While many of us who peruse the shelves of self-help books often feel like we are looking for that one key that will somehow set our lives straight, in her new book, Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow, Karen Casey reminds us that that key is already inside us.
Casey, who is the author of the bestselling, Each Day a New Beginning, distills the process of change to twelve simple principles, which she says are not complicated or mysterious, but simply take willingness.
Casey begins by telling us that, “If you don’t like what you are thinking, particularly if it is harmful to you or others, you can change it.” The first step is to tend our own garden and learn to stop focusing on others and attempting to control them. We can, however, look at our reactions to others as “mirrors that reveal who we are.” Casey writes, “Our reactions to [others] show us what we need to work on in ourselves, and as we release them to live our own lives, we can get back to the business of controlling the only thing we can really control: our own responses to life.”
One major shift we can make, Casey tells us, is to stop focusing on problems and instead focus on solutions. To do this, the author suggests that we cultivate new behaviors, stop overreacting, learn to do nothing, and disengage from the chaos. When we can disengage, we can also let go of outcomes and realize that the only thing required of us is effort. Giving up the illusion of control of others will also help us learn to devote more energy to changing our minds and recognizing that ultimately it is us choosing our thoughts.
Letting go of damaging thoughts that have held us hostage will also allow us to see just what we are capable of being. Casey writes, “Envisioning helps us grow into who we want to be.” And when we make the decision to take responsibility for who we are and what we allow ourselves to feel and say, our relationships also become much healthier. Particularly important is to give up judgements. Not only are judgements based in fear and undermine every experience we have, they also imprison us. Casey tells us that by choosing gratitude instead, we can learn to let go of judgements. Casey writes, “Judgement and love cannot coexist, and we are expressing one or the other almost all of the time.”
But we must also remember that since we are not in control of others, we must learn to let other people make their own choices, which Casey explains, “is good for other people and us.” Embracing our powerlessness over others also helps us recognize that every choice, every experience, every person in our lives is there for a reason. Our mission is to discover our own lessons. Just how we do that is through slowing down, listening to our inner voice, and learning to live in the moment.
Our inner voice is one of two voices that we hear. The second voice is that of our ego, which the author explains is always wrong. Our ego will keep us comparing ourselves to others, using judgements and criticisms to bring them down and make ourselves feel better, insisting on being right, and possibly even doing harm to others. Casey writes, “It’s easiest to practice being helpful in the relationships we enjoy, but it’s our more difficult relationships, the encounters that make us angry or retaliatory or depressed, that really educate us.”
Yet by quieting our minds, we can learn to release damaging thoughts and choose more helpful ones. Casey compares this process to cultivating the ground prior to planting: “We have to remove the weeds and discard the rocks before in the soil before digging the furrows for the seeds. What we drop in the ground, what we cultivate in our minds, is what grows.” And because every person we meet is destined to be on our journey, we can also recognize their significance and try to find the lessons in every experience.
Perhaps one of those most important lessons is that we always have the power to choose – to act and not react, to let go of control, to give up judgements, discover our own journey, and ultimately, choose gratitude over fear and doubt. Packed with straight forward solutions, clear-headed advice, and easily digested tips, Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow offers a simple yet transformative message for anyone looking to feel better: The power to change is within you, as long as you are willing.
Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow: 12 Simple Principles (Reprint Edition)
Conari Press, April 2016
Paperback, 149 Pages