Lao Tzu is often the most credited with one of the most functionally profound quotes we know of. Of course, as with many quotes, the original speaker might not be him who is given the title of its authorship, but often he who states the quote is secondary to the quote itself. To that, ‘Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything,’ stands on its own two feet.
But how are you supposed to even begin applying this functional need to ‘watch your thoughts’ in the first place? Is that even possible? How can we translate this into action, or pause when we see something about ourselves that we dislike? Are we pre-determined to act as our personalities and circumstances allow, or can we take direct charge to change our destiny and begin to live as the person we would most like to be?
Let us distill this very important consideration, and try to better our outlook. With the following efforts, we may achieve this well.
Consider Your Habits
Most of the time, we are not governed by new perspectives that influence our behavior. We don’t have to decide that getting dressed in the morning is a good idea, we know that, and to a certain extent, it becomes ingrained within us. If we had to renew our conscious direction each and every day, things would become quite tiring. It’s why you can follow your regular route to work without so much as a hesitation, but when taking another path you might feel the journey takes longer, even if it doesn’t.
So we know how habit works. But as we have discussed, the convenience in which we experience them can often lead us to focus on our path in a different light. Considering your habits can help you become much more aware and focused on your needs, and to that end give you the tools to see things you might not have. For example, it might be that you have a habit of drinking too much at the weekends. You let the ‘party’ and ‘weekend celebration’ get to you, and you never seem to be able to turn down that drink offered to you. It might be that because your friends also do this, you haven’t considered this out of the norm.
However, norms have been set. Sometimes, considering why you progress down a certain path without thinking about it can help you subvert your path. Perhaps the first thing you do in your free time is sitting at your computer and play video games. Then you wonder why you have little to show for your free time, and seemingly enjoy little productivity each and every day. This is because you have a habit dragging you down, even if it started off well and with good intentions. Considering your habits not only helps you approach your daily schedule with much more maturity, but helps you shake off the cobwebs that might be bringing you down.
Consider Your Social Circle
There’s a sentiment often echoed which suggests you are the sum total of your five closest friends and family members. To a certain extent, this can be truly understood as logical. Even if you’re a fiercely independent person, you simply cannot help being affected by those around you. This is because of their thoughts, expressed, will be absorbed by you. You will do the same to the people around you also. The effect is tenfold when you actually respect and appreciate the person to whom you’re connected.
However, just as this can lead to a supportive, encouraging and worthwhile sentiment, the opposite can also be true. Negative social circles can come in many shapes and sizes. When we think of ‘hanging around with the wrong crowd,’ we often think about the stereotypical image of dropouts and addicts all in-and-out of prison. This is not likely to be your friendship group, but if it is, it’s quite obvious you’re not hanging in the right circles. However, a negative social group can be much more subtle.
It might be that you notice when striving to become more, that your friends are seemingly more content to keep you down, rather than to encourage you. They might all think the world owes them something, that trying is stupid, and that they have no prospects. These people can be like a wet blanket on your shoulders, weighing you down without you even realizing it. For example, your drinking buddies might respond this way when you start wishing to cut down. You might be trying to lose weight, only to have your enabler friends and family members (at a similar size) subtly try to discourage you. It’s not uncommon for people to be threatened by a renewed love for life you might be developing – and the worst part is that they might not even realize they’re behaving in this toxic manner.
To that extent, consider how you feel around your friends and family. It might be that you wish to spend more time with some, less time with others. Consider who really has your best interests at heart. If you can do this, you’re sure to watch your thoughts more appropriately.
Level With Yourself
As much as our personalities can be driven by other people, external circumstances, strange happenstances, and emotional directives, we all know when we’re acting in a manner we do not approve of. We can feel it within ourselves. It’s usually a less-intense version of the personal disapproval we feel when using underhanded tactics to win an argument.
Do nothing that leaves you losing respect for yourself. This can be hard to focus on, but nothing in this article will work unless you’re able to level with yourself and be one hundred percent honest, to look in the mirror and see no enemy.
Let us end this sentiment with perhaps one of the best poems to be found here, penned by Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr:
|“When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass. “
With this advice, and this ability to reflect on yourself, you’ll be sure to make Lao Tzu’s original quote proud.