Dr. Henry Cloud (you might remember him from the groundbreaking book Boundaries that he co-authored with John Townsend) has an intriguing challenge for our thought lives.
Before we get to the challenge, Dr. Cloud takes some time to explain how our thoughts typically function.
First of all, research has shown that about 80-90 percent of what you think today will be pretty much the same as what you thought yesterday.
At [1:20], Dr. Cloud draws a diagram to describe how thoughts are processed in your mind.
The way it works, roughly (you’ll want to watch the video to understand better), is your mind basically has three segments: automatic thoughts, free space and an area we often refer to as the heart. The heart is where our dreams, our feelings, our goals and aspirations hang out.
Automatic thoughts kind of fall down from the top and into the free space. These thoughts are likely the 80-90 percent of thoughts you thought yesterday and are usually taken as truth. Hence, they are rarely questioned. When they fall down into the free space, we can grab on to them and let them stay.
Your heart is a little more interesting. Dr. Cloud refers to Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Another way to articulate this verse is that the path (of our actions, our life) starts in our hearts and God directs our steps. Perhaps this is where the 10-20 percent of unique thoughts we might think in a given day come from. When they make it up to the free space, we again have this decision to either let them float through or make them stay. The choice is ours.
Dr. Cloud’s challenge is this: Let your thoughts fly through the free space like birds. Instead of treating everything in your head as if it’s reality, decide which you’d like to keep and which you’d like to allow to keep moving through.
He suggests allowing things like scary thoughts, negative thoughts, etc. to just fly by. Perhaps this simple exercise could bring about the start of significant change. Romans 12:2 says we are transformed by renewing our minds. It’s worth a try!