I was reminded of a really important concept about life one day last week, the secret to happiness which has been described by so many people for hundreds of years. It’s a classic that can be boiled down to pat phrases like, “thoughts are things” or quotable quotes like these that I’ve encountered in my reading recently:
There’s this one from Marcus Aurelius, an ancient Greek writer/philosopher: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” I’m not actually reading his work but heard him quoted in a book-on-tape by Dale Carnegie.
Vasavi Kumar, author of “Succeeding in Spite of Everything” was quoted by P.M. Forni in “The Thinking Life”: “We create everything in our lives… you create the relationships, situations, and circumstances in your life.”
And we have choices, right, about the thoughts we have? That’s the key to this secret of life, I think. Our thoughts ultimately create our reality, but we have control and choice over the thoughts we think; we just forget that power sometimes.
In a book with a great title, “The Art of Choosing”, the author Sheena Iyengar says, “When we speak of choice, what we mean is the ability to exercise control over ourselves and our environment. In order to choose, we must first perceive that control is possible.”
So on with my story and the reminder of my own power inspired by a cousin of Jiminy Cricket.
My office at work is in chaos right now, too similar to the sorting, clearing, organizing and packing frenzy going on at home. My wall-mounted bookshelves had to be repaired recently, requiring me to empty the four bottom shelves, lining up binders and books on the floor along one wall.
On Tuesday morning, early, I discovered that I had acquired an addition to this clutter. A cricket had taken up residence, somewhere in the vicinity of the books and binders still decorating my floor instead of my newly reinforced bookshelves. And he was singing away, loud, clear, and obliviously cheerful.
He sang almost non-stop for the next hour at least, attracting attention from people passing by in the hallway. When I would step away from my office, two or three different people informed me, “You have a cricket in your office!” I would reply with some version of, “I know! Isn’t it awful?”
My first reaction was a kind of bug-phobic “EW!” There was a critter hiding in my office and I knew I wouldn’t be able to find it and “eliminate” it easily. So I tried to ignore it, with a hope in the back of my mind that it would just stay put and not jump on me.
But then, eventually, I remembered, “Wait a minute – I have choices about how I react and respond to anything that happens. My thoughts are powerful. Instead of being upset by having a cricket in my office, or worse, being freaked out and nervous, why not look at it differently?”
The cricket’s chirping song WAS loud in the small office space, but it was clear, rhythmic and cheerful-sounding. If I paused and thought about it, the sound really did remind me of a peaceful, cool evening. I relaxed into this image, deciding that I could pretend to be by a beautiful lake, enjoying a cooling breeze after a hot day. And since this was my fantasy, there would not be a single mosquito to mar the moment, just the song of the cricket reminding me that I always have choices.
I left my office on an errand, proud of being able to take control of my negative reactions and flip them to something positive. When I returned, ready to welcome the cricket’s background music to my work, ironically it had stopped singing and I didn’t hear a peep for the rest of the day. He had taught me his lesson and must have needed a nap!