You rarely get to choose your circumstances. You can’t stop world hunger, pandemics, or global economic conditions. But you can choose what you focus on.
Think of your focus as a kind of currency. You can literally only have one conscious thought at a time, so in each and every moment, you get to decide what you’ll spend that moment’s mental energy on.
There are thoughts that you consume or receive, such as when you watch television, listen to music or a sermon, or read a book. When you consume information or entertainment, your focus is absorbed in whatever message is coming in.
Then there are the thoughts that run around in your mind when you’re not consuming anything. You’re just processing, or reflecting, or praying, or having those inner conversations with yourself. And yes, these two kinds of thoughts often happen right alongside each other as you interpret what your senses are taking in.
And here’s the kicker… what you choose to focus on affects your emotions, your mood, your worldview, your sense of self, your intentions, your motives, and your decisions. In other words, what you focus on matters a lot.
The Apostle Paul was quite concerned with the mental diet of believers because he knew that your focus would influence your future, so he said:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
~ Philippians 4:8 NIV
When you listen to a lot of negativity, you’ll tend to think negative thoughts and act in ways that negatively affect your life. When you listen to a lot of positivity, you’ll think more positive thoughts and tend to do things that are more constructive. It’s not rocket science, but it’s vitally important to your life.
Is there a time to face harsh realities and deal in brutally honest terms with the world in which we live? Absolutely. But it’s best to be prepared for those moments and conversations by having taken in and processed and meditated on things that build you from the inside out into a person of greater faith.
Think of your mental diet like your physical diet. You should eliminate anything tainted, poisonous, or harmful. You should intentionally consume things that nourish you. And while some neutral “junk food” is okay in moderation, you can’t sustain yourself on it.
You only have a limited amount of mental energy and focus. Spend it on the things that make you more like Jesus, healthier in your relationships, and closer to God.