Is it possible to choose your thoughts?

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”

At the time the book first came out, I’m not sure I believed you actually could choose your thoughts. It seemed like an impossible feat.

I remember having a conversation on the subject years earlier with fellow engineering students between classes: “Do you think you can control your mind? How exactly would that work?”

There was no clear answer and the concept seemed so impossible that it was laughable. The general consensus was that it would never work. (There was no formula to explain it, so clearly, it was outside of the spectrum of reality…)

The prospect of even contemplating the idea felt scary, like I was a kid frantically scrambling to get my hand out of the cookie jar after hearing footsteps approach.

It’s no wonder that I was both terrified and skeptical of the value of looking at what was happening in my mind. And that I thought that choosing my thoughts was beyond the realm of the human experience.

There’s something I’ve noticed about human beings: We tend to shy away from things that seem impossible. Probably because we don’t like failure and prefer to hedge our bets on things that seem like they have at least some chance of success.

When it comes to the possibility of choosing our thoughts, it can be hard to see what those chances might be. (Especially because we’re talking about our thoughts about thoughts here.)

But regardless of what you believe right now, there’s one thing I can tell you for sure: The first step to choosing your thoughts is being willing to explore them.