This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Is it true that our thoughts become words and actions? How so? What should we do about it?
The central tenet of Joyce Meyer’s book Battlefield of the Mind is that the state of our lives mirrors the state of our minds. A negative mindset produces a negative life, while a positive mindset produces a positive life. According to Meyer, a “positive mindset” is one that is focused on God. She argues that when we put God at the center of our minds and spirits, we’re happier, more successful, more fulfilled, and we positively impact those around us.
Read more to learn how our thoughts become words and actions.
Thoughts, Words, and Actions
Meyer sees Satan as the source of our difficulties, arguing that he creates our negative mindsets by keeping us apart from God, which he does by controlling our minds. We’ll explore Meyer’s ideas about how our thoughts become words and actions—in other words, how our mindset shapes our reality.
Meyer explains that our thoughts shape our lives because they guide our words and actions. A positive mindset produces positivity that spreads throughout our lives, which brings positivity back to us and in turn helps us be even more positive. Likewise, a negative mindset produces negativity that’s likely to be met with reciprocal negativity by others. This, in turn, creates more negative thoughts in our own minds, leading again to more negativity—and often feeding the very problems we complain about. In this way, positivity and negativity each become a self-fulfilling prophecy in our lives.
|The Power of Positive Thinking|
Meyer’s idea that our thoughts have the power to shape our reality is well established in the field of psychology and our culture. Henry Ford’s famous quote, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right,” or versions of it, are commonly cited to remind us that thinking “positive” is the first step to success.
Researchers believe that our positive or negative thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies because a belief that we’ll fail at something causes us to approach a new challenge timidly, with dampened enthusiasm and marginal effort. If we experience initial setbacks, we may accept defeat quickly and easily. In contrast, when we believe that we’ll succeed, we can experience setbacks and challenges without becoming discouraged and are more likely to approach a challenge with enthusiasm and sustained effort. Therefore, first with our thoughts and then with our actions, we create our own reality.
Meyer uses an analogy from the Bible to describe the relationship between our thoughts, words, actions, and ultimately, how other people think about us. She explains that in the Bible, a tree is known for and judged by the fruit it produces. In this analogy, we’re the tree, and our words and actions are our fruit. People will judge us based on our words and actions (the “fruits” we produce), but not the thoughts that produced them, because they can only tangibly experience our words and actions.
Because we can’t see the thoughts that produce people’s words and actions (their “fruits,” in Meyer’s analogy), we tend to guess at them, and often guess wrongly, ascribing negative motivations to the other person. In doing so, we fall prey to what psychologists call the “attribution error,” whereby we credit our own bad behavior to our circumstances (bad luck or unavoidable obstacles), while we blame other people’s bad behavior on their character.
This tendency to judge others harshly comes from a lack of context. We know the conditions that precede our bad behavior, everything that might have gone wrong that day, the mood we were in, everything else we were dealing with when something didn’t go our way, and so on. Knowing this allows us to excuse ourselves when we make a bad choice. In contrast, we may know none of the context of another person’s bad behavior. All we know is how it impacted us.
Recognizing attribution error can help us lead happier, more empathetic lives. When we catch ourselves judging other people, experts suggest putting ourselves in their shoes and trying to understand some of the context of their choices. We may never know if the circumstances we craft in our minds are correct, but, it never hurts to give someone a little extra grace. If nothing else, we may stop the negative thought processes that upset us when we sense we’ve been wronged.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Battlefield of the Mind summary :
- How the Devil makes it his mission to corrupt our minds with negative thoughts
- How to recognize the signs that Satan is attacking your mind
- How to thwart Satan’s attacks and find happiness and fulfillment