Somehow, someone decided to figure out a way to count how many thoughts a person had in a day. After that, a bunch of people like me started spouting the numbers that had been reported; and some of us had some pretty wild theories to tack onto those numbers.
Want to hear mine?
First, let’s start with the numbers. You probably already know that the average person thinks between fifty thousand and sixty thousand thoughts a day. It’s pretty mind-blowing, when you think about it…but don’t think about it too long…you’ve got thousands more thoughts to think today! Perhaps tens of thousands, depending on when you’re reading this. It kind of hurts my brain, just thinking about it.
That’s what we’re here for, after all.
We can have a little more fun with numbers. I’ll do the math, and you can forgive me if it’s a little off. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, but we aren’t generally awake for all of them. Let’s pretend that everyone is getting a healthy eight hours of sleep, and cut that by a third. Well, what do you know? There are 57,600 seconds in a day of sixteen hour wakefulness. That averages out to a thought every second, just about!
It’s a wonder we get anything done, with monkey minds that like to move like quicksilver from one thought to the next. Studies show that the average attention span is getting shorter and shorter in America…and I think we may have found the culprit. A second is not nearly enough time to deeply consider much of anything, but our minds are designed to look for something else to think about anyway.
Once you’ve gotten over being alarmed about that, get this: 95% of the thoughts we think are the same thoughts we thought yesterday. You probably knew that already too, but that doesn’t mean it can’t blow your busy mind all over again. Give it a second, at least.
I can’t help but wonder what the point is, in having a mind that thinks so many thoughts but doesn’t come up with much original material. I don’t wonder from a ‘what’s the point of life’ perspective, though; I wonder how I can make this tool that is my mind serve me and others best. It seems an awful lot like programming, to me…and since those thoughts are obviously not screaming across the conscious awareness that I call me, it also seems an awful lot like subliminal programming.
It’s hard to find a book about changing any aspect of your life that doesn’t address programming in some way. However it gets worded, it is more evident than ever that our subconscious minds have a blueprint that more or less dictates the way our conscious lives play out. It’s the getting at that blueprint that many of us have trouble with, and drawing up a new one. Since time immemorial, there have been methods of hacking the mind that have yielded a wide range of results.
Some have said that the most brilliant minds are the most quiet ones, and I’m not here to disagree. After years of practice in quieting my own mind, I have found that my most brilliant moments come when I get out of my own way. Somehow, the best of what I do seems to come from somewhere other than my thinking mind; rather than let it chatter incessantly, I try to listen to those transmissions pretty often.
Despite those efforts, the thoughts persist. That’s the nature of programming, after all. Rather than try to ignore them, or pretend they aren’t there, I do what I can to replace the thoughts that hold me back with thoughts that will propel me forward.
Which leads us to my theory.
If most of us think 95% of the same thoughts today that we did yesterday, that means that 5% of our thoughts are thoughts we did not think yesterday. It doesn’t mean they’re thoughts we’ve never had before, just thoughts we didn’t think yesterday. They may be recycled bits of memory matter, floating to the surface to sink once more into the subconscious for another week or month or year…like that song you haven’t thought of in years that you suddenly can’t get out of your head, or some childhood scene that is now but a memory of a memory…but they might also be new information, and new information can lead to a new way of thinking if you can collect enough of it.
We might deliberately think that new daily 5% of our thoughts, and we might also make sure that we think them hard enough that they come back the next day. Then, while we’re working on a new 5% the next day, that new 5% from the day before is now part of the ‘old’ 95%. If we can keep the practice up, a little simple math paired with that great mental effort tells us that we can change our thoughts entirely in just twenty days. We all know that studies show that it takes about twenty-one days to fully form or break a habit.
Coincidence? I think not.
Have you ever had an incident that really took over your thinking, when it happened? Life changes can do that, whether it’s the rush of meeting someone new or the shock of losing someone we love or traveling somewhere we have never been. It’s weird how the mind can suddenly shift, and focus on something even when we don’t want it to. New thoughts are not always welcome, but that doesn’t mean they don’t stay. It only takes a day for them to move from that new 5% to the old 95%, but it can take months or years to replace them with thoughts of our own choosing.
I’ve had that happen, too; plenty of times. I used to change up my routine pretty regularly, to try and change up my thoughts along with it. This was not the most effective way to go about it, in my experience; and I have to admit that my theory remains a theory. Even if I manage to make every thought in my head exactly the kind of thought that I would like to have, it will be the result of years of practice. As much as I may like to think I’m headed in that direction, it’s safe to say I still have a long way to go. I certainly won’t claim that I did it in twenty-one days, if I ever do something so silly as to announce I have it all figured out.
It’s still a nice theory, though.
By the same token, I like to take into consideration the fact that some people really excel in a way that makes them look like they truly hold the reins to their mind. Sometimes it’s easier to look at people that have accomplished things we haven’t and criticize the way they go about their business instead of admiring them for whatever qualities got them where they are. Most of the people who feel comfortable looking down on leaders of nations and industries would crumble under the pressure of those positions, and would still have no idea what it takes to get there in the first place.
The fact of the matter is that the people who live life on the sidelines are given the same amount of time each day to make something of themselves as everyone else. Although they may live in fear that the same type of criticism they point towards others would be leveled at them if they had any notable responsibility, they’ll never have the chance to face that fear like the person who steps up and chases that opportunity. We can argue that some people start out life with more advantages than others, but we can’t ignore the people who start with nothing and end up on top somehow.
These people use their time differently than the rest of us, and watching them closely to see what they are doing right might benefit us more as individuals than watching them to see what we think they are doing wrong from that spectator’s point of view. Sometimes it blows my mind a little, when I think of my heroes and even people I don’t admire who have done things I haven’t but that I might aspire to. One restraint definitely applies to all of us, and these folks seem to do an awful lot within those boundaries. I mean…
‘Everyone’s day is twenty-four hours’!
We’ll talk about it next week, in a post by that name.
I hope you come back for it!
Thanks for reading!
All the best,