Food for Thought

Waiting at a stoplight, I amused myself by watching a guy saunter down the opposite sidewalk. He wore camouflage pants and was bow-legged as if he rode a motorcycle. When smoke blew into his eyes, his chin lifted with an attractive, alfa-male defiance. He seemed bemused, pleased with himself. I felt sure he was thinking about the night before, and it made me smile.

Since I write fiction, whether I was wrong or right really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was deliberately listening to my own thoughts. Here’s why I recommend that you cultivate that habit, too:

Someone I know got married because he decided the woman he was dating would make a good wife. Yes, he may have had an inkling his reasoning was suspect; and yes, they are divorced. Clearly, this person talked himself into a bad decision. He could have prevented a lot of heartache had he been more inclined to acknowledge the nagging thoughts he allowed himself to ignore. We’ve all done it. Bought a dress we never wear. Sent an email we wish we could get back. Left that awful description in Chapter 3 just because it took so long to write.

Teaching yourself to avoid that sort of mistake is both difficult and easy. To start you simply tune into yourself as if you were a radio station, but instead of letting what’s going on in your head become mental wallpaper, you train yourself to notice what you’re thinking—whatever it is—more often.

The hope is that by recognizing more of your honest impressions, even if they are frivolous, you’ll be better prepared to acknowledge those uncomfortable or inconvenient thoughts—the ones, like it or not, you know to be true. And if that becomes a lifelong habit, theoretically you’ll be better equipped to make good decisions. Marry the right person, for instance. Choose the right career. Name your dog something you won’t mind shouting out the kitchen door for the next ten years.

In other words, the best advice you ever hear just might be your own.

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