Thinking and Believing

Over the past year, I have had several family members and friends pass away. Loss is a powerful and transformational experience for all concerned. These challenging situations have put me in contact with several hospice workers. There may be no higher calling than caring for patients and loved ones at this difficult time. When a veteran hospice nurse was asked what she had learned from her numerous encounters with people facing the end of life, she replied, “Don’t believe everything you think.”

At first glance, this response may seem illogical because too often in our modern society we use the terms think and believe interchangeably. What we think is nothing more or less than our observations or the observations of others combined with our logic to produce what we think about something. Our beliefs are core-level fundamental values. What we think can be changed instantly by simply altering one fact or updating a piece of data. Our beliefs should be more enduring and should only be altered after transformational experiences or overwhelming wisdom.

One of the most powerful quotes on this topic has been attributed to Mark Twain, saying, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Ironically, more than a century later, thorough historical research has come to light, revealing that there is no direct evidence that Mark Twain ever said this, but it remains a powerful statement on its own. Its validity is further demonstrated by the fact that for generations, readers and researchers thought the quote to be Mark Twain’s and then began to believe it. This discrepancy calls for one of the most powerful principles I have developed in my life, which I call deconstruction.

Deconstruction is nothing more than taking any information or circumstance and breaking it into its basic essence. This process is accomplished by candidly answering a series of questions, including: What do I really believe? Why do I believe it? What do I know to be a fact? How do I know it? And most significantly, what does this mean to me, in my life, now and in the future?

With respect to Mr. Twain’s supposed quote, I determine that as much respect as I have for Mark Twain and his wisdom, the fact that he never said or wrote those words doesn’t take away from the power of the statement and the incredible perspective it can bring to our lives.

Our thoughts must be constantly updated, and our beliefs should be repeatedly challenged, scrutinized, and reaffirmed.

As you go through your day today, challenge what you think and build upon what you believe.

Today’s the day!

About the author: Jim Stovall is the president of the Emmy-award winning Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of more than 50 books—eight of which have been turned into movies. He is also a highly sought-after platform speaker.

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