Life in the large family compound was great fun. As kids, me, my cousins & our friends from other compounds played, fought, roamed around and enjoyed ourselves. Debating or arguing about all sorts of things was one of our best past times. If the argument got so heated & we needed to resolve the debate quickly, then one of the parties or even the spectators will say ‘Put money!’ It was a moment of truth! One would then ask himself ‘does what I assert true enough for me to bet on it? We were very poor kids & guarded jealously the small change we got from visiting Uncles and Aunties. If both were willing to go on with the bet, then they would agree on a sum & the whole party or a designated few would go to verify the claim. The one who got it wrong would lose his money to the one whose claim was verified. There was no mercy! The cash must be taken from the loser – I don’t know how we arrived at that unwritten & never discussed rule. That was going to be an afternoon of feasting on the loser’s cash – maybe groundnut, sweets, ice cream or any other goodies. When I later heard the phrase ‘put your money where your mouth is’ I understood it very well, I don become professional already!
For a very long time after that period, the ‘put money’ strategy rested until I introduced it to my wife & we started to use it to end our plenty of debates. Like years before, it is always a moment of truth, to admit being wrong or not sure of something or to lose some good money all of which has happened many times. I recently started using the ‘put money’ strategy in other settings as part of self-improvement. It has been a great help in controlling my mind. Let me explain…
The mind runs riot when it is not under control, in the least we waste a lot of time ruminating on things that are not profitable; worse off, we may get into serious trouble when we act on foolish thoughts. There are times I have struggled to take my mind off something I consider injurious to my health – spiritual, physical, mental or otherwise – and failed. But recently, I found that the ‘put money’ strategy works perfectly well – I put my money where my mouth is.
Over the years, I have learned so many things about the mind and how the things we think about define us:
- Everything I am today is the direct result of my thinking yesterday – I remember the day I thought about getting married, if I had decided not to, I’d not have married when I did. I remember the day I decided that of all professions in the world, I would do what I do now; of course, I’d have ended up differently if I had gone with the other options. I am sure you too can point to the turning points in your life when you decided to follow a path instead of another that would have led you elsewhere.
- Whatever you focus on will be your reality, a true example of ‘what you sow is what you reap’ – As a little boy I read a storybook of a hunted cave that Miners worked in. The Natives believed in ghosts but the Englishmen who worked with them did not. The ghosts only appeared or tried to contact the Natives ONLY. Their beliefs and constant focus on ghosts made them targets for the spirits. I then learned that if I don’t think about or focus on something, it dies off & stops influencing me.
- In my search on how to control my heart or mind (to be used interchangeably), I came across the gold standard found in the Bible – ‘whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well-spoken-of, whatever things are virtuous, and whatever things are praiseworthy, continue considering these things and the God of peace will be with you’* This scripture requires that I shut out things that do not qualify as true, serious concern, righteous, chaste, lovable, virtuous, praiseworthy, etc.
- People & subjects can live rent-free on your mind. You will find yourself arguing with somebody in your mind, perhaps as you reminisce about an event you think you should have handled differently. You will find yourself saying ‘I don’t blame you, if only I didn’t let you enter the car’. ‘If only I had told her ‘Tario, I am not available for partying’. Do you get it? Sometimes, we spend years on this kind of self dialogues bidding for time to correct something we think we did wrong. No one relishes being outwitted.
- From the foregoing, I learned that I can create my own world by the way I think & view things. I could be in a hellish condition & live happily! I just need to interpret the world as I know it is even if conditions may be a bit harsh. That was revolutionary, to say the least. Let me give you a typical example of this kind of thinking in action: There are no set standard procedures at work. While people complain about how bad things are, a staff sees it as an opportunity to establish & document procedures. She goes right ahead to document standard procedures for the office. She then seeks the approval of Management to approve and gazette them. You will realize that these 2 groups of people – the complainers & the reformer live in different worlds & will face the chaos with different mindsets.
To a great extent, we cannot control what we see, hear or feel, but with effort, we can control what we dwell on, and spend time contemplating. The gold standard in thinking that I quoted earlier admonishes that we ‘continue considering’ those things that are true, serious concern, righteous, chaste, lovable, virtuous, praiseworthy, etc. So in effect to be healthy we must stop considering the things that are worthless, right?
After an altercation with a colleague, I realised that I was thinking about the matter more than I should. I then applied all my strategies for dealing with the problem. First, I gave myself sufficient time to think about the matter, reviewing the incident & all the things I said or did wrong & how I could have prevented the fracas. I had considered this colleague a friend & was very hurt by the things he said & done since then. That was supposed to be sufficient but the matter kept popping up in my head and obstructing my life. The worst of it all was that I couldn’t discuss the matter with my wife as I do not discuss my altercations with my colleagues with her so as not to prejudice her against them.
I tried to substitute positive thoughts about the colleague anytime the negative came up but that didn’t work; after a few minutes, I’d revert to the ugly I didn’t want. I then tried to cut him loose, not think about him at all, but the mind seemed to have ideas of its own & would not let up. At about this time, other negative thoughts emboldened that this one could break my protective barrier were making appearances too. I knew I had to think of innovative ways to solve this problem. Then I remembered the saying ‘put your money where your mouth is’. My ‘mouth’ is that I would not dwell on unwholesome matter; can I put some money on it? I decided that anytime I ‘considered’ anything unwholesome, I would pay a fine of N5, 000. The money will be transferred immediately to someone I know who needs help or to a charity.
Viola! things started being streamlined – If I thought about the fight with the colleague, I pay 5k, If I considered anything that is not true, serious concern, righteous, chaste, lovable, virtuous, praiseworthy, etc, – 5k!
That week, I lost some good money. It was pay, pay, and pay! I was strict with myself – it was irrevocable; no mercy, no cajoling, no reasoning on the matter – thoughts about the fight could come, but if I dwelled on it for a moment, if I thought about my colleague in a negative way, then I paid. After a while, my wallet started controlling the narrative – I could see that losing money was a great restraint for me, eventually, the thoughts of the fight & negative vibes about the colleague faded away. Every successive week since then, as I applied this to all unprofitable thoughts, I have been getting better at controlling my mind. Many times, I am even able to stop the negative thoughts before they hatch. Right now, no one or thing lives on my head rent-free & when I am emotionally invested in unprofitable thinking I remind myself of the fine – the ‘money I have put’ & the fear of losing any money holds me at bay. Thus, I have been very effective in ending any mind capture.
If you are thinking about adopting this, you must 1st determine things that are wholesome and those that are not. You must then determine what things qualify to be fined based on the values you live by. Since no one is watching you, you must be determined to improve the quality of your mind as a self-development initiative and be willing to wield the big stick on yourself if you plan to be successful.
* Philipians 4:8 & 9.
Picture Credits: Cover – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/smarter-living/how-to-talk-about-money.html; Kids Playing: https://pedsgh.com/black-kids-playing-with-ball-5/; Mind: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/personal-skills-mind.html; Consideration: https://blog.flexis.com/what-to-consider-when-structuring-your-supply-chain