It’s been debated by many—spiritual leaders, philosophers, and poets—whether we become what we think about. But it can be proven with science that in fact, “what we think, we become”.
Of course, we’re talking about concepts and not concrete things. If you are constantly thinking about donuts, you’re not actually going to become a donut. But instead, it’s what that that donut represents in our lives that we become. So keep learning below to understand how what we think, we become, and how you can utilize this for your own benefit.
“What we think, we become” Quotes
Was it really Buddha who said, “What we think, we become”? Sort of. Here’s what the full Buddha quote is:
“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draws it.
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.”
There are other, better translations, but thankfully, they all boil down to the same point: when we think a negative thought, suffering will always follow. When we think a positive thought, we’re sure to experience a greater amount of joy.
Essentially, suffering and pain are unavoidable in life, but we can alleviate ourselves from the suffering that comes from our own minds with each individual thought we think.
“We become what we think about” Earl Nightingale
This is a quote by Earl Nightingale, an American radio speaker and author:
“We become what we think about most of the time, and that’s the strangest secret.”
(This quote has falsely be attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson various places on the web.)
You can consider this the law of attraction, “The Secret”, or anything else, but it’s not magic, it’s science of the brain. Nightingale takes it one step further than Buddha, saying that whatever we think most of the time, that’s what truly shapes our mind.
When you think painful, negative, shameful thoughts most of the time, you will struggle to find the positive in even positive outer experiences. In other words, our inner world clouds our outer world. If you think uplifting, joyful thoughts most of the time, you will find more joyful experiences in your outer world as well.
So… how do we utilize this principle to benefit ourselves and change our minds?
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
What the Buddha quote and Earl Nightingale quotes above really explain is growth mindset versus fixed mindset. If you aren’t already familiar with these terms, individuals with a fixed mindset tend to believe that talents and skills are innate, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that skills can be developed over time.
According to Mindset Health,
For people with a growth mindset, they understand that not knowing or not being good at something can be a temporary state—so they don’t have to feel ashamed or try to prove they’re smarter than they currently are.
Those who see things through the lense of joy and positive experiences, even when they’re confronted with a problem, a struggle, or a heartbreak, they are more likely to understand that it’s a temporary state. Growth mindset people allow themselves to feel the pain, suffering, or heartache, they just don’t unpack and live there!
Shame vs. True Desire: What we think, we become
Now let’s examine if our thoughts are fueled by shame or honest desire. Let’s say you want to be thin. You think over and over and over:
“I’m thin, I’m skinny, I can fit in size zero jeans.”
But this is toxic positivity. Because when you get home from work every day, you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and you eat some candy and lounge on the couch, feeling guilty and shameful that you’re once again blowing off your desire to lose weight.
This is why many people fail to lose weight. Their goal is not in alignment with what they want. They think: “I want to lose weight” but what their true desire is to feel confident, love their body, and command respect and admiration when they walk into a room.
You do not have to lose weight in order to love your body and command power in a room of other people! I know many people of all shapes and sizes who can command the attention of a room. I also know many women who are size zero who hide their power away and don’t make so much as a ripple in a crowd of people, let alone a wave.
When you are trying to shape your thoughts in order to impact your life or make a change, you need to make sure all your goals and thoughts are in alignment with what you truly want.
RELATED POST: What is Non-Judgment, and How Do We Practice It?
We become what we think about, Backed By Science
So is it true that what we think we become?
Let’s take a look at the science behind how the brain works, and how we become what we think about. For starters, you need to understand the chemistry of a thought. Watch this TED talk by Dr. Joe Dispenza. He explains exactly how to rewire your brain using only your thoughts.
For those who don’t want to watch the video, here are the basics.
When you have a new thought, you actually form a new neural pathway. When you think that thought again, that path becomes more ingrained in your brain. This is why habits are so hard to break. You have worn that pathway over and over, often for years. But establishing a new path for your thoughts is possible, when you think them more and more frequently.
Here are the keys to choosing thoughts that will change your mind (and life):
- make it a concept (like empathy, power, or connection) and not a thing (like being skinny or owning an expensive sports car)
- make it aligned with your true desire (no shame involved)
- actually believe that you have the potential to grow
Aligning Your New Thoughts to Your Goals
Your thoughts and your goals are two separate things! I’m not trying to dissuade you from setting goals!
In fact, your new thoughts should complement your goals. When we apply “we become what we think about”, you should consider both your thoughts and goals.
If your goal is to lose weight, you want to think about the thoughts that relieve your stress and make you feel good in your body, while applying real-life applications like exercising and eating clean.
If your goal is to earn money and buy a fancy car, think about the thoughts that make you feel rich and powerful, while applying real-life applications like saving your money, budgeting, and increasing your income. Affirmation cards are a great way to focus our brains on these thoughts and goals.
Yes, what we think we become. It’s an undeniable fact.
But we can either let our thoughts go on autopilot and control us, or we can learn to shape our thoughts to benefit our lives. You can use the principles of “We become what we think about” to live a life of stunning joy and wonder!
It’s all up to your thoughts! So make sure you think good ones!