All About You

All About You: Be the master of your thoughts

Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

You can think about whatever you want. Nobody can take that away from you. Although both internal and external influences can bring on thoughts that are difficult to avoid, you still have a choice of what your mind considers. If you want to fret over an upcoming meeting, that’s your privilege. Do you want to dwell on your summer vacation that starts next week? Go for it.

We live inside our “heads.” Each second, our senses send millions of signals to our brain and other sensing internal organs, which create our personal universe. But the thoughts we experience can be controlled – or at least we can purposely think about anything we understand, such as a past pleasurable event.

When I realized that I’m master of my thoughts, it led to some astonishing improvements in the way I experienced life. Even mundane irritations, such as a long line at the store, became pleasant.

Last week I had to have a tire repaired. While waiting, rather than look at my phone and hope the repair wouldn’t take long, I thought about some of the crazy, fun things I did in college. I was surprised by how fast the tire was repaired.

Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is the mainstay of cognitive-based therapy, which psychiatrists and therapists regularly recommend for their clients who suffer from depression. But it’s helpful for everybody, no matter your mental state.

I put three main categories of thoughts in my cache of what to think about when I need to improve or change my emotions.

Grateful thoughts

Millions of people around the globe don’t have clean water to drink. Many have to walk miles every morning to get a few buckets of water. Yet, a mile from my house is a free water park where children and some parents play, spraying from all kinds of spouts shaped like animals and toys. Whenever I ride past the water park, I turn my thoughts to how blessed I am to have all the fresh, clean water I need, enough so that I can watch my grandchildren splash around in the water when they visit.

Likewise, the next time you’re upset by an inconvenience, think about the many privileges you have: a home, food, transportation and even a wide range of available entertainment. When your mind frets about your problems, discouraging news events and inconveniences, switching to grateful thoughts can change your feelings and help turn around your day. There’s no downside to thinking grateful thoughts.

Past experiences

Like your freedom to think about what you want, nobody can take away your history. Your positive past experiences are yours to keep. So when you’re feeling blue, try recalling a monumental experience such as your wedding or the birth of a child – or even the time you caught a giant fish!

This tactic also improves your memory. Recently, I’ve been listing my life history as one-line notes and have been surprised by how much it has opened up the cache of positive thoughts available to me when I need them.

Future goals and experiences

At long last, I’ll be giving in-person talks next month. Oh, what a joy! Do you have something coming up that you’re looking forward to? If so, when negative thoughts are banging around in your mind, replace them with that pleasant anticipation.

Here’s a practical example. I was fretting about a leak in my basement while lying in bed last night. When I realized it was making me upset, I purposely began thinking about my upcoming talks. Then I fell asleep in a pleasant mood. (Of course, when I woke up this morning, the first thing I thought about was the leak!)

Changing thoughts isn’t a cure-all, but it sure does help.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at

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