The idea is to improve on a daily basis. And that’s it. There’s really no secret here. Short, sweet and simple. We want to be better, think better and feel better. We want our life to work out. We want to honor our thoughts, our wants and our needs. Most of all, we want to improve the quality of our life. But first, we have to improve the quality of our thinking. Right?
There was a store along a busy route in Northern New Jersey where they sold different camping equipment. Inside, they sold different tents, camping items and different gadgets to cook with and store food.
There were two items that were similar in features; however, the price was very different. I know this because I was close enough to hear the person ask, “Why is this item so much less than this item?”
The salesperson on the floor was slightly odd and perhaps socially awkward. His people skills were in need of improvement. He was young and maybe around the age of a senior in high school. Then again, in all fairness, I have never been good at guessing someone’s age.
The salesperson’s hair was unkempt. Their shirt was slovenly tucked or partially tucked in a pair of pants that appeared to be raggedy and unfit.
The young salesperson answered back, almost begrudgingly, and he made a face as if the question was so unbelievably stupid or uncalled for, “I don’t know, why is a Bentley more expensive than a Honda?”
The buyer who was within earshot of me answered back with a tone that was not appreciative of the salesperson’s attitude.
“I know exactly why the price is different.”
“I know where the differences are in the parts and the quality.”
The young salesperson walked away without explaining anything else. The customer looked at me, shrugged their shoulders and commented, “What great customer service they have here.”
Then the customer placed the items back on the shelf and left the store.
On the way out, I heard this person talking about what just happened. Maybe the customer was looking forward to an upcoming camping trip. Maybe the customer was excited to make a purchase of new camping gear to add to their collection.
One could even say the customer was imagining themselves at the campsite and picturing the campfire. And what happened?
Along came a clunky, disheveled salesperson who was either unhappy or uncomfortable; but either way, the salesperson’s intrusion affected the quality of the customer’s thinking.
On a smaller scale, it was almost as if there was a robbery or a theft of emotion. In which case, a young salesperson’s unhappiness swiped the visible excitement of a person who was excited for an upcoming trip.
Ah, words . . .
Their ability is amazing.
What amazing things words can do. Words can make you smile. Words can make you think. Words can spin the thought machine in a sweet tune.
Or, words can change the beat of a day.
Words can change the quality of our thoughts.
Words can lead to resentment.
Words can spark an argument in our head.
Or better yet, words can leave more damage than any scar or bruise and words can cut deeper than any bandage can cover or stitches can heal.
It is our attachment to words that makes a difference. It’s the way we process words in our thought machine that affects us most.
Years back, I was living a life that simply did not belong to me. The people I was surrounded by were not my kind of people. I did not agree with them. On most days, I did not even like them; yet, they were always around me.
I would invest in what they would say. I would allow myself to own their thoughts and their opinions, which I literally detested. Yet, I would take this personally.
I would allow the same theft that took place at the camping store. Instead of allowing my thoughts or my views of “Self” to be a priority or rather than allow me to be the priority, I allowed what someone else thought to be more important than what I thought.
I was asked about this by a professional.
I was asked why I let this get to me so deeply.
“Why did you care so much about what other people said or did?”
“If there was a person on the street who was talking to themselves and they were clearly disturbed and when you passed them they called you a name, would you be offended?”
I answered, “No, of course not.”
“Because that person is sick or has a problem that has nothing to do with me.”
Then I was told, “Maybe. Maybe not.”
(See, a person with a challenge might not understand the difference between right or wrong or fair or unfair. The people in our life or the so-called healthy or so-called normal people in our life are not held to this standard.)
I was told, “That person in the street who you said was sick . . . I can tell you that as sick as that person is, they’re still healthier than the people in your life.”
If the quality of our thinking is subject to the health and benefits of our surroundings, then perhaps social distancing takes on a new appeal.
In order to improve the quality of my thinking, I improved the quality of my relationships as well as the quality of the people in my surroundings. Put simply, I slid my chair back, stood up from the table where I didn’t belong anymore, pushed my chair back in politely and then I turned around and walked away.
I learned to stop investing in other people’s thoughts or opinions. First and foremost, I came to the understanding that opinions and thoughts are not facts.
I do not have to own or adapt to ideas that I do not like or disagree with.
And as for the best advice:
I was told never to invest in anyone’s opinion that does not push me to improve or better my life. I was also told not to listen to people who do not encourage or empower me. I’ve heard this several times throughout my life but when the student was ready, the teachers appeared.
How often do we invest in what people say or do?
How often do we allow the importance of what someone says or does to steal away our presence of self?
Or, like the customer in the camping store, how many times do we allow the acts or behavior of other people to intercept our happiness or ruin the excitement of a good time.
Now, of course, there are people who say, “I don’t care what anyone says!”
Then again, most people are not open about the internal conversations they have about reliving old arguments that happened a long time ago. Or, wait….no.
What about the expectation of a confrontation or a conversation that might happen. Meanwhile, as we talk this up in our head, we start to pump the thought machine and the gears are ready for war.
In the meantime, we argue and we rehearse the different responses in our mind as if the argument is about to happen. We plan and we strategize. Meanwhile, none of this improves the quality of our thinking.
Quite oppositely, this opens the old wounds of unresolved tensions. Or, this trips the switches to the landmines in our head and the thought machine explodes. So, rather than run smoothly, we just introduced a problem to the gears. This means that the little person in our central control room (AKA our brain) is under distress and has to wait for someone from the internal IT department to fix the glitches that went out of control.
The goal: Improve the quality of our thinking.
The result: Improve our life and the health of our thought machine.