Think a New Thought

“Your first task as a creative person is to ‘mind your mind’ and think thoughts that serve you. Doesn’t it make sense to speak to yourself in ways that help you create more deeply and more regularly, that allow you to detach more effectively from the everyday chaos of ordinary life, that decrease your anxiety and negativity, and that remind you that you are in charge of showing up and making an effort?” -Eric Maisel (to read the entire article, an excerpt from his book Making your Creative Mark, follow this link:  http://www.authormagazine.org/articles/2013_07_maisel.html)

Several years ago I moved my introductory literature classes on-line. As on-ground classes they had often been under-enrolled, but on-line they fill to capacity and then some. I feared that I would have mostly Running Start (high school) students, but that hasn’t been the case. Some Running Start students, some students with families and full-time jobs. And every now and then, a student earning a BA from a university — slumming, I guess — drops in. The mix makes for fascinating discussions.

Every quarter there are a few students who fail to show up, which is a shame. My classes are not hard. Every quarter, there is one student, maybe two, who appear to “show up,” but clearly aren’t reading anything and are trying to fake their way through it.  They make me think of something I was told when I first took on-line training:

You don’t learn “on line.” You learn in your head.

Well, in your head and in your life. Here’s the definition of “learning,” courtesy of my Psychology colleague, Don Smith: Learning = change. You may have memorized it, but if you can’t do it, if it didn’t change your behavior, then you didn’t learn it.

Reading the entire authormagazine.org article by Eric Maisel made me reflect on my students’ project last spring, the one in which they had to change something. Back then I blogged about how habits are made, and I used one of our cats as an example of “one-event” learning. (Demonstrating that one doesn’t have to do something 21 or 28 days in a row in order to form a habit. Sometimes once is enough to get us hooked.) We have always kept our cats indoors, but one morning one of the youngsters scooted out between my legs as I went out to my cabin to write. He was waiting for me the next morning. After a few days, both of our younger cats wanted out (not Annie Cat, shown below in her preferred pose.) I let this go on for some time. I didn’t think they should go outside — it’s bad for birds, and I worry about them wandering off — but my thought was, believe it or not, “They love to go out. I’m depriving them if I don’t let them go out.” A thought that made me anxious!

Last week, the most adventurous of the pair brought an infestation of fleas home with him. All three cats had to be bathed and treated. And I was asked to please, please stop letting them out.

So here’s how my thought changed. As they met me at the back door and tangled around my legs the next morning, I had a sudden image of a lion tamer attempting to leave a cage. He’s swinging his whip around and shouting, “Back, Simba!”

It was that easy. I stopped feeling sorry for the young lions. Of course they want to leave the cage! Of course they can’t!

Einstein said that imagination trumps knowledge. Eric Maisel would agree. And so do I. Try a new thought. And show up and make an effort, please. You deserve that much.

annie cat2

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