Ever wondered why you live your life in a certain way and not another?

Ever wondered why you live your life in a certain way and not another? Why you follow certain traditions and beliefs?
Why you have a specific attitude or mindset about everything from how to bring up children to what to serve for lunch on Sundays? To find out what shapes our beliefs, read on…

Growing up, I had very fixed ideas about most things. My life, my thoughts and my beliefs were neatly slotted into two precise compartments: black and white. In my mind, 25 was a good age to get married, women who smoked were ‘bad’, and Sunday lunch had to have two vegetables, one dal, rice, rotis and a salad. Although they might seem trivial, these ideas were so deeply ingrained in my mind, that anytime I encountered something contrary – a girlfriend who smoked or was invited to a friend’s house where Sunday lunch comprised spaghetti, soup and sandwiches, my inner voice cried out that it was wrong!

Looking back, I can hardly recognise that girl with her fixed thoughts and beliefs, so quick to object and fling judgement in the face of anything slightly different. Like with species from the birth of our planet, I too have evolved, adapted and changed. This has made me question what shapes our thoughts and beliefs and how we can transform ourselves to be in a state of constant evolution and growth. 

We are all born into a set of beliefs that are similar to those of our family. These are the ideas, patterns of behaviour, customs, values and attitudes that shape our thinking, our actions and our very being in the early years of our lives. As we grow older, our collective belief systems – those imbued to us by our family, culture and values – become more individualized, shaped and impacted by our experiences and perceptions. Experiences and perceptions are like a chicken and egg – it’s hard to tell which came first and they both feed off each other. For instance, if my experience of the above-mentioned Sunday lunch of spaghetti, soup and sandwiches is delicious, my perception of an ideal Sunday lunch is likely to change, and henceforth, I may be more open to new experiences. If on the other, stodgy sandwiches, bland soup and wilted spaghetti are on offer, my perception of a traditional Sunday lunch would be reinforced, and my experiences to stay confined to what I know, and hence limited. 

While this example may seem childish and silly, millions of such experiences, and our perceptions of them, influence our thoughts, which form the bedrock of our attitudes, our personality and what makes us unique, what makes us who we are.  So the key to changing ourselves, to growing and evolving lies in changing out thoughts. 

As I write this, we have spent exactly six months in lockdown. Our lives have been impacted in ways that we could have never conceived of, and our beliefs have been inverted to create a ‘new normal’. We are now living at a time when connections are being made and relationships strengthened over Zoom, and true love means staying a six-foot distance from our loved ones. Through the turmoil that the corona virus has generated in our lives, there are those who have not only survived; they have thrived.

These are individuals who have made a conscious decision to change their perceptions, their experiences, their attitudes, and at the root of it all, their thoughts about the lockdown. Many have discovered new passions, others have formed new bonds or bolstered old ones. Rather than grieving over lost experiences, they have changed their thoughts to ones of abundance, embraced the new reality and gone on to create new, sometimes better experiences. 

All of humanity has been tested, and who knows what the future holds for us? In the midst of this uncertainty, here’s what we know for sure: happiness and contentment are choices that we choose to make every day. These choices lie in the way we think. Every day, we can get up and ‘think’ happy or ‘think’ despair. The choice is yours. What are you going to ‘think’ today?  

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