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Your Thoughts Create Your World: Patrol Your Mind

“Since you alone are responsible for your thoughts, only you can change them.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda

In my second year of residency, I went through my internal medicine rotation. I had just been assigned to a particular patient and was responsible for his care during that part of his stay. His medical chart stated he had multiple systemic issues, including more than one terminal condition.

He had been admitted to the hospital numerous times, but this was our first encounter. As I entered his room, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, this was a man with a limited amount of time left.

In the past, I’d had a few patients turn their anger toward me simply because I came into their space. Others were indifferent. Who could blame them? They were facing difficult circumstances—some of them potentially fatal. I just assumed this gentleman would fall into one of the two categories.

I was wrong.

When I walked in, I was met with a heartwarming smile and genuine welcome. This soft-spoken gentleman greeted me in the way one would a friend. I immediately felt a warmth and connection to him, and over the next few days he became the highlight of my day.

Looking back, I had to wonder what made this man face his situation in a completely different manner than others. He was able to keep the most pleasant disposition despite the fact that his body was slowly shutting down under the strain of his multiple ailments.

I understand now that he simply made a choice.

He could have easily chosen to think that life was unfair. He could have chosen to think he had a right to have a nasty attitude. He could have chosen to die bitter and broken.

He didn’t. He chose to think differently of circumstances most of us would consider dire. He chose not to dwell on the negative but instead made an effort to create positivity around him. If he had the power to choose a higher thought about his situation, it stands to reason that we all do. 

It took a long time to understand that my thoughts rule my experience. They often create the circumstances I encounter and they always interpret the challenges that are thrown my way. It is only the mind that assigns meaning to otherwise neutral events.

I didn’t understand that, initially. I allowed my mind to run rampant struggling to stay afloat in a sea of unrest. I was caught in the undercurrent.

It’s been said that we can have anywhere from 40,000-60,000 thoughts a day. I know that in the past, I was simply going along for the ride.

Most of our thoughts are benign, observational in nature. Some give order to the day. But it’s the thoughts in the undercurrent that undoubtedly influence every aspect of our lives.

It’s what we believe at the core that determines how content we allow ourselves to be.

Unfortunately, many of us hold the thought “I am not worthy” as our foundation. It’s what drives us to sabotage ourselves. It is what pulls apart relationships. It is the source of dissatisfaction. It is the reason for stagnancy.

Only when we believe ourselves to be responsible for our thoughts do we have the ability to change them. With awareness, “I am worthy” becomes a possibility.

I’m willing to bet that my former patient had an underlying thought of worthiness. I think it’s what drove him to express the best of his spirit because at his core, he believed he was worthy of having it reflected back to him.

He taught me, as he undoubtedly taught others, that outlook is independent of circumstance and stems from your foundational thoughts.

It is impossible to control every thought that enters our minds. However, we can make the effort to patrol our mental environment. We have the power to accept or reject any thought that floats through our consciousness. The only trick is to be conscious.

What are your foundational thoughts? Which ones are you choosing to keep? Which ones are you willing to change? The choice is solely your own.

Photo by Moyan_Brenn

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About F. Emelia Sam

Dr. F. Emelia Sam is a writer, speaker, and oral surgeon in the Washington, DC region. She is the author of I Haven’t Found Myself but I’m Still Looking and How to Create the Life You Really Want: 20 Small Strategies for Big Changes.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://twitter.com/CarmeloBryan Carmelo Bryan

    This is so true. Circumstances come and go. Thoughts come and go. We can obsess over things, we can hold on to thoughts, we can “fight city hall” or we can observe and allow.

    I used to so often compare myself to others thinking that I had a disadvantage by my upbringing. I’d think: others are successful because they didn’t have the limitation placed on them that I had! Even when I realized that was an excuse, I felt i couldn’t help it because it was somehow cemented into my genes or some such nonsense.

    That wasn’t “awareness,” it was judgment. Only when I became aware and observed myself without judgment did everything change.

  • Life student

    Oh, man. Did you read my mind this morning. I have been forming a blog in my mind on just this subject. Thanks and I love the quote.

  • Kayla

    While reading this I was reminded of my sunny disposition in the hospital in Singapore 2 years ago and how it affected one of the nurses’ moods. She was exhausted, emotionally drained, and ready to give up, but she told me when I was being discharged that every time she came into my room it made her day worthwhile. She cried and thanked me for bringing a sense of joy to that floor of the hospital as well. I felt my situation was far less dire than most peoples (DVT-was there for a month or so) so I chose to be positive and it affected people in ways I had never imagined.

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    Thank YOU for taking the time to leave a message.

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    It’s incredible how much power our minds hold over us. Glad you were able to overcome the illusion. Thanks for your comment.

  • lv2terp

    GREAT post!!! That is very true, this is so insightful! Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom! Love the part when you say…”It’s what we believe at the core that determines how content we allow ourselves to be.”

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    On behalf of health professionals everywhere, a big thank you. It’s (former) patients like you that help to counter what can otherwise be extremely stressful. The vibration you brings means so much. Keep sharing that with the world. It needs you. :)

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    Thank you. I’m glad it resonates with you. :)

  • lishylish

    Thank you so much for this post!! Its very hard to patrol your mind at first but with practice it becomes a lot easier :) so grateful for this website! Today is my last day of counseling but ill continue to read Tiny Buddha and amazing posts like this! This site has changed my outlook on life!

  • Stephanie

    Thanks so much for sharing Dr. Sam. I am an aspiring Doctor/writer too (im a med student) and have noticed that a patient’s outlook and how they choose to think about their ailments determines so much even about how well their treatment works sometimes. I would love to know more about your story and how you balance life as a writer and doctor.

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    Thank you. Tiny Buddha’s a great place where we can all support each other on our journeys. It strengthens all of us. :)

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    Hi, Stephanie. A patient’s outlook means everything. I’m glad to see medicine increasingly embrace spirituality in treatment. As for my story, click on my name and read my first post “Finding the Flow.” You’ll see that the journey wasn’t smooth but it was all worth it…and continues to unfold in beautiful ways. :)

  • DannySCR

    Thank You for this post. Last night I started reading ” The Secret” and I decided that I must patrol my thoughts and keep a positive outlook on things. Today I had one of the best days I’ve had in a long time because of this. I had a presentation in a different language and I was calm and collected where I would usually be panicking. If there’s one thing I learned is that its always better to keep a positive outlook on things because even though things wont always work out for us, we wont expect them not to. That keeps us happy and satisfied with ourselves. Have a great week!

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    Thanks for your comment, Danny. Glad you were able to reign in those anxious thought regarding your presentation. Congrats to you.

  • snp

    I’m young and have been trying to find myself in my early twenties but I feel the same thoughts you felt. I had a disadvantage by my upbringing and for some reason I have been struggling so hard to move on and let go….

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    To be aware at such a young age is a gift. Take all of the past and use it as fuel for where you want to go. The possibilities are infinite for you.

  • friend forever

    Emelia,
    A wonderful article! I am one of those people who just goes along for the ride- wherever my thoughts might lead me without realizing I have complete control over them.
    Loved the article!

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    Thank you. I’m happy you’re realizing your own power to accept or reject. I appreciate your comments. :)

  • Dr_SubhashDabir

    Nice writing.

  • http://twitter.com/EmeliaSam Emelia Sam

    Thank you. :)