Friday, March 18, 2011

New Thought Patterns

Breaking established thought patterns is like getting out of a groove. The mind goes thru habits built over years of repeated action. Habits become grooves in the fabric of thought like a well-traveled road. So breaking habits is hard to do as the old song goes. Habits in the mind are also established modes of perception or modes of cognition. So breaking old thought patterns is like changing one’s perceptions or thinking or cognitive style. Even with the realization that the thought pattern is wrong does not stop the action from being done because it’s already a mental habit. It’s like leaving a highway to travel thru an unknown dirt road. If one changes his habits, the dirt road soon becomes a well traveled route and soon cement, asphalt and gravel will pave the way until it becomes a new established road. Hence, finding or getting a new groove is the common expression.

Thoughts once created in the mind cannot be removed. If the thought challenges an established idea, one either discards the idea or accepts new truths. Accepting new truths is difficult because it requires a transformation. If one equates oneself to ones thoughts, then it becomes personal. It feels like a challenge to oneself. So transformation is difficult until one realizes that one is not one’s thoughts. The thinking mind is not the ‘self’ but some inner ability or skill that can be changed. A skill that is similar to roller skating or public speaking or learning French where one can adapt. When I tried roller skating or public speaking, it involved moving out of one’s comfort zone. It was difficult and felt awkward but perseverance allowed one to master and be competent in this new skills. Unfortunately, roller skating resulted in a broken wrist that required surgery. But that’s another story.

Learning French was a good experience until one reaches the advance level and all thoughts become mental gibberish. A recent New York Times article spoke about memorization. There is an old technique that anyone can master. It involves mnemonic techniques or something like creating a picture palace in one’s mind. The writer became a mental champion after mastering these techniques. There are three levels that one needs to traverse. The first is to understand and practice the new skill; the second is reaching a plateau where further development does not seem possible, and finally, surpassing that plateau and reaching a new level of expertise. I think one is able to achieve that expertise or at least a high level of competence in public speaking or roller skating (despite the broken wrist). But the French language is another thing and one needs to discover a different strategy to reach a higher level.

Breaking out of wrong thought patterns can be liberating; for example, losing one’s prejudice and bias. It brings one to another level of existence or freedom. The common theme in the New World is starting a new life; in some new state or new job. It is the story of re-invention, for example, where one can have different careers in one’s life as one ages or develops. Learning new skills and new thought patterns may not be consistent with the recent trend to focus on one’s strengths. But sometimes learning new skills or thinking styles maybe an act of re-discovering one’s true strengths. Or perhaps re-aligning attention to ones strengths after years of neglect. Hopefully, one’s old thinking patterns will not be an existing strength that would prevent one from changing. For example, Tiger Woods changing his already formidable golf swing to something even better.

One cannot easily change one’s habits even if one realizes that it’s wrong. For example, those folks who cannot seem to eat healthy food or exercise more or stop smoking. It is an act of will or discipline, perhaps to prevent the mind from being distracted. Unconsciously, one cannot break out of the groove as it’s a conscious action. Being a creative writer requires one to get out of the mental groove of being a journal writer or diarist. It’s a mental shift that requires having the new groove of the creative writer. The new groove requires practicing the craft of writing; with writing exercises, workshops and sharing one’s work and get feedback. A new thought pattern needs to be created; perhaps one that can utilize one’s exiting grooves for more efficiency. Perhaps like taking one road if there is traffic or taking the highway for another reason. But getting to the same destination is the goal.

Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the description of insanity. So doing the same thing like borrowing more books, magazines, DVDs, music CDs and planning trips while expecting to finish a book is insanity. Efforts to attend writing workshops is a good start to create a new groove but continuing to fill one’s time with these useless activities will not get anything done. Hence, creating new grooves (or thought patters) may not be an issue as one consciously is learning new skills. It’s a question of focus and avoiding distractions. Discipline and force of will is needed to break this frivolous habit (or old groove). So the challenge is to learn new skills, create new thought patterns and clear time to start work. Time is the commodity that is being wasted if one does not devote one’s energies to achieving the main goal. It is wasted in frivolous activities like reading useless books and watching movies.

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