Every Behavior Is Birthed From a Thought

It is true. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
It is true. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. (iStock photo )

You are likely familiar with the ancient philosophical saying: "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." The Gary-Paraphrase, reads thus: "What's Inside Comes Out."

Not terribly poetic, but certainly concise, even a bit terse perhaps. Sorry about that. What the philosopher has observed and is instructing those who will hear is that our external behavior is typically consistent with our interior self.

Most folks cannot act/behave contrary to their true nature for any length of time. Even professional actors can only maintain their assigned character for short periods. Given enough time, the real person shows up. For most of us, that amount of time is fairly short.

Here's another good one: "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." My paraphrase: "You are what you think." Notice, I didn't say you are what you think you are. For most people that is not a reality but a fantasy. Few folks have an accurate view of who they really are. 

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My mother once told me, "You are what you eat." I thought about it and replied, "Then cops would be donuts." She was not much amused. In my case I would be a cookie, probably a snickerdoodle.

Please excuse my dragging out an old stereotype. All my law enforcement friends will have something to say about it I'm sure. The point my mother was making, and that you all know already, is what we take inside of us is not without effect, especially in the realm of ideas and beliefs. The philosopher's cogent point is what you think about is what you are. Your thoughts dictate who you are and that is consistent with our first saying.

What we are talking about is mindset. It is a pattern of thinking, the house of thoughts that resides in your brain. It is your worldview, your interior paradigm and it becomes the lens through which you view the world. From what we have seen above, it will be how the world sees you. 

This is why mindset is critical for each of us. If you lead a business, a ministry, a government office of some type or most any organization; your mindset and those of the people you lead will determine the environment you operate in and the eventual effectiveness of your operation. If your enterprise is not functioning at the level you know it can and should be, one of the areas to review will be the mindsets of the influencers in your organization. Specifically, how they align with the overall vision/mission/values of the organization—the corporate mindset—if you will.

Let's return to our ancient philosopher for a moment. As you likely surmised, His name is Jesus and His audience is the general population around Galilee who followed Him to a mountain to hear more of His teaching. His statement just prior to the quote we used above says that the good man, out of his good treasure brings forth good things and likewise the evil man brings forth evil from his storehouse. He is talking about mindset. What comes out of the warehouse is a function of what is present in the warehouse. What is inside is out.

Here's a truism I have developed. I'm sure I'm not the first truth explorer to discover this, but it is a thought I developed independently. It is simply that every behavior is first a thought. There is no spontaneous behavior that was not first held in the mind as a thought at some level.

I'm sure you can think of multiple instances where you, or someone you observed, behaved in some aberrant manner and someone else shouted "What were you thinking?" The typical answer tends to be a sheepish, "I guess I wasn't thinking." This does not negate my premise. It only illustrates that what is already inside our mindset can bypass the frontal lobe of our brain and escape into some regrettable behavior. It is not that the thinking that led to the behavior did not exist; it is that it bypassed our filter for common sense or acceptable social intercourse. Teenage boys are particularly adept at demonstrating this principle. I know, I was one once.

We act out of what we think. That thinking can be conscious /logical or subconscious. One doesn't walk into a bank and suddenly find one's self robbing it. There were thought processes, whether direct or indirect, that gave life to the behavior. What's inside is what comes out.

This of course doesn't preclude the existence of habitual behavior. There are engrained thinking patterns that are part of our mindset and require no active cognitive thought before manifesting in behavior. At some point, at the inception of any engrained thinking pattern there occurred thought and cognitive process that led to the eventual habitual behavior. We are not saying that people with addictions had a conscious to become an addict. Rather, that the behavior has root in thought, however remote.

Given that every behavior is first a thought, if one desires to change a behavior one must start with the thoughts that precipitate that behavior. This is the baseline premise that Alcoholics Anonymous is based on. Bill Wilson and Bob Smith changed addiction behavior by changing the mindsets of the addicted. (They didn't say it the way I did, but they got the premise before I was born. There go my royalties.) 

Mindset is a large subject that cannot be fully addressed via a blog, certainly not in one or two blogs. 

Allow me to summarize briefly:

  • What we fill ourselves with becomes a house of thoughts, a thinking pattern, a mindset.
  • We then function out of the contents of that house, the parameters of that mindset. Every behavior is first a thought, so to change behavior I need to change my thinking.
  • It has been thoroughly demonstrated that changing one's mindset results in changed behavior.

Here are two books to consider should you desire to pursue this in greater detail:

Mindset, by Carol Dweck Ph.D.; and Mind Gym, by Gary Mack.

Gary Carnahan earned his bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in biblical studies at a Pentecostal Bible College. He spent the next 10 years helping build a mechanical contracting company to 800 employees and earned his MBA before launching and running his own firm for 30 years. At the same time, he traveled the world teaching and speaking in churches and at missions events. Today he coaches business and organization leaders at home and abroad. You can reach him at 602.402.9340 or gary.carnahan@cox.net.

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