"You have an awesome ability to change your thinking, attitudes, and perceptions about the people and circumstances in your life. Economist John Maynard Keynes summed it up - When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?
Indeed, what do you do? The ability to change your thinking is a wonderful skill. As with any skill, it can be learned, practiced, and even mastered.
Those who can’t manage a change in their thinking, or their perception of the world around them, can find themselves in a number of tricky situations:
- Fighting needless battles - not against the world, but against themselves
- Investing tremendous energy, time, and expense attempting to solve the wrong problem
- Working very hard for success but not getting the expected emotional payoff
- Frustration when the same unwanted event or situation happens over and over..."
It's been over a decade since I wrote that opening to the first edition of Habits, Patterns, and Thoughts That Go Bump in the Night. I stand by it still. Of course, Epictetus thought pretty much the same, and a long time ago, with his observation that people are not disturbed by things so much as the view they have of them. In essence, their perspective - how a person interprets an observation determines whether they are distressed or not. Perhaps a variation of the half-full/empty glass.
A more active way of putting the same thought is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That is an ancient teaching and is often presented as the law and everything else as commentary. It is quite possibly the finest philosophy yet conceived. The perception, the action (thought, belief), the context lies with the person, and it will be produced (created, attracted) in the person experience. Therein lies the creative power. Treat everyone (and everything in my version) as you would treat yourself. That approach will create a more joyful life. This is freedom.
Yet in a universe of polarity (opposites) there is the flip-side, which goes something like do unto others as they would have you do unto them. This is dramatically different - "others" must inform you how you should treat them (and woe to you if you fail.) This is subjugation. This philosophy is what I suspect Keynes considered with his question What do you do? These are the stubborn, demanding that people and environments conform to their desires. It was also noted in Habits, Patterns... that stubborn is not a virtue - it is a rigid state that sees the half-empty glass and is pissed that no one is filling it up. With that interpretation it's understandable why such person is unhappy, onary, irritated and generally not enjoying his/herself.
Ultimately it is a matter of choice. If something you have believed turns out to be in error, what are you going to do?
Some shoot the messenger.
Others enjoy the freedom of a new belief.