I Think, Therefore I Am The Thinker -- And I Can Change My Thoughts


“I think therefore I am,” is the well-known quote from Rene Descartes, a 17th century French philosopher. This famous phrase is from The Discourse on Method, and he wrote it following a self-inquiry into his own existence. After much thought, he realized that he was the one doing the doubting, so therefore he could decide to no longer doubt.

The Discourse on Method is a philosophical and autobiographical treatise, which also states:

“I have convinced myself that there is nothing in the world -- no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Doesn’t it follow that I don’t exist? No, surely I must exist if it’s me who is convinced of something. But there is a deceiver, supremely powerful and cunning whose aim is to see that I am always deceived. But surely I exist, if I am deceived. Let him deceive me all he can, he will never make it the case that I am nothing while I think that I am something. Thus having fully weighed every consideration, I must finally conclude that the statement “I am, I exist” must be true whenever I state it or mentally consider it.”

His line, “Let him deceive me all he can, he will never make it the case that I am nothing while I think that I am something,” pinpoints the power we have over our thoughts. Yes, we are what we think we are, but also we can change what we think we can change. 

As a Transformational Thought Coach, I’ve developed a method for transforming negative and fear-based thoughts. I full-heartedly subscribe to the practice of actively deciding what thoughts we think. If we don’t have use for a thought because it serves no purpose for our wellbeing, we can change it. Taking Descartes’ quote one step further, my interpretation is, “I think, therefore I am the thinker -- and can change my thoughts.”  

Isn’t it better to think that we are something rather than give into, and accept, that we arenothing, whether we tell ourselves that or someone else tells us so? I don’t know who “him” is in the line, “Let him deceive me all he can,” but whether the deceiver is another person or ourselves, either way we can take what is said, or what we tell ourselves, and change it.

Perhaps Descartes was the one deceiving himself through what he was telling himself, and if that was the case, how wonderful that he could change his self-doubt and turn it around to say, “I am, I exist.”

I call this process Release and Replace, which is my technique for letting go of a negative, fear-based or limited thought. Instead, we have the ability to replace these with positive ones. Maybe we don’t have such existential thoughts as Descartes the philosopher, but we certainly tell ourselves things that cause us to doubt who we are or what we are, and question our overall worth. This is our inner critic. We all have one, but if we don’t question and challenge the negative thoughts that come from our inner critic, we’ll accept them readily and succumb to the worst deceiver of all, our own mind.

A modern version of the “deceiver” could be called the “Monkey Mind,” which is a Buddhist term that describes a restless, confused, indecisive or uncontrollable mind. Succumbing to Monkey Mind can happen often. But if we question the thoughts we tell ourselves to uncover whether they’re actually true or not, and replace them if they’re not, we can change them and choose instead the thoughts that best suit who we really are and who we aspire to be.

If we don’t take control over our own mind, the “deceiver” that Descartes speaks of, who is “supremely powerful and cunning,” can succeed in its deception and leave us questioning our own existence as Descartes did. We must question the thoughts that we tell ourselves or we’ll not only be deceiving ourselves, we’ll be left questioning our own worth. Do we have control over that? Absolutely! 

Yes, we are what we think, but we’re also the creator and master of our inner dialogue, which creates our reality. We’re not only what we think, but what we think becomes our very existence. Isn’t that what Descartes discovered in his own epiphany?

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Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking. She is the author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity, named in the 100 Best Mindfulness Books of All Time by BookAuthority, and Says Who? How One Simple Question Can Change the Way You Think Forever. She is a certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, specializing in transformational thinking, self-discovery and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers. Contact her at theiftt.org.