I’ve written quite a bit in the past several weeks about the power of thought. More specifically, I’ve tried to outline various strategies for managing the way we think, which will in turn influence our feelings and behavior. In theory, it all sounds so simple, right? Just change the way you think and your life will change. As you know; however, thoughts are often deeply ingrained in our subconscious and can be difficult to change.
This past week I talked with a large group of 4th and 5th grade students about the critical importance of learning to change their lenses (the way they think). My ultimate goal was to help them create a sense of awareness with regard to how their current lenses are shaped. It’s common for kids to simply assume that the way they think is the way they were born to think, unaware of the malleable nature of the brain (see previous blog on neuroplasticity). While there are countless stimuli that influence our thinking, perhaps the most notable for kids is media. Whether it’s the content they view on the internet or the handful of television shows they watch religiously, everything they see shapes the way they think. When it comes to media, our minds are like sponges and therefore absorb everything. It’s not a coincidence when you see kids acting like characters from a show. Sadly, they are often unaware that they are even doing this.
There’s an old Cherokee legend that serves as a wonderful example of the influence I’m referring to.
A Cherokee elder was teaching his children about life. He said to them, “A terrible fight is going on inside me. It’s a fight between two wolves. One is the wolf of joy, love, hope, kindness and compassion. The other is the wolf of fear, anger, cynicism, indifference and greed. The same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too.”
The children thought about it for a moment, and then one child asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The elder replied, “Whichever one you feed.”
This story begs the question – Is the majority of media today feeding the good wolf or the bad wolf?
At the end of our lesson, I asked each of the students to write down a list of five television shows they watched regularly. Then I asked them to place the letter “B” next to the shows that they felt were feeding the bad wolf and the letter “G” next to the shows that were feeding the good wolf. Not surprisingly, many of the shows received a “B” rating. While I was proud of them for acknowledging this, I knew that for many of them this lesson alone was not going to prevent them from watching these shows again. So, I challenged each of them to go seven days with no television. My hope is that they will realize there are more effective ways of feeding the good wolf (i.e. reading, family time, journal writing, etc…). Who knows, it may just permanently change their tv watching habits.
By the way, I accepted this challenge as well. As I write this blog, I am on Day 4 of no television. I’m not going to say it’s been easy, but it has been well worth it. Perhaps the greatest benefit has been the quiet nature of my mind. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last several days in deep reflection, contemplating the influence that television has on my own mind.
Are you willing to accept this challenge? If so, you can thank me later for the many benefits you will reap. 🙂