Thinking about…thinking, Part I

You are what you eat. As a health coach I am convinced that this truism is, well, true. What we put in our bodies affects us in countless ways. Put regular fuel in a car, and it'll work okay. Put premium gas in the tank and you get a smooth ride today, along with extending the life of your vehicle. Health is not limited to what we physically put into our bodies, alone. It also has to do with what we put into our minds. "You are what you eat." True enough. But I also believe "You are what you think."

Picture me on a typical Sunday: guitar in hand, microphone at the ready. I’m a worship leader at my church, National Presbyterian in Washington, DC. Before you get impressed, let me be clear. I’m a perfectly adequate singer and an absolutely average guitar player. This is not false modesty, believe me. I’m just okay.

Me, a friend, and my guitar

But when I get in front of the congregation, ready to lead the singing I don’t think, “Oh, no. I sound like a love-sick frog at Crystal Pond.” If I did, I’d be sunk—no pond pun (or scum) intended. Aware of my inadequacies, I start strumming and singing anyway. I put my focus where it belongs: on God. The point of worship is not to entertain, I remind myself, it is to point others heavenward. I do not let negative thinking influence my actions.

What goes on inside our heads can be dramatic and limiting. We can get weighed down by our perceived (or real) limitations and inadequacies.

On a larger scale, strife and violence in far-flungs places in the world, or in our very own backyards, can also trouble us and become the source of anxiety and worry. Our thoughts can paint such bleak pictures, at times. We may feel like we're at a dead-end, with no options or escape. Or we may feel out of control, like bathwater that is swirling, to its inevitable destination, down the drain.

I’m not saying we should whitewash our troubles or whistle in the dark and simply hope they disappear. “Inspirational” quotes often have me rolling my eyes.


I completely “get” those who want to mock such lofty thoughts.


But when I'm done the eye rolling, I have to admit that I want to be lifted up and inspired. Optimism and hope are life-giving. We all face troubles, discouragement and disappointment. But wallowing in these will get us nowhere. At any given moment in my day, I have the choice to redirect my thinking. Will I be defeated by challenges and obstacles? Will worry stop me in my tracks? Or can I be hopeful, regardless of circumstances?

I want to be hopeful. Hope-full. What does that look like? And how can I make it happen?


What about you? Tell me what's on your mind. Do you want to “change the channel” from discouragement to hope?

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series on how to do just that.