Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. - David Foster Wallace
Two stories fill our lives: the old one and the new one. The old story is often about lack, failure, despair, being too critical, etc. The new story is about the possibilities of here and now, and into the future. There is a challenge there of going beyond the fear-based past, a sort of vicious cycle. The virtue of this moment lies in seeking the higher ground that will nurture our dreams rather than our nightmares.
Our whole peace of mind and sense of freedom is based on some form of an inner workout. Just as we develop muscles for physical strength we must also exercise new inner skills. Prayer, meditation and other life skills can help us reach a higher consciousness.
But our thoughts are not the only problem. In the world I grew up in, sure, virtue was often touted. Everything was bottom-line, give it to me now. Wealth, winning, and all the material things were most important. I lived too much for approval, for being a part of the herd. Yes, we all want to be seen, heard, and accepted. First, we have to see these patterns in action, find greater purposefulness, and expand our ability to respond creatively rather than just react.
Clearly, we have not understood how to seek what is true. Take the issue of junk food, bad and harmful TV, and the many stress-making habits we have chosen. Developing a wellness alternative and more wholesome lifestyle is how to cultivate virtue. Look at the dark stuff. As the Zen saying goes, the obstacles in our path become the path. Transmuting the negativity through relaxation will address toxic stress as we change the Story. Change your perceptions and your story will change; change your story and your perceptions will change. Transform fear into new energy for positive purposes.
Wonder and curiosity about our vicious delusions as well as our virtuous qualities will unleash more freedom from our unhelpful habits. Static habits allow stress to flourish, so if we do not constantly rewire ourselves, our future will become even more despairing. Freedom and happiness are about acceptance, equanimity and creativity, making our story more virtuous than vicious.