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Thinking makes it so

Most people believe in the power of positive thinking.

People with a positive outlook on life tend to lead happier, successful and more fulfilling lives.

The medical profession is now accepting the idea that prayer can help a person sick or injured in their recovery.

Studies have shown that a person with a large group of family and friends praying for their recovery, heal faster than someone without such support. As I see it, a prayer is nothing more than a positive thought, and a positive thought is, in a way, an unspoken prayer.

So if a positive thought or prayer can help heal a sick or injured person, then I believe it is entirely possible that a negative thought caused the illness or accident in the first place.

I always find it interesting and satisfying when I discover something for myself, then find out that great minds have been thinking this way for hundreds of years. William Shakespeare, born over 400 years ago, said in Hamlet:

Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.


The Bard obviously had grasped the idea that positive and negative thoughts are indeed creative. I should point out that we all have negative thoughts from time to time.

However, it is only when we hold on to that thought and it becomes a firm belief, do we give it power. Negative thoughts need to be replaced with positive ones.

Another thing I have observed in my life, is this: When something tends to annoy me, whatever it is will keep re-occurring. I am talking here of the behavior of others that would appear to be out of my control.

I will give you an example. When I lived in California, whenever I was backing my car out of a parking space, someone would drive behind me at a great rate of speed. I would see someone flash by in my rear view mirror.

This would make me so angry. When backing out of a parking space, most times you cannot see because of other cars parked beside you. All you can do is back up slowly and carefully, and hope that others will have the kindness and consideration to slow and watch out for you.

In 1994 I moved to Eugene, Oregon; traffic there was lighter than California, and parking lots less crowded. However, my almost daily ritual of backing up slowly and someone zooming past behind me at a high rate of speed continued.

I would slam on the brakes, always a little late, because they were gone as quickly as they appeared, sit there and cuss and swear some, then continue backing out slowly.

Then one day I was leaving my apartment building, backing out from the parking lot, and sure enough in my rear view mirror I saw a car go flying past behind me. I began my usually tirade of verbal abuse, then I stopped and turned the engine off and sat there thinking about what had occurred.

This was a quiet private parking lot; there was an alleyway that ran parallel with the street, connecting all the parking lots behind the apartments and houses.

I realized I could sit there for another ten or fifteen minutes before another car passed behind me. What were the chances that a car would pass by at the precise moment I was backing out? I was at a point in my life where I was starting to observe my own thought patterns, and my own behavior.

The next time I was leaving a parking space I remembered this incident and again I thought about the chances that someone would drive by at that moment. I backed slowly out without incident.

Soon after, on occasions I would back out without thinking and sure enough someone would drive behind me. Instead of becoming angry, I would remember I had forgotten to reinforce my actions with a conscious positive thought. Eventually, this occurrence stopped completely. Today I rarely encounter this problem.

I constantly read on bike forums, and other bike blogs, of re-occurring bad experiences some cyclists have while riding. Someone drives too close, honks at them, hurls abuse or even trash. This would appear on the surface to be the behavior of others, over which the individual has no control.

However, if this is happening to you on a regular basis, let me point out there is a common denominator, and that is you. This type of thing rarely happens to me, why should it happen to you?

As an experiment, try this. Be aware of when and where this is happening, is there a pattern? If there is, ask yourself as I did; what are the chances that you encounter a different asshole, in the same place, or under the same circumstances.

Before you ride, reinforce your thoughts with a positive thought that you will not encounter this type of behavior. If it does happen, observe your own thoughts and reaction, and try not to become angry.

The anger is the negativity manifesting itself. There is a subconscious negative thought creating the bad occurrence. Because the event seems to be outside of our control, the negative thought goes undetected and the bad experience re-occurs.

Become an observer of your own thoughts and your reactions to them. Thoughts are creative, learned doctors say so, wise men throughout the ages have said so. Remember although it often appears we have no control over the behavior of others; we always have control over our own thoughts.


Reader Comments (15)

Food for thought.

September 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

I've never really understood this kind of thinking, to be honest. Do you feel that, when you were angrily anticipating someone driving by, that you summoned them there? Like, your thoughts made them turn down that quiet street, or start out slightly earlier in the day so they would be there at just the wrong moment?

I can more readily appreciate that anxiety about being ill could increase the chances of getting a disease, since there's at least some chance of causality there (the mind controls the body, etc.). But I can't see how there could be any causal connection in the phenomenon you describe.

Maybe what changed was your perception of the other drivers -- when you were angry, you were more likely to perceive them as moving too fast, passing too closely, etc. Or are you pretty convinced that you actually caused those drivers to be there at that moment?

I'm not trying to pick a fight -- I'm genuinely curious about this idea, which seems to be pretty widely held.

September 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

That is a fair question, and one that used to puzzle me. I don’t profess to know the full workings of the Universe, but one theory is that time is an illusion. People are coming and going all the time but whom or what decides where and when they are at any precise moment. If that is the case, then a thought in the moment can affect the past or future, because if time is an illusion there is no past or future.

How often are we thinking of someone and we suddenly meet them on the street, or they call us on the phone. It is such a common experience we have a saying for it; we say “Speak of the Devil.” Did we summon them up? Was it just happenstance? If so why the premonition just before you met?

Far greater minds than mine have put forward theories like this, and it is not my place to convert anyone or change their thinking. I don’t even try too hard to discover HOW things happen, but just know that they do for the betterment of my own life. I know simply because I have experienced these happenings.

Intellectualizing about such matters, in my opinion will block your understanding of it. If you are really interested, try something simple like finding a parking place, and work up from there. The next time you lose or misplace something, just ask, “Show me where it is.”

If you read something and it sounds reasonable, it will become a BELIEF. Experience it and it will be the TRUTH.

September 24, 2009 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

It would be both nice and nightmarish if all the self-help book profiteers of the past century were right and our mere thoughts influence what happens in the universe. I don't profess to know if this is true or not. Not a single one of us has any way of knowing anything about what the universe is, and if it "is", what it's in and what's outside of it, nor how it all fits together. We will all die without knowing, even those of us who have been interested in this question. What happen after that, who knows.

Life is just more enjoyable overall when we're positive, and when we learn to enjoy simple pleasures. That's not to say we don't have any control over events. As cyclists, we know that if we merely look at the oncoming object we want to avoid, we will likely hit it.

September 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

Hi Dave,
There was a piece on NPR a couple of weeks back where they interviewed someone who actually researched and published a study about illness and prayer. Their conclusion was that prayer actually slowed down the patient's healing. The effect was more pronounced it the sick person knew that someone was praying for their recovery. Go figure...

September 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRedtaildd

Oh yes, I do believe that a positive attitude makes for a happier, longer and more productive life.

September 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRedtaildd

As I see it, prayer IS more than positive thought.

September 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris

"Studies have shown that a person with a large group of family and friends praying for their recovery, heal faster than someone without such support. As I see it, a prayer is nothing more than a positive thought, and a positive thought is, in a way, an unspoken prayer."

Funny, I just finished the God Delusion and Dawkins cited studies that showed that there is no effect from prayer when done with a control group.

I'm all for positive thinking, but I think we take some of this stuff as common wisdom when it's only common.

September 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterchris

I think the key thought here is that you can't control the actions of others but you can control how you react to them.

September 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I believe in, preached and have practiced PMA P osifive- M ental- A ttitude for years. I believe it is the behavioural attributes of the individual that result in the individuals reaction to both positive and negative events - to control or not to control, that is the reaction! As in if you decided to not to make a decision then in fact you have made a decision? The time proven - chaos does exist in a controlled environment. And how the controlled environment processes the insertion of uncontrolled activity. If only this was 500 BC and we had a Polis to descend upon so that we could fully philosophize the meaning of... whatever it is.

September 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim - the Fuso MTB guy

The way you act does impact on others. If you see life with a positive attitude others will pick up on it as this is the person it's good to be around. We all get down days; just read the newspaper for 15 minutes and try that on for size. You are what you set out to be, no more,no less. It's all in the head for sure. Good article Dave. Now let me adjust the tyre,er,tire deflator across the alleyway entrance before I back out and all will be we........Ahh! God!! what was that that just went by........@#!! *# B..tard"

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermike dimmock

Like riding a bike, life is best understood backward, best lived forward. I like reminiscing rides and races with friends over beers. But, there should always be another day to ride, rather than another day to remember rides.
Like you say, don't bother searching for explanations; that's kind of a Douglas Adams view of the universe. And I like that.
There is no "Secret" (tm) to life.
Too bad so many refuse to accept that. They'll spend their whole life looking for it rather than living it.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Good post Dave. I remember you did a similar post like this awhile back. I told the story of the local rider who always gets singled out by farm dogs and gets bit, nad then always threatens to sue.

I've done a link to this post on my blog that may relate to this topic.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

Inspiring words you have shared here. I like them a lot. Thanks for sharing. Good luck on all your life's endeavors.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRitch

Negative attitude begets negative memorys while
Positive attitude begets positive memorys.

Backing your car out.
When things went other than you liked it was bolstered by all the other times that it didn't go to your liking and in the same respect, when you focus on things going the way you want, then your memories will be of all the times it went right.

All that being said, I disassembled my shoulder in a cycling accident and have been out of work for almost 10 months. It's been a mostly Good ten months, riding my bike once I was healed enough after the surgery and none of the BS of the Job.
But....I can hardly wait to be back at work and complaining about the BS.

PS.....I been enjoyin' playin' catch up with your Blog. Thanks

PPS....Lookin' foreward to a ride report on a Denny Fuso.

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTony P.
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