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How to Let Go of Limited Thinking*

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Albert Einstein

As so often happens when I go on vacation, valuable insights come in unexpected ways. It happened again during a recent fly fishing trip with my adult son, Brandon, to the Sian Kan Biosphere, a government protected nature and wildlife reserve at the southern tip of Mexico.

I got in touch with a major difference in Brandon’s and my thought patterns. Brandon thinks expansively about life’s possibilities—particularly those involving fun and adventure. His typical mindset is “let’s do it” and “this will be a lot of fun. ”

I, on the other hand, tend to think restrictively like, “if we do this, then we can’t do that ” and “that’s not what’s been planned.”

Had I followed my limited thinking during the trip, I would have missed out on some great fun and highly rewarding experiences. Let me share two of them with you.

An Enlightening Visit to a Remote Mayan Fishing Village and a Lobster Feast

On the second day of the trip, twelve of us (in three small motor boats) took a half-day eco- tour during. We were entertained by sea turtles and dolphins during the first part of the tour. Snorkeling at the second largest barrier reef in the world was scheduled for the last hour of the tour.

While motoring to the barrier reef, we approached a primitive wood bridge that led to a small fishing village called Punta Allen, where our guides lived. Brandon asked our guide whether the village fishermen caught lobster. When the guide nodded yes, Brandon enthusiastically proposed, “let’s go buy some lobsters and take them back to our lodge for dinner.”

The first words out of my mouth were, “If we do that, we won’t be able to go snorkeling.”

“Why,?” Brandon quipped.

Before I could respond, the two others in our boat also expressed interest in visiting the village and buying lobster, and those in the other boats quickly followed suit.

What followed was a delightful visit to Punta Allen, an unspoiled Caribbean paradise, in which we were engaged the locals and experienced their simple, uncomplicated lifestyle.

And despite my concerns, the guides gladly extended our tour so we could also go snorkeling!

And to top things off, our lodge’s cook prepared a sumptuous lobster feast for everyone—and Brandon was saluted for taking the initiative.

A Special Spiritual Ceremony

Toward the end of our trip, Brandon asked if we could stay a night in Cancun so we could be together with our travel mates and enjoy a beautiful Caribbean beachfront resort. My first thoughts were that we would have to pay to change air flights, return a day later, and end our trip in a bustling resort area after spending a week in splendid tranquility.”

This time, however, I caught my limited thinking, and told Brandon, “If you can make the arrangements, “let’s do it!”

The white sand beach and majestic turquoise waters were great. But,

Nothing in the trip compared to the special spiritual ritual I was blessed to experience with other members of our fly fishing troupe.

Two of them arranged for a torch lit gathering at a secluded bay adjacent to our hotel where we all gathered in a circle under a palapa. One of the leaders stood to face me and offered his spiritual “gift” by sharing what he liked and appreciated about me. I then offered my gift in return. We then moved to the next two persons in our circle and offered and received gifts from them. The others followed suit until everyone had offered and received gifts from one another.

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It was one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had—one that could never have happened had I remained stuck in my limited thinking!

Limited Thinking, Limited Life

By the end of the trip it had become so very clear to me that when I limit my thinking, I limit my life. I have since given considerable thought as to how I could think more expansively and continue to enjoy unexpected, enlightening experiences like I had during the trip.

Below are five ways that are helping me to “let go” of my limited thinking. They are interrelated and serve as catalysts for the others.

Five Ways to Let Go of Limited Thinking

1. Is my thinking limited? This is the threshold question to ask yourself whenever you can.
Much of the time you will know if your thinking is limited because you will feel conflicted or a sense of “dis-ease.” Regardless whether you are sure or not, however, doing the following will expand your thinking.

2. Discard the “should do’s, “what ifs” and “what might happens.” These open thought obstacles remove you from the present and thus prevent you from “seeing” the opportunities and possibilities that are before you at any given moment. Many times they can be reduced, if not removed, by simply asking yourself,

“What is my fear and how real is it?” or “How Important is it?”

Most of the time, it isn’t; our imaginations just like to script foreboding stories.

3. Be more spontaneous. When we are spontaneous, we are in the moment and more aware of the beauty that is all around us. And because we are thinking and acting intuitively, there is very little “space” for limited thinking. To be more spontaneous,

Don’t over think or over analyze—that only leads to “paralysis of analysis.”

Just trust and have faith that everything will work out as it was meant to be.

4. Pause occasionally. Many of us put unnecessary pressure and time constraints on ourselves to act quickly or do too much. This unsettles us and prevents us from recognizing the choices we have. Pausing, whether to reflect, meditate, or simply breath, grounds you and opens your thought waves.

5. Let Go of Control. Most limited thinking is “controlled” thinking derived from our mistakenly assuming (and expecting) that events will proceed in a set, linear fashion– particularly if we plan well.

We worry and are fearful of the “unknown” if we allow events to proceed in their natural course. Hence, we are resistant to considering alternatives or anything “new.”

In so doing, however, we fail to account for life’s constant shifts and ebbs and flows.

The more we are able to accept that we cannot control life in any significant way, the more open, intuitive, and expansive our thinking will be.

So—let go of control!

Start Thinking Expansively.

I encourage you to try these thought “expanding” tools and let me know if they bring you unexpected joys and enlightening life experiences.

*This article was originally published by Tiny Buddha as “Five Ways to Let Go of Limited Thinking for a Limitless Life.”