Throughout your day, you are surrounded by distractions. The phone rings, a news flash shows up on the TV, you scan the entertainment news page of a favorite website and they all trigger thinking. Whether you wanted it to or not, your distractions take a hold of your mind for a moment and fill it with thoughts. We are all so accustomed to this that we don’t notice that it’s happening. What would happen if you could ignore the distractions and choose your thoughts?

Unskillful Versus Skillful Thinking

In the example distractions above, the thoughts that may pop into your mind are:

  • Phone rings – “Who’s trying to sell me something now?”
  • News flash – “Why is the world so messed up?”
  • Entertainment news – “Why did that celebrity marry that person?”

Unless another distraction comes around quickly, you could spend a lot of time focused on these thoughts.

These are examples of the Buddhist concept of “unskillful thinking.” These are thoughts that only serve to satisfy a particular craving or preference you have. They don’t advance you and the answers won’t enlighten.

Skillful thinking actually moves you forward in your life. Even if you don’t have answers, the questions can change your perspective and enlighten you.

Practicing Skillful Thinking

First you must recognize that a distraction is happening. Then you consciously choose what thought to have, if any. You can choose to have no thought and just acknowledge the moment.

For example:

  • The phone rings and you think “The phone rang” and simply acknowledge that moment and event.
  • A news flash comes on and you think “With so much food being grown on the planet, why are there hungry people?”
  • You read the entertainment news and think “How does a person in the entertainment industry stay humble?”

Why It Matters

When you are in control of your thoughts when distracted, you have better control of your thoughts in every situation. Unskillful thinking is not bad and skillful thinking is not good. They are simply different qualities of thinking. There are times when it’s fun, and relaxing, to let unskillful thinking take over and see where you go with it.

But when you stop and begin skillful thinking, you can connect with some of the great answers already in you.

If you weren’t distracted in this very moment, what would you think about?