Some time ago, I read a report that gave me a lot to think about. It confirmed that humans have between 60 thousand and 70 thousand thoughts per day and that 90% are the exact same as the previous day.
Thus, either we become aware of our thoughts and willingly modify them, or we will continue ‘pedalling on the hamster wheel’ forever since repeating the same thoughts over and over again keeps us in an endless loop, its prototypical structure being:
- we have a thought that generates a choice,
- the choice generates a behaviour,
- the behaviour generates an experience,
- the experience generates an emotion,
- the emotion, at the same time, generates that same thought.
And back to where we started… there we are, in our loop, in a kind of mental rumination.
An aspect that reinforces this inexhaustible cycle is that we tend to surround ourselves with people who have a similar way of thinking to ours. This fact causes a feedback process. That is, if my thoughts coincide with what my environment thinks, I reconfirm my beliefs and continue to maintain that same thought and that same environment.
In addition, to reinforce the described mechanism, we have an extremely powerful ally: social networks. Supported by selective algorithms, they give us more and more content than those we usually consume, newly reinforcing my convictions. And if that wasn’t enough, they are tremendously addictive, generating a momentary feeling of well-being by stimulating our dopamine every time we receive a like.
Like that, we are submerged in a well-woven knot, from which it is difficult to escape from. A mechanism that confuses us and leads us to think that our circumstances are real and universal. A veil that atrophies our critical capacity and does not allow the expression of our full potential.
And the mandatory question: Is there a way out of this labyrinth?
Surely there is a way. To do so, I suggest paying attention to three distinct aspects:
1. Become aware of this process.
Taking a step back and looking at it as mere observers helps. Choose a thought, tie it well and analyse how it starts deriving into behaviour, into emotion… Once examined, it is time to modify the emotion. This way, we will create a different thought, and a new possibility out of the loop will have appeared.
2. Dive into an environment outside of the comfort zone.
It is good practice to come in contact with people with a different way of thinking to ours. It’s about observing your reality, about empathising with their paradigm, about measuring differences. An indispensable requirement is to do it without judging.
From a rational point of view, we know that there are other realities different to our own, but we need to experiment them in order to generate a new emotion and thus engender a new thought. This way, we will start breaking our usual repetition sequence.
3. Decrease online consumption.
If the two previous points are demanding, this one, without a doubt, is complicated to carry out. To a greater or lesser extent, we have a social network addiction. Being informed, knowing that others are making friends and acquaintances or nurturing the feeling of being part of a community has become an almost imperative necessity in our lives.
But to break the loop we have discussed, to facilitate critical thinking that questions our own behaviours and emotions, and therefore be able to modify them, we need a certain disconnection from social networks, as they silently induce us to linear thinking. Think about it as if it was a detox diet, but on this occasion, for the mind.
Our professional environment, our personal environment is full of loops. Some satisfy us, but others stagnate us and make it difficult for us to achieve our goals and enjoy a fuller life.
The reality, our reality, is something ductile and moldable. By understanding its configuration parameters, we have access to the key to change. As Stephen Crane said, ‘he who can change his thoughts can also change his destiny’.