Man’s mind is not a container to be filled but a fire to be kindled

Did you ever dream of becoming an author? Well, guess what? You are! You are the author of your life. It’s exciting to realize how much power you have. But there’s a price for that power. The price is called RESPONSIBILITY. Here’s what I mean. If I’m unhappy with my present situation, I have no one to blame but myself. After all, I’m the one who put myself here. How can I be surprised by the way the story is developing when I am the one who wrote the script? It’s not enough to be an author. I also have to read what I write. So, if I don’t like the way the story is heading, I can change the script and arrive at a new ending.

Of course, the script I’m referring to is the collection of thoughts we have. That’s how we write our script. First we have thoughts. Then they lead to action. Finally, our life is created by the series of actions we take. Obviously, then, our thoughts have immense significance. Because of their importance, I should always be reading the script (remain aware of my thoughts). When I do so, I can change them when necessary and stay in control of my life. But if I just sit back and allow my thoughts to take me where they will, I turn over the control of my life to the whims of fate.

My mind, then, is not a container to fill with thoughts, but a fire to forge and shape them. After hammering my negative thoughts on the anvil of awareness, I have to shape them into positive thoughts. How else can I create my destiny? Perhaps it was with these ideas in mind that Dorothea Thompson Brande (1893-1948) wrote, “Man’s mind is not a container to be filled but rather a fire to be kindled.”

In addition to author, another metaphor for how we create our lives is that of sculptor. For example, French Biologist Alexis Carrel (1873-1944) wrote, “Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.” Yes, it takes effort to chip away the marble, but isn’t the unveiling of a magnificent work of art worth it? Cathy Better points out our awesome responsibility: “Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.”

So, how do we begin creating our masterpiece? We start out by tuning in to what’s troubling us, holding us back, or preventing us from being happy. What painful emotions are disturbing you? What negative thoughts are plaguing you? Don’t run away from them, suppress them, wallow in them, hide from them, placate them, or give in to them. Instead, face, welcome, embrace, and use them to create a better you.

What is the best way to create a new me? It is by chipping away at the marble one piece at a time. It is small action steps and constant hammering that will transform me. Let’s look at an example. Suppose I’m shy and unhappy about it. Merely repeating “I am very confident” or “I am growing confident” cannot help very much when the statements are not true. Nothing succeeds like success. What I really need to make progress is to experience progress. Affirmations are fine to begin with as they point the way. They are roadmaps; they are pictures of where I want to go, which is good. But what I really need is positive experience, which I can obtain only by taking action.

So, what do I do? The first actions to take are reflection and questioning. After experiencing the pain of shyness, I use it to reflect by saying to myself, “I’m not confident, but want to become so.” Next, I unleash enormous power by asking myself questions. For instance, “What can I do to become more confident?” The question shifts my focus from a problem (shyness) to possible solutions. After asking the question, action steps that I can take immediately come to mind. For example, I can join a support group, talk to friends and ask for their advice, go to the library or a bookstore for a book on how to overcome shyness, do a search on the Internet, take a public speaking course or join Toastmasters International, or take an assertiveness course. Next, I ask myself which one of these solutions will I begin and when will I start. In other words, I make a plan and start chipping away at the marble.

As you can see, being the author or sculptor of our life is all about taking responsibility. The opposite of assuming responsibility is assigning blame. Be careful; sometimes we are so clever at assigning blame that we are unaware of doing so. “Oh, I could do that too, if I had the money, were younger, were healthier, had the time, had the education, or had the support of others.” Did you ever have thoughts like that? Those thoughts are unproductive. They don’t take us anywhere. They just hold us back. The cure to such fruitless thinking is to shine a spotlight on those irrational thoughts by asking probing questions. For instance, “Isn’t it true that many people, when compared to me, achieved success when they were poorer, older, sicker, busier, less educated, and with less support from others?” When I ask such a question, it becomes clear the fault doesn’t lie with fate, but with my own reluctance to master it.

Something that will help me master life is to change my negative probability thinking into positive possibility thinking. Why say, “I will probably fail” when I can say, “I will possibly succeed”? Don’t they have the same meaning? The outcome of both statements is uncertain. But the focus is different. One focuses on failure and the other on success. If it’s success that I want, shouldn’t it be the object of my attention?

The Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz nicely sums up the point of this article, “Some people say they haven’t yet found themselves. But the self is not something one finds; it is something one creates.” Finally, I will end with another good point, which was taken from the Internet.

“You are not a bag of genes. You are not a bundle of conditioned reflexes. You are not a two-legged animal with an overgrown intellect. You are not your car, your job, your clothes, income, house, watch, or savings account. You are not a large blob of hormones. You are not a slave of brain chemicals. You are not a cluster of instincts. You are not a bucket of flaws. You are not a puppet of television, music, video games, pop culture, or peer pressure. You are not a self in desperate need of esteem. You are not the end-product of events that happened when you were two. You are not measured by the size of your salary, expense account, or stock options. Unless you let yourself be.” (Taken from: