Renewing your mind is one of the most important focuses you can have because your thoughts set the direction for every day and every single thing in your life. Our thoughts create our feelings, which influence our actions. And what we choose to do builds habits that can impact us for a lifetime. One of my favorite quotes expands upon this well:
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
There are many forms of undesired and often unidentified thinking that can affect us in multiple ways. Unrealistic expectations can set us up for overwhelm and disappointment. Negative thoughts can sour our attitude towards other people or life. Limiting beliefs can hinder us from stepping out into God’s will for us or what brings us meaning and joy.
Assumptions can cause us to believe incorrect predictions that change our choices. Generalizations based on one negative experience can keep us from moving forward. Magnifying an incident can cause us to overreact. And the list goes on and on and impacts our lives in many known and unrecognized ways. This is why it is so important to be renewing your mind regularly.
How Renewing Your Mind Impacts Your Purpose
God has purposes for us in each area of our life. And if we focus on centering all we do on His purposes, we please God and will be more effective and fulfilled in everyday life. Whether or not it’s been revealed to us, we each also have a specific life purpose or calling, that we were specially designed for to impact the world in a way that is unique to us.
Why is it important to renew your mind? When our thinking is in alignment with what God says about who we are, what we’re capable of and what we’re called to do, then our actions faithfully follow that truth. On the other hand, if we allow our thoughts to wander where they may feel drawn to go, then how we see ourselves and what we choose to do can veer off the path where God desires us to be. And sometimes this happens so subtly–thought by thought, day by day–that we don’t notice we are out of God’s will and in a situation that is working against our good until it’s a steep hill to climb back up.
Our physical health may be impacted when we tell ourselves we can’t make time to exercise. We might miss opportunities to help our emotional or mental well-being by thinking we are the only one or shouldn’t seek support as it is a sign of weakness. Our relationships might be strained because we act on things we assume about other people rather than communicate to uncover the reality. Spiritual intimacy with God can be hindered because we tell ourselves God can’t possibly love us or use us as we are instead of believe the truth from His word.
We may stay in a career that isn’t a fit for us because we believe we can’t be good at anything else. Our finances could be mismanaged because of spending habits due to unhealthy thoughts about what success looks like. God may be prompting us to step out to impact the world around us, but our doubts and fears may keep us making excuses to delay or turn away from the call.
Trusting God is the Foundation for Renewing Your Mind
In order to think with the heart of God, embody the mind of Christ and listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit within us, trust is essential. We are used to hearing that we must trust God in our time of need. But trust has has 2 aspects. The first is to “trust in God”. When we trust in God, we trust who He is as our Lord and trust His power to move in our lives. The second aspect, which we struggle with more, is the step that must accompany our trust in God to experience the type of peace we need to seek God’s will and not our own. It is to actually to “trust God”.
To trust God is to freely surrender our thoughts, feelings and desires to the Lord no matter what our life situation, prior life experience, what we’re telling ourselves or what others are telling us. When we truly trust God, we practice what we usually hear as “letting go and letting God”. Easier said than done, it’s a habit to be developed as part of our spiritual walk.
An example that comes to mind is the obstacle courses designed to build trust within teams. It’s one thing to say to your teammate, “I trust in you,” while you are discussing what type of risks the upcoming events will involve. But it’s another level to tell them, “I trust you.” just before you let go of what you’re holding onto, expecting them to catch you before you fall.
Studying and meditating on God’s word, spending time in personal prayer, praise and worship, and practicing surrendering to God in smaller things will help you to learn to trust God more as you get to know Him and His ways on a deeper level. Each time we trust God in one situation and experience His grace, goodness and the growth that comes from walking with God, the soil of our spirit, heart and mind will begin to become more fertile to grow in more trust and to transform our thinking.
5 Steps to RENEWing Your Mind on Purpose
You might be asking, “Practically, how do we renew our minds?” The title of this article mentions renewing your mind “on purpose” for 2 reasons. First, the only way to be faithful to do what God is calling us to in our daily life, as well as in our unique calling, is to focus our thoughts on purposes that God has defined for us. Aligning our thoughts with His purposes comes from knowing and trusting God. Second, the only way to align our thoughts with God’s is to take steps on purpose–intentionally–to understand His will and to transform our thoughts.
The only way to stop ourselves from being tossed to and fro by the temptations of our mind is to have intentional and practical strategies to renew our mind. Whether it is in the middle of a situation or when all is well, taking time to examine your thoughts and replace them with the truth will change your life. So if you’re wondering, “how can I renew my mind daily,” below you will find the 5 steps of my RENEW© process that you can work through in a journal or document to start to transform your thinking. I’ve included 2 simple examples you can follow through the steps.
Recognize the triggers
The first step is to step back in your mind and observe the situation at hand that is triggering your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Notice who is involved, what is going on, when is it happening, where is it occurring, how is it affecting you, etc… Be specific in your observations. Also note if it is the type of situation that has happened before and may happen again.
The situation may not always involve another person. For example, it may be something such as you are approached with an opportunity to step out into something new and this may trigger self-defeating thoughts and feelings. Another example may be watching a news report, reading a social media post, or reflecting on a person or memory. These types of events can cause something to weigh on your heart or cause unrest inside of you as a negative response.
Ask yourself: What situation triggered my undesired thoughts, feelings or behaviors in the moment?
Example 1: Each time it takes my friend a few days to reply to my text message, I get upset.
Example 2: Each time I think that God may be calling me to ministry, I get doubtful.
Examine your thoughts
Second, be still inside and out, listening to what you are telling yourself and becoming aware of what emotions you are feeling. Also notice if any behaviors are occurring that are directly related to your thoughts and feelings and the results of them. Be as descriptive as possible to get to the root of your thinking and feelings if possible. It takes practice to slow down enough to hear our thoughts and it takes effort to put our feelings into words. But this awareness is critical to help you with a plan for transformation by renewing your mind.
Ask yourself: What am I feeling or saying to myself in this situation?
Example 1: I’m telling myself, “She doesn’t care about my needs or put me as a priority like I do for her when she reaches out to me.” I feel upset and disappointed. It distracts me from my work during the day to think that my good friend is dismissing my needs and I am putting more into the relationship that she is. I think I am feeling rejected and taken for granted by her.
Example 2: I’m telling myself, “Who am I to start a ministry? I’m too shy and inexperienced to be a leader. And I’m still struggling in so many areas of my own life–how could I possibly help anyone else?” I feel afraid, self-doubt, but also like I am not following God’s will. It makes me avoid having conversations with people when my heart really wants to try to help.
New thinking practice
Next, identify truth to replace what you are telling yourself. It is possible that you won’t believe this true thought yet — it may be what God says, but you can’t yet grasp in relation to yourself, or it may be what you see as true for others, but not for yourself. Even if you may struggle to believe it yet, read it out loud to yourself every day, even if the situation is not happening at the time. Pray for God to help you to internalize and personally apply this new belief. Eventually you will know it by memory and it will come to you more naturally. As you begin renewing your mind, this will also help to manage emotions and change behaviors over time as you believe new truths.
Awareness of what you are thinking and feeling is of great value, but you must follow this with an ongoing action plan to replace the thoughts that are not serving your well-being, growth or life goals with thoughts that will benefit you and help you to walk in God’s purposes for you. And over time you may find that you are peeling back layers and there are more thoughts needing to be replaced related to the situation.
A Bible verse that gives a Biblical perspective is always good to make note of. And in addition to renewing your mind with Biblical truth, it is important to note what is true and realistic in your life based on facts and not feelings. I like to have what I call an “out-of-body experience” and try to detach from the situation as if I am an outsider looking in and examine it from all perspectives as I explore what is true vs what might be just my perspective.
Reflect on what has been true for you in the past that you can apply to the present circumstance. Identify examples of people or situations in the world that show evidence that what you may think can’t happen is possible.
Take inventory of any experiences in your life that may be shaping how you see yourself or this situation. What is God telling you? What is Jesus’s example? How is the Spirit leading you? What messages are you gathering from other people or life experiences that you can consider?
Sometimes we may not have control over a situation or another person’s behavior. This is when trusting God is needed even more. Reading His word, praying to seek His wisdom and getting wise counsel from mature Christians and quality resources can help you to focus on godly thinking when the circumstances may be drawing you to a negative default. Even if you are unable to change the situation or person, renewing your mind by working on your own heart, spirit and mind can make a difference in your life.
Ask yourself: What is a scripture that speaks to this situation? What more balanced, true thought or perspective can I focus on when this situation arises?
Example 1: She may not be getting the message right away or may be busy or going through something that might keep her from replying sooner. Perhaps she doesn’t see the need to reply to text soon being as important as I do. She doesn’t even know I am feeling this way. The delay does not mean she does not care about me. She has shown that she cares about me in many other ways before. Instead of what I was thinking, I can think, “We are good friends and can find a way to meet both our needs if we talk about it.” And if she has a lot going on and can’t meet my need I can also meet some needs with other friends who are more available and not have unrealistic expectations of her.
Example 2: I know God’s voice and I think He is calling me to do this. I know I’ve learned new things before and I am resourceful and can find help and information if I need it. I can also get training in things I don’t know. In Ephesians 2:10 NIV the Bible says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” If I believe His word is true, I must believe that I was created for a purpose. When I think those things about myself, I can instead say, “God specially made me to do this. He will help me to do it. I have a great support network I can tap into if I need help. I will follow the call to make a difference.”
Engage in new habits
Once you know the trigger, your thoughts and what more effective thinking looks like, it helps to implement some practical actions or habits to help the new thinking become default. We tend to have default reactions to situations, especially if they are recurring or if we have some life experiences that make us more sensitive to the type of situation. Actions help us to gather more evidence to help our minds to embrace the new truth vs the old habitual thinking.
Plan both one-time action steps and ongoing habits that will help you to have a deeper and broader understanding of yourself, other people, what the situation requires and, of course, God’s will for you. These new practical steps will help you to interrupt the usual reaction pattern you have. Find a way to remind yourself to try the new action when you feel like you want to go back to the old response. If your new actions are not helping, explore some different things you can try.
When I was struggling to have patience with my sons when they were in middle school and they would misbehave and resist during homework time. I bought a 6 foot tall cardboard Jesus figure and stood it up in the corner of the room where we did homework to remind me and them that Jesus was with us. It was a great visual reminder for me of the new thinking and behaviors I wanted to have, and it even served as a pattern interrupt for the kids as they were amused to see it. It also gave us the opportunity to talk about God’s will for all of us during homework time. Be prayerfully creative in renewing your mind!
Ask yourself: What can I do differently in this situation to interrupt my usual reaction? How can I reflect God’s heart and the mind of Christ in this situation?
Example 1: I can reach out to her with another method like a phone call or email to see if she got my message if it’s important. I can take time to converse with her to see how she is doing in case life is busy or difficult right now and she is having trouble focusing on replying to messages with other priorities. I can discuss my feelings with her and see if there is a different way we can manage communication if I do really need a reply soon.
Example 2: I will find a group of like-minded women and set aside time on my calendar to engage in the group so I can be encouraged and learn. I will take a strengths and personality assessment to get to know what I’m good at and what might be some strategies when I do have to lead or work with others. I will hang Ephesians 2:10 on my bathroom mirror so I can read it every morning. When the negative thoughts come, I will read the new thinking practice statements I wrote out loud and listen to encouraging praise music. I’ll get a journal to start making notes about this ministry that God is placing on my heart. I will change my ringtone to a song that encourages me so I can hear it throughout the day.
Work at it
Like any new habit or change, renewing your mind takes time. It’s necessary to be patient with yourself and to give yourself grace as God does. You will default to the same thinking more often than not for a while, but the important thing is to recognize that and to immediately and intentionally starting thinking the new thoughts — and it is very helpful to do so out loud. Also, find easy and creative ways to work at it. You can even involve other people to help keep you accountable.
I used to ask a friend if I could text her when homework time began so that she could say a prayer for me and it would remind me that I wasn’t alone. And when one of my sons would continue to disobey during homework time, I decided to be creative in making him aware when he was causing a problem while also allowing me to practice being slow to speak. Since they played this video game, I bought an Angry Birds character that was on a stick like a little sign and I would hold it up and not say a word. He knew that it meant he was causing a problem and I was getting frustrated, and then he would usually say something silly and we’d both have a laugh. This taught both of us that we had choice in the way we responded to one another and the situation.
Ask yourself: How would my life be different if I change my reaction in this situation? What if I don’t? When can I put practicing this new thinking on my calendar?
Example: If I choose to clarify with her instead of make an assumption that causes my feelings to feel hurt and me to look at her differently, I won’t be carrying upset feelings for days, which steals my joy. I also may have an opportunity to help a friend in her time of need or just help her to understand my needs better, which can improve our relationship. If I don’t respond differently, I may say something out of anger one day and damage our friendship. On Sunday after church when the family is taking a nap or playing games and I’m not needed, I will take some time to reflect on our friendship and what I really need and pray about my feelings and my responses in the future. I will tell myself, “Believe the best about my friend and just ask.”
Example 2: If I choose to trust God instead of believe my doubts, I will have an opportunity to trust many lives, and I’ll feel better about myself. If I don’t think differently, I won’t be able to build confidence and make a difference in the world. Weekdays after school or Saturday mornings would work well for a group. I can do assessments on Friday evenings for the next couple of weeks. I will keep a journal of all that I am learning about myself and my ministry vision and when I feel doubts, I will seek God and support of others.
Sometimes it may seem impossible to change our thinking and responses, but with a genuine desire, consistent effort and seeking God’s wisdom and power, renewing your mind is possible.
If you’re struggling with renewing your mind and stepping in what God is calling you to in your everyday life or in relation to your unique God-given purpose, contact me to schedule a complimentary ‘From Tired to Inspired’ Strategy Session to explore how to get from where you are to where God is calling you to be.
If you desire to walk with like-minded women on your journey to become and fulfill all God is calling you to, I invite you to join my Christian Woman Life Purpose Community private Facebook group. You can learn more about the heart of this group on the Community page of my website.
I definitely have some things I need to figure out.
We all have many thoughts to renew all the time, even if we don’t know what they are yet. Awareness is the beginning of all things new!