Tebow, MJ, and thoughts about thoughts

Written by: Amy Dalke

Maybe if Denver had not have gotten rid of Tim Tebow, they would have fared better last night. You know, God’s judgment is fierce and all.

(Please don’t think that is a serious statement.)

Speaking of Tebow, his T-Mobile commercial was awesome. I love when people can make fun of themselves. (This is true.)

As long as I am talking about Super Bowl commercials, my favorite one is a McDonald’s ad, where Michael Jordan and Larry Bird have a shooting contest for a Big Mac.

There was a time in my life that I was more than a little obsessed with Michael Jordan. He was my big time hero, until  he retired (the second time). Let me confirm right now that this was not some kind of childhood crush situation. Nothing of the sort. I admired him because he was the consummate competitor, the best-ever basketball player, and we shared a love for Gatorade. (On second thought, maybe I started drinking Gatorade because of his commercials.)

My parents probably had a few off-camera conversations (like the ones on the Office or Modern Family), where they talked in concerned tones about my fervent obsession with MJ. If they didn’t, maybe they should have, because this was probably a good sign that I had a tendency to obsess.

Which is why I have to be hyper-vigilant and discerning about what I think about, and about what I allow to set up space in my head.

Do you ever stop to think about what you’re thinking about? (Hopefully it is not Michael Jordan.) (Because I might worry about you…given that he’s kind of old news these days.)

My point (and I do have one) is not about MJ…or OCD…or even the NBA, for that matter. (And all of you whisper a silent prayer of thanks.)

Research indicates that the average person thinks approximately 50,000 thoughts per day. If you are not managing your thoughts, i.e., regularly monitoring what your wandering mind is focused on, then you are leaving 50,000 per day up for grabs.

If I allow my mind to drift aimlessly, then I could potentially stew on 50,000 thoughts every single day, and 350,000 each week, that take me in a direction I don’t want to go.

Whether our thoughts are positive or negative, whatever we dwell upon becomes BIG in our minds. Given that most of today’s thoughts are reruns from yesterday’s, it is worth our while to do a routine thought check.

So…what do you think about?

Is your mind filled with worry?

Are you dwelling on hurt feelings?

Are you soaking your mind in a pit of unforgiveness? (That doesn’t work, by the way. I have found that my original anger only grows more impassioned, the longer I think of how I was wronged, and how I will get even.)

Do you constantly fuel self-defeating attitudes by rehearsing self-defeating thoughts?

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

 Another version says it this way: Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.”

The Hebrew word guard in this verse is tereo, which means to keep the eye upon, to attend to attentively. This verse essentially means that we are to watch our thoughts, as though we were continually observing something precious that we did not want to lose.

We guard our hearts like this, because the heart is the center of our thoughts and feelings—out of which our behavior/conduct comes. We literally are what we think; our character is the sum of all our thoughts.

There is no neutral zone in your mind: minute by minute, we are either constructing thoughts of good or thoughts that are not-so-good. We are either thinking thoughts that will bring us joy, or thoughts that sink us further into depression. We are thinking either thoughts of success, or thoughts of failure.

Thank God we can choose what we think about! We don’t have to let our minds run willy-nilly on autopilot. In fact, that likely hasn’t worked all that well for you. (It doesn’t for me.)

In Philippians 4:8, Paul encourages us to think about “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—or excellent or praiseworthy.” When we take Paul literally, this verse serves to guide us on path that gets our joyless, critical, insecure-style thinking under control.

Ms. O is my very best prayer partner friend, and in October, 2012, I twisted her arm to go through a book with me, called 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, written by Tommy Newberry. I typically scoff when people write books claiming that money, weight loss, or beauty of any kind is guaranteed within a certain number of days. However, this one looked legitimately worthwhile.

I am glad I did not let my skepticism keep me from this book.

It was a life-changer.

Not because it was magic. Certainly not because I followed its message perfectly. (As if.)

It was life-changing because I actually started to do what it said. I bought into the principles it taught. (which are biblical, lest anyone think I fell for some New-Age-Positive-Prosperity-Mind-Tricks.)

I did  the daily homework. (Those of you who fear Books With Homework, don’t despair. It took me less than 10 minutes per day.)

Drill pic_2

At the end of the 40 days, I didn’t want it to be over.

In the eighteen months since that study (give or take a month or two where I got lazy), I have maintained the practice of purposefully determining what I think about. I decided that I would begin to set my mind on the right course before my feet hit the floor in the morning. I force myself to say (out loud) eight positive, true statements, before I even have my coffee.

And yes, sometimes when I do this, I feel like Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DIETlxquzY

It has also become an ingratiated part of my morning routine to quote memory verses as I get ready for the day. Dressing my mind in the appropriate attire is more critical to me than fashion. (And believe me…that is saying A. Lot.)

There are days when I get off course at the first sign of Anything That Might Be Irritating. Out the window goes all those positive things I just rehearsed.

That is a thing, you know. A failure of the short-term memory circuit.

The process is not fool-proof. The morning can move along beautifully until I choose to press pause on the true and pure thoughts…just long enough to react insanely to a less than amazing attitude from the 8 year old.

Those are the days I really have to switch the gears before I get into the office. The last thing I want is to spew the results of “mom-fail” thoughts all over my co-workers. I’m sure they would also prefer to avoid that.

You may be thinking I am a bit cracked up or delirious for talking to myself. I get that.

Truth is, I would be even more unhinged if I didn’t.

When you have a mind like I did – one that consistently quotes your worthlessness, and cycles on a performance-based value setting – then you do whatever it takes to turn it around. I only regret that I lived unaware of this principle for so many years.

Since our lives are determined by the direction of our thoughts, I think it’s a good idea for all of us to think about what we’re thinking about. If you see any negative trends, you might need to spend some time re-wiring.

If you need some help getting into a thought-managing habit, you can download the first three chapters of 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life here: 

Think 4:8

…and finally, it would not be complete if I did not end with this:

SNL clip: MJ with Stuart Smalley

(You’re welcome.)

In the meantime, if you happen to see me driving, and it looks like I am talking to myself…I probably am. Although sometimes I hope people assume I’m just using bluetooth to talk on the phone.