A Mental Exercise That Proves Your Mind Has A Mind Of Its Own

Most people feel that they have total control over their thinking. They believe that they can think whatever they want to think.

I believe that is not entirely true. And I'll give you a fun experiment to run to prove my point, and then I'll talk about how this relates to emotions about money.

Ok so here is the experiment.

1) What you're going to do is close your eyes and set the intention to not think about anything. Don't have any thoughts during this period.

2) Set a timer for 2 minutes so that after 2 minutes of having no thoughts, you can come back to this page.

3) If a thought somehow comes up before the 2 minutes are up, then make note of the thought and stop the experiment.

Ready, go!

Ok if the experiment is done, start reading right here.

What happened for you? Did even a single thought enter your mind during that 2-minute period? Or was it complete stillness and silence in your mind the entire time?

Speaking for myself personally, I can say that the first time I did this experiment, a thought entered my mind about 10 seconds in. It was about a tv show I knew I would be watching that night.

I've had others do this experiment too. There has never been a case where the person got even remotely close to the 2-minute mark without a thought. One person I tried it with, though, did have trouble even recognizing whether they were having a thought or not.

The big conclusion here: the huge majority of people who do this test cannot go two minutes without a thought.

If you're feeling like, "Ohhh, I get it now, and now that I understand I want to try again," then go right ahead and try the experiment again.

And you'll see that it's incredibly difficult to go 2 minutes without a single thought.

How could that be? That even if you set a very clear intention to stop thinking for 2 minutes, thoughts keep coming anyway. Where are these thoughts coming from if you didn't choose to "think them"?

The answer is that our minds have a mind of their own! It's just how our brains work.

Our mind is kind of constantly looking to feed us thoughts that will engage us.

Take the example I gave about how the first time I did this experiment, I thought about a tv show. I didn't enter the experiment saying, "I want to think about Frasier while I do this experiment."

Just all of the sudden, really without me even realizing what had happened, my mind started thinking about it in the middle of the experiment. And I didn't even notice it at first. It's like after I thought about it for a bit, then I realized, "Oh my gosh, I've just been thinking like crazy!"

Essentially what happened is my mind fired a thought down the airwaves, and when that thought hit my awareness, I ran with it (likely because I got some sort of pleasure thinking about it).

It's pretty crazy! It was mind-bending to me when I first realized this.

How does this relate to emotions about money?

Well although we may not have total control over what thoughts pop into our heads, we do have a choice about how we respond to those thoughts. Once we notice a thought, we can, for example, choose to disengage from it and re-focus our awareness on whatever else we feel like.

For example, when Frasier hit my mind that day, I had the choice to disengage from that thought and re-focus my awareness on "not thinking" haha.

Here's how that applies to money. Let's say that you just found out there is a bill that came in and the amount of the bill is much higher than you hoped for.

A thought might immediately pop into your head about how you had been working so hard to save money and now this bill is going to wipe out all the hard work you did.

And then after the thought maybe you feel anger.

A healthy thing to do at this point would be to disengage from the thought and to sit with that emotion and give it space. You can do this if you have awareness of the thought pattern and you make a choice to disengage.

But if you let your mind continue down the rabbit hole of thoughts, it can lead to thoughts like:

"If saving money is all for nothing, maybe I won't save anymore."

"If I don't save anymore, I won't have anything for retirement."

"If I don't have anything for retirement, I might live on the streets in old age."

"If I live on the streets in old age, then I'll die alone."

And then at that point, you're no longer feeling just angry. You'll feeling despair. Or maybe you're in an all-out panic.

The bottom line here is that you can choose how to respond to your thoughts. Do you want to ruminate endlessly about that unexpected bill? Or you want to notice the emotion, allow the emotion, and then identify whether there are any constructive courses of action that need to be taken.

For me personally, I've practiced this so much that at this point I know what my mind will try to do in certain situations.

Like when I take some losses on stock market trades, I might notice that I'm feeling agitated. And then immediately for me, it's like, "Ah ok I know what's happening. I'm feeling some anger because a part of me is scared what will happen if I lose money."

When you've noticed your mind's actions enough times, you start to get really familiar with them. And it can become easier to choose how to respond to familiar thought patterns.

If nothing else, I hope that experiment helped open your eyes to the fact that we don't always control our thoughts. What thought patterns has your mind been pushing on you? Do you like those thought patterns and their corresponding emotions, or do you want to choose a different way to respond to those thoughts?

If you have any questions or feedback, I'd love to hear from you.

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