I’ve been in the self-improvement field for quite some time now. It started off as a personal experiment to heal my own anxiety, reading lots of advice from others, trying things, then sticking with what worked.
After seeing immense improvement, I became a believer. Now I share the information I’ve learned as well as some new concepts of my own.
Over the years I’ve stumbled across many different ideas, but the following is one that completely changed how I viewed the world:
Your thoughts don’t define you, your actions do.
Human beings, up until around the middle school years, are blessed with the power of naivety. Your mind is still maturing and growing, and you haven’t lived on this Earth long enough to experience information overload.
Think about typical kids. Most run around having a grand-old time. Their lives are simple and one-dimensional. They do things they enjoy, and they hang out with others who enjoy similar things.
Most important, the actions they take are a direct result of their thoughts:
I’m bored → Let’s go play basketball
Taking things one step further, kids are pretty good at associating the things they do with the type of person they are, mostly because they don’t know any other way.
I’m bored → Let’s go play basketball → I’m a kid who enjoys playing sports
Think → Act → Associate
This is actually a highly intelligible framework to live by, and it’s really the only way that makes sense.
If I were to think about nothing but being a professional basketball player all day, but never did anything basketball-related, I highly doubt I could call myself the next LeBron James, let alone a professional bench-warmer.
Plus, everybody else can only associate you with the actions that you take, so it makes sense that you should, too.
Where Most Everyone Goes Wrong
As a child, you rarely second guess your thoughts or wonder why you do things, at least not on a detailed level. As you mature, the naivety goes away. Budding adults and beyond start questioning everything on an existential level. This is because your thoughts shift from one-dimensional to multi-dimensional.
In a sense, you start thinking about your thoughts.
Think → Think about thoughts → Analyze → Associate → Act → Associate again
See how now the front-end of the equation is convoluted and messy. There’s an awful lot of thinking involved. If your thoughts were popular dips, they just went from a one-layer cheese dip to your mom’s world renowned seven-layer bean dip, self-awarded of course.
This muddies the waters and makes it super confusing as to how you define yourself. Before, it was clear that your actions defined you, and it was very easy to associate with them. Now you have a bunch more thoughts in your head, and a growing portion of you thinks you have to associate with them, too.
Therein lies the problem. People naturally start associating with their thoughts instead of just their actions. It seems like the right thing to do. And with a seemingly endless stream of thoughts, most people get lost and never recover.
I’m bored → Maybe I should go play basketball → Do I have anybody to play with? → Do the people I play with even like me? → What if I’m not good enough to play? → I think I’d rather stay at home instead → I must be a loser → Wallows in self-pity → I’m a loser.
Whoa. Talk about a lot of noise. That’s the thing though, there are simply too many inputs to ignore.
Unfortunately, a lot of adults never learn how to pilot their own minds. They start wrongly defining themselves by the random thoughts in their head. They start believing they’re weak, not worthy of love, or whatever other crazy thoughts arise, even though nothing they’ve done that suggests that.
Others start living in a fantasy.
A friend of mine told me about his sister-in-law’s boyfriend. Maybe you know a guy like him. He’s a dreamer. Really, though, he’s a manipulator. He talks about starting a business but hasn’t done anything about it. He drags girls along with him, taking advantage of them financially on the promise of future riches and security.
“One day we’ll be able to look back on these problems and laugh.”
But that time never comes with no action.
I don’t care how awesome you think you are, or how rich and famous you say you’ll be in the future. You don’t get to define yourself that way until you start taking action towards making it happen. Talking isn’t enough.
Don’t let yourself drown in your own diluted thoughts.
When your mind gets more complicated, you have to evolve along with it. You have to be selective with your thoughts and continue to associate based on your actions.
Your thoughts mean nothing until you actualize them. That’s one simple trick that most people never learn, and those people live out their lives wrongly thinking they’re someone they’re not.
How to Get Back on Track
Fortunately, redefining who you are is fairly simple, you just need a little perspective.
If it seems as though someone else hijacked your mind somewhere along the way, you’re kind of right.
Those other thoughts swirling around? They’re not actually you. They’re just a result of your brain doing its job — constantly thinking, analyzing, and working.
Taking a step back to observe these thoughts is an eye-opener for most people. You can do this by a little something you might have heard of called meditation. It helps you to separate your thoughts from the white noise of your mind.
One part of your mind you might be familiar with is the ego. Your ego generates a lot of the weird thoughts in your head, and there are likely many. In fact, if you’re like most people, there’s probably a lot of really weird shit going on in there. Many of us don’t like to admit it, but it’s true.
The ego gets offended by lots of things. It acts instinctively based on emotion and gets really upset in many situations. When you become pissed off at someone and want to punch him, that’s the raw emotion from your ego doing its thing.
The “I’m With Stupid” Principle
The concept I want to share with you today is called the “I’m with stupid” principle. It’s named as such because it’s like you’re stuck with this other person in your head, and sometimes he’s really stupid.
It’s kind of like the time you went to a bar with your friend who got really drunk, made a lot of people angry, and you were stuck babysitting him all night.
In order to not look stupid yourself, you have to understand the situation around you. You’re just there helping your drunk friend. His choices have nothing to do with yours. You’re actually just the good guy along for the ride, making sure he doesn’t get into too much trouble.
Once you realize that most of the strange thoughts in your head aren’t yours, things start making more sense. It really IS like there’s an annoying, stupid other person in there!
Let’s do an experiment. Stop reading this and just observe your thoughts. Where did your mind go? I’d bet there was at least one weird thing that popped up.
These thoughts aren’t you. They’re your ego’s and the white noise of your mind. This just means you have to be selective about your thoughts.
Think → Filter → Act → Associate
You get defined by others by the actions that you take, and you should define yourself the same way.
Want to be a good person? Thinking about it isn’t enough, go do good things.
Want to start a business? Go do business things.
Want to be a triathlete? Go swim, bike, and run.
I think you get the idea. The most important thing to remember is that your thoughts don’t define you, your actions do. So go out and define yourself however you see fit.