surgery. We need our well-trained finely honed intellectual faculties to perform all the key tasks that we do each day. But research indicates that when we use these intellectual faculties we are only using the very tip of our mental iceberg and that, in fact, the greater part of our mind, our subconscious mind, is engaged in altogether more destructive activities.

Where do you think these useless thoughts of inadequacy or self-loathing come from? They don't wander in on this morning's breeze, they don't simply crop up like the random numbers on a slot machine - they drift up from the depths of our subconscious mind that was programmed by the subtle but constant conditioning of our formative years - when we literally learned our beliefs about the world and, most importantly, about ourselves. These are the truly useless thoughts - toxic and destructive they reduce the normal life to one of mindless existence because they prey on the most powerful part of your mind.

Back to where we started this article - it doesn't matter what day of the week it is, your best bet is to live it to
the full. It doesn't matter who you think you are, your best bet is to be all that you truly can be. It doesn't
matter how inadequate, bored, stupid, shy, incompetent, ugly, stressed, depressed, inept, unassertive, bullied, overworked or distracted you think you are - these are thoughts, they are not reality - and these thoughts are sapping you dry of your vital energy. If you don't like your job, it's because you think you don't like it. Years of research at the Universities of Chicago and Milan have proved that liking or disliking your job is down to state of mind. If you think you're stupid you can bet your bottom dollar that it's because you were told that you were stupid when you were young and impressionable and you've held that thought - there's lots of research on this one and I, in my work, come across the "I am stupid" syndrome again and again.

My point is that you've got to stop thinking and start living - living the moment to the full, unobsessed (if that's a word) with the thoughts that are dragging you down. These noises in your head will never go away - but you, as a responsible adult, can decide to simply ignore them. And, indeed, nothing could be simpler. To ignore your useless thoughts you deliberately direct your attention to what your five senses are telling you about the here and now. Don't bother trying to interpret what your senses are telling you because your useless thoughts will turn a great job into a boring one, they'll turn another wonderful day into a Monday! Just focus on what you're experiencing.

Obviously, you don't try this "new mental approach" when all hell is breaking loose around you. You've got to ease yourself into what will become your new-found state of mindfulness. I would suggest that you take a few minutes, each morning, before the day (and all its cares) really gets going. Sit somewhere quiet and simply see, feel, hear, smell and taste - the coffee cup in your hand and the steam rising off it, the feel of your clothing against your skin, the singing of the birds or the hum of the traffic, the aroma of the coffee drifting up your nostrils, and the bitter taste of the coffee in your mouth. Your thoughts will do their very
best to distract you - but you decide (because you can) to see, feel, hear, smell and taste - it will make your world a better place.

About the Author:

Willie Horton, an Irish ex-accountant and ex-banker, has worked as a mentor to Fortune 500 business leaders and sports people since 1996. He lives in the French Alps from where his free weekly Personal Development Video Seminars are emailed to thousands of people worldwide. His Online Personal Development Self Help Workshops "Change Your Life" and "No More Stress" can be found at:

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