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5 Ways to Let Go of Limited Thinking for a Limitless Life

 

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ~Albert Einstein

As so often happens when I go on vacation, valuable insights come in unexpected ways. It happened again during a recent fly-fishing trip (through Fly Fishing for the Mind) with my adult son, Brandon, to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, a government protected nature and wildlife reserve at the eastern tip of Mexico.

I got in touch with a major difference in Brandon’s and my thought patterns. Brandon thinks expansively about life’s possibilities—particularly those involving fun and adventure. His typical mind-set is “Let’s do it” and “This will be a lot of fun.”

I, on the other hand, tend to think restrictively, like “If we do this, then we can’t do that” and “That’s not what’s been planned.”

Had I followed my limited thinking during the trip, I would have missed out on some great fun and highly rewarding experiences. Let me share two of them with you.

An Enlightening Visit to a Remote Mayan Fishing Village and a Lobster Feast

On the second day of the trip, twelve of us (in three small motor boats) took a half-day eco- our. We were entertained by sea turtles and dolphins during the first part of the tour. Snorkeling at the second-largest barrier reef in the world was scheduled for the last hour of the tour.

While motoring to the barrier reef, we approached a primitive wood bridge that led to the small fishing village of Punta Allen, where our guides lived. Brandon asked our guide whether the village fishermen caught lobster. When the guide nodded yes, Brandon enthusiastically proposed, “Let’s go buy some lobsters and take them back to our lodge for dinner.”

The first words out of my mouth were, “If we do that, we won’t be able to go snorkeling.”

“Why?” Brandon asked.

Before I could respond, the two others in our boat also expressed interest in visiting the village and buying lobster, and those in the other boats quickly followed suit.

What followed was a delightful visit to Punta Allen, an unspoiled Caribbean paradise, in which we engaged with the locals and experienced their simple, uncomplicated lifestyle.

And despite my concerns, the guides gladly extended our tour so we could also go snorkeling!

To top things off, our lodge’s cook prepared a sumptuous lobster feast for everyone—and Brandon was saluted for taking the initiative.

A Special Spiritual Ceremony

Toward the end of our trip, Brandon asked if we could stay a night in Cancun so we could be together with our travel mates and enjoy a beautiful Caribbean beachfront resort. My first thoughts were that we would have to pay to change air flights, return a day later, and end our trip in a bustling resort area after spending a week in splendid tranquility.

This time, however, I caught my limited thinking, and told Brandon, “If you can make the travel arrangements, let’s do it!”

The white sand beach and majestic turquoise waters were great.

But, nothing during the trip compared to the special spiritual ritual I was blessed to experience with other members of our fly- fishing troupe.   

Two of them arranged for a torch-lit gathering at a secluded bay adjacent to our hotel, where we all gathered in a circle under a palapa. One of the leaders turned to me and offered a spiritual gift by personally sharing what he liked and appreciated about me. I then offered my gift in return.

We then moved to the next two persons in our circle and offered and received gifts from them. The others followed suit until everyone had offered and received gifts from one another.

It was one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had—one that could never have happened had I remained stuck in my limited thinking!

Limited Thinking, Limited Life

By the end of the trip, it had become so very clear to me that when I limit my thinking, I limit my life. I have since given considerable thought as to how I could think more expansively and continue to enjoy unexpected, enlightening experiences like I had during the trip.

Here are five ideas that are helping me to let go of my limited thinking. They are interrelated and serve as catalysts for the others.

Five Ways to Let Go of Limited Thinking

1. “Is my thinking limited?” This is the threshold question to ask yourself whenever you can.

Much of the time, you will know if your thinking is limited because you will feel internal conflict or a sense of “dis-ease.” Regardless of whether you are sure or not, however, doing the following will expand your thinking.

2. Discard the “should dos, “what ifs,” and “what might happens.” 

These open-thought obstacles remove you from the present and thus prevent you from seeing the opportunities and possibilities that are before you at any given moment. Many times they can be reduced, if not removed, by simply asking yourself:

“What is my fear, and how real is it?” or “How important is it?”

 Most of the time, it isn’t real or important. Our imaginations just like to script foreboding stories.

3. Be more spontaneous.  

When we are spontaneous, we are in the moment and more aware of the beauty that is all around us.    And because we are thinking and acting intuitively, there is very little space for limited thinking.

To be more spontaneous, don’t overthink or overanalyze—that only leads to “paralysis of analysis.” Just trust and have faith that everything will work out as it was meant to be.

4. Pause occasionally.   

Many of us put unnecessary pressure and time constraints on ourselves to act quickly or do too much. This unsettles us and prevents us from recognizing the choices we have. Pausing, whether to reflect, meditate, or simply breathe, grounds you and opens your thought waves.

5. Let go of control.  

Most limited thinking is “controlled” thinking derived from our mistakenly assuming (and expecting) that events will proceed in a set, linear fashion—particularly if we plan well.

We worry and are fearful of the unknown if we allow events to proceed in their natural course. Hence, we are resistant to considering alternatives or anything new.

In so doing, however, we fail to account for life’s constant shifts and ebbs and flows.

The more we are able to accept that we cannot control life in any significant way, the more open, intuitive, and expansive our thinking will be.

So—let go of control!

What Do You Do to Let Go of Limited Thinking?

What do you do to let go of your limited thinking? Please share the unique and unexpected rewards that have come your way when you did.

In the meantime, I encourage you to try the above “thought- expanding” catalysts.

Photo by The Sean and Lauren Spectacular

Avatar of Daniel A. Miller

About Daniel Miller

Daniel A. Miller is the author of Losing Control, Finding Serenity: How the Need to Control Hurts Us and How to Let It Go, a ForeWord Reviews 2011 Book of the Year Award Finalist. He explores control issues at www.losingcontrolfindingserenity.com and at Danny’s Decontrol Yourself Blog.

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  • http://www.radicalreminders.blogspot.com/ Radical Reminders

    For me it really comes down to #5 “Let go of control.”  I’m drudging through today and Monday in anticipation of Tuesday, when I head off on a long planned trip to Europe with my partner.  We have every single day of our adventure planned out.  On a spreadsheet nonetheless (I love spreadsheets, I’m a scientist after-all…).  Reading your post is quite timely for me, it serves as a wonderful reminder to “let go.”  This is supposed to be a vacation, a time to relax, explore, experience new places and newfound love for one another.  You can’t spreadsheet that.  I will think back to your 5 lessons next week, and will try hard to be mindful of my distress if we go off schedule and will try even harder to embrace spontaneity and adventure. Thank you.

  • http://www.bluecollarworkman.com/ TB at BlueCollarWorkman

    THis reminds me of how I know my mom and sister travel. They love traveling together and what they do is rent a car and then just go. Where? Anywhere. Where will they stay? At a hotel when they get tired (they always say the worse case scenario is that they’d have to sleep in the car). When will they stop somewhere and stay awhile? Whenever they want.  When they’re going to travel sometime, the whole family always gets in a dramatic tizzy because they don’t understand how my mom and sister could be so unplanned and “irresponsible.” But honestly, I envy that they do that and can do that.

  • Dhdj

    Sounds like number 3 is you as well

  • http://jaredakers.com/ Jared Akers

     Great perspective. Loved the opening quote as well.

    One of my favorite Albert Einstein quotes and certainly supports my experience is, “you can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

    I can be (or used to be more so) a real task master. Having the list and time schedule of our trips. Which is sort of ironic because in my previous life, I was a mess and never planned anything. I was the “guy” who lost all the wedding photos. LOL

    Then as I went through a period of self-discovering after hitting a bottom (lost marriage, job, etc.) I become so driven by structure as it helped me feel secure.

    When on our first vacation together, my wife now, we had an experience where our rental Jeep was not ready for us when we got to the island (it was our first diving trip to St. Croix). I knew this was going to throw off our entire schedule and there was only one guy working at the rental shop and everyone was yelling and screaming at him. I was getting frustrated a little and luckily my wife and I went outside and realized we could either be part of the problem or part of the solution. That we are here to experience something and make people’s lives better, not worse.

    The most important lesson of all is that I’m here to learn, not win.

    Now when we travel we just take it easy, get into the flow of the culture and meet some absolutely amazing people and experiences.

    That spiritual ritual with a palapa and torch under a tree sounds awesome. So amazing to experience other people and cultures, but so much better when we’ve been able to really experience our selves. :-)

  • Danny

    Jared, as you suggest, the real challenge to our thinking is when things unexpectedly go awry.  I have found that the “solution” comes when I am able to accept life “as it is.”   That enables me to focus on the options that I might not otherwise see.

    Danny

  • Danny

    Isn’t it interesting that the rest of your family is worrying over something they can’t control, where as your mom and sister embody #2 of my post!  Danny

  • Danny

    That sound’s great!  Please let us know how your vacation went.

  • Ahimsa

    Your spiritual journey involves the torturing of fish for pleasure and boiling lobsters alive to satisfy your taste buds? How enlightened…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001642911068 Jen Nguyen

    Couldn’t read this at a better time. Great piece. Highly appreciate it!

  • Lisa

    A big paralyzing factor for me is trying to make an occasion or project be absolutely perfect by every possible parameter.  I have spent countless hours of my life I can not get back on preventative measures. This also creates significant interference with my intuition. I’m always afraid of making the wrong choice and not getting the absolute most out of my experience which, of course, leads to me not getting the absolute most out of it having ruined it with all my fretting.  With awareness, I have taken to setting my intention to be the experience itself and reminding myself there are many ways to approach something, and most of the time none of them are wrong.  So it’s safe to proceed without analyzing something to death and sometimes even better when you make the occasional “wrong turn” and end up with something that was more meaningful than you could have even conceived.  But at the helm of my work is giving myself permission to just step out.  Nice post.

  • Danny

    I respect your concern,Ahimsa.   However, as the post notes, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is a government protected area, and all fish are catch and release only (with local guides to assure compliance), using special hooks that don’t tear the flesh.  We didn’t boil lobsters; they were purchased on ice in the village fish market. 

  • http://www.onemanswonder.com/ Jeffrey Willius

    What a wonderful experience of self-discovery! Many of us have grown up in worlds (parental influence, school, career, etc.) that trained us very well how to control, how to anticipate possible outcomes and be ready to deal with them.

    I too have trouble shaking these habits, and have found myself limited by them — also through adventures in Mexico, by the way.

    Only thing I’d add to your excellent tips would be to listen for the word “but” rising up in the back of your throat, and think about whether it’s a welcome voice in the conversation you really want to have — the one about possibilities.

  • Danny

    What a great suggestion, Jeffrey.  Thank you.

  • Ahimsa

     So the fish were only slightly less tortured than normal and the lobsters suffocated to death instead of being boiled – all for your worldly delight? On the one hand, you take pleasure in jamming a metal spike through an animals mouth, then yanking it out of it’s home, depriving it of the ability to breath, then tossing it back – because that’s FUN?  And next, you contribute directly to the deaths of other living creatures, not because you require their flesh for your own survival, but because you find them delicious in your mouth.
    Perhaps you may wish to stop focusing yourself upon increasing your own selfish pleasures and meditate upon the primary message of Buddhism: COMPASSION.

  • Michael Linn

    Cool post. I’ll try to remember this stuff on my fishing trip to Islamorada in the Florida Keys in two weeks.

  • junebug

    I have been living my life in total control and it is exhausting.  Thank you for helping me understand that its OK to let go.  This year has been a great year for me.  I have taken up yoga consistently and it has allowed me to savor the moment.  I have a long way to go but this self awareness has been incredible. 

  • Danny

    Your welcome.  I have practiced yoga for quite a few years, and as I write about in my book, I find it really helps in letting go of control.   When we control, our muscles constrict.  Through the combination of proper breathing and body positions (asanas), the practice of yoga teaches you how to release, both mentally and physically.

  • http://alidavies.com/ Ali Davies

    Hi Daniel, enjoyed reading your experiences on this topic. It is such an important topic to create awareness around as it is our beliefs, limiting or otherwise, that shape our thoughts. They in turn shape our behaviour/actions which drives our outcomes/experiences. 

    Getting a deeper understanding or where our beliefs come from really helps create awareness of if it is a belief that serves us in life, or gets in the way and holds us back.

    It is so important to get to the source of our beliefs because it is at the source that we can create permanent change and reap the benefits – as awareness is the first step in making change happen.

    I like the list you have shared to help with that change process. I would add to the list – be patient, kind and compassionate with yourself. Because changing deeply entrenched limiting beliefs takes time. So we need to be kind to ourselves as we walk the path to shed our limiting beliefs and choose and embrace new beliefs that serve us better. .

  • Alexey Zhulin

    Great post, Danny!
    Thank you for reminding me that simple things.
    I’ve been noticing earlier that when you are not trying do the best, when you are not worrying about possible mistakes the things are going more better. Your subconscious guide you on the best of possible ways.
    In Russian even exists one special term, which sounds like “пофигизм”. It’s means that you are not worrying about the future and totally trust in you destiny.
    Nice to read your post.
    Thaks.

  • Deepa

    This is the first time I’ve ever commented on a Tiny Buddha post – I’ve agreed with some posts, disagreed with others, but I know that my point of view is just that, a point of view, and I try to let go of my preconceptions to learn something from the individuals who have been kind enough to share their experiences and journeys. 
    But this post was a really difficult one for me – it’s directly relevant to the things that I’m struggling with, but when someone is talking about spiritual insight coupled with such casual cruelty (and I have to agree with Ahimsa below, catch and release is still cruelty, and lobsters on ice are just a way of keeping them alive until they can be boiled alive or whatever else is done to them, as far as I know), it doesn’t seem consistent. 
    As so much is written and said about compassion and empathy for others as part of our development, it seems a standard goal, and I would have expected to see more awareness of this in a post on the Tiny Buddha website. 

  • http://www.HowToAttractYourIdealPartner.com/ George Pirintzi

    I would add “Be Open To Possibility” – too often we go through life pre-judging events and people because we think that we “know” how things will pan out.

    When you give up this need to ‘predict’ the future (and thus continue living into your pre-determined, mind-created life) and ‘live in the moment’ without expectations and your sensory channels ‘open’, life unfolds in incredible, exciting and unexpected ways.

    With reference to my own specialist area, that of dating and finding love, I encourage my clients to take risks, get out of their comfort zones and start conversations with strangers who they would usually not make the effort to talk to or whom they were too shy to approach – when they do this, new experiences, opportunities and miracles happen. 

    I met the love of my life and a whole new, unexpected life in Brazil doing this.

  • Lv2terp

    I am so pleased to have found your work, it came at the most perfect time im my growth journey. Last week I found your website through a general search, soaking up all the articles in just a couple days, then bought your ebook, which I am enjoying very much. Now on my daily “go-to” website, here your wisdom is again! Thank you for assisting me to my next level of growth….to lose control!!! I have had a beautiful week of serenity!!!! Thank you Danny, very very much!! Between you and Lori I owe so much, truely GRATEFUL ever day!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

  • Seafat43

    it can be amazing sometimes when you throw caution to the wind and let go of your fears….some of the most transformative and exciting times of my life have happened when i had an idea to do something, made a basic plan, and let the details fill themselves in by just following a hunch.

    an example is: i decided to quit an unfulfilling job and resume my career as a massage therapist…but move from Seattle to Chicago to do so. I bought a car and packed it with my possessions and drove to Chicago with no job lined up or place to live. Within two hours of arriving in town i secured a room in a fantastic shared living situation and had part time work within two days. I knew the general area of town i wanted to reside in and figured my massage skills were marketable enough but had no friends or contacts there…..i just felt it was a good move and didn’t let doubt get in my way (not my usual mo). I left open all possibilities for my successful transplant and was confident my efforts would lead to great new experiences. most people commend me for being so brave but it really just felt easy and natural

  • Danny

    Ali, I agree fully with you about the importance of being patient, kind and compassionate as we try to let go of our limiting thoughts and beliefs.
    There will always be lapses and regressions along the challenging path to meaningful changes in our lives, and expecting too much from ourselves can slow our progress–and limit our joy.

  • Danny

    Thank you for your insightful comment, Alexey.   I have found that when I try too hard to do my best, I frequently resort to controlling actions that diminish the results.  And certainly, if we totally trust in our destiny, we shed our fears and anxieties and can enjoy the present moment, which is really all we have. 

  • Danny

    Yes, yes, “Be Open to Possibility!”   By doing so, I met the love of my life when I was least expecting it and when I was able to let go of pre-conceived notions of what I wanted in a women.   Thank you for your comment, George.

  • Stephen

    I am a natural planner (a trait I share with my mother) so often am distracted from the present moment by what I think should be happening next. This was a good reminder to let go and take life as it comes.

  • http://www.anewenglandgirl.blogspot.com/ Lisa

    I always end up more relaxed and have more fun when things happen spontaneously. All the planning and worrying can really add unnecessary stress. Thanks for post.

  • Danny

    Wow!  What synchronicity.  Lv, your kind words warm my heart.   It gives me deep satisfaction to know that people, such as yourself, are benefitting from my learnings, insights, challenges–and failures–in the 25 year journey it took me to write the book.   It motivates me to keep writing about the harms of excessive control in our lives and how to let it go and enjoy the gifts that follow.

    Wishing you many more days and weeks of serenity in your own life journey.

    Danny

  • Vicky

    I read somewhere recently “Don’t let your limits become challenges. Challenge your limits” Today, I was feeling aches in my body and decided this pain was a limit for me to exercise and I should just stay home and watch a movie instead. I read this post and realized that my thoughts were limiting my actions. So I got up and went for a nice brisk walk in the park, saw the sunset and had a lovely time! To think I almost missed out on this experience because of limitations. I still feel some aches and pain, but I now KNOW that this pain does not limit other things my body can do! Thanks a million for sharing!! 

  • Vicky

    Ahimsa: “There is no love in preaching your religion to another person who is happy with theirs.” That is a buddhist quote :) 

  • Danny

    Vicky, thanks for sharing your inspiring story of how you overcame your limited thinking.

  • David

    Ahimsa, I hope you can take a moment to pause and reflect on the toxic and disrespectful way in which you communicate. It is alright to have disagreements but the manner in which you voice them is counterproductive and hardly peaceful.

  • Brandon4title

    Wow great article!  I feel honored.  

  • Craig

    Not sure if excellent troll or person from the future…

  • A concerned lobster

     So you guys think it’s fun to kill lobsters and torture helpless fish??  What if I did this to your cat or dog, would you like that then?  It’s amazing how thoughtless people are when it comes to carnivore behavior.  We should eat only plants as the mormon culture intended.  I took a class in scientology, and it talked all about this.  You guys need to learn about crustacean torture, and why it’s wrong for mankind.

  • Ahimsa

     So criticizing the messenger rather than addressing the point of the message is so much more productive?

  • Ahimsa

     I take it that the point of your quote is to criticize me for criticizing cruelty? That I should stop “preaching” compassion to other animals because the other person is happy and content with their acts of increasing suffering? Are you also suggesting that monks and laypeople who protest against war should also stop “preaching their religion” to others? Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps you meant that post to say something else. If so, please elucidate.

  • http://halinagoldstein.com/blog halinagold

    Wonderful examples Daniel – and thank you for being so transparent!

    It becomes very apparent how limited thinking comes with limited feeling – and the other way round. As we let our feelings flow we open to “unlimited thinking” and more possibilities than we thought possible. :-)

    It’s a sweet thought, isn’t it, that at the end of the day it is all about feeling! :lol:

    Joyful greetings to you all -

  • Rebecca

    “Be afraid but do it anyways”, listen, things WILL NOT go as planned, however the universe has made us the most intellegent beings on earth and the most adaptable and you WILL figure out how to fix things along the way.

    When I realized this, I learned that it doesn’t matter what I do but everything will be ok. Sometimes I sacafrice a lot but that’s part of it. I have owned two successful businesses and know that they may fail, but that’s ok I can get up and find something else to do, even if it’s cleaning toilets.

    Stop wasting time and do it already,

  • http://hunghuuhoang.blogspot.com/ Hung Hoang

    “The more we are able to accept that we cannot control life in any significant way, the more open, intuitive, and expansive our thinking will be.” 

    I think this is really wonderful. Stoicism also shares this practice. How wonderful to read of this.

  • Satya

    Ahimsa, I like your name and no one seems to have realised that it is one of the yamas or characteristics in yoga that means compassion for all living things, kindness and thoughtful consideration. Very lovely and a timely reminder.

  • friend forever

    Respected Sir,
    I found the article TRULY amazing as it not only outlined the crux beautifully with 2 stories and tips for it, but also ended with a question of what we get when we let go of limited thinking.
    Salute!