Our thought life has a massive affect on every aspect of our lives. Our thoughts shape our perceptions, which then determine how we experience our lives and the beliefs that we form. Our beliefs drive the choices we make, which direct the lives we build. This cycles back in an automated and continuous loop. In the words of the American writer Henry David Thoreau, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see”.
No other human being has the amount of power that we have over ourselves-regardless of the circumstances. Our thought life is within our jurisdiction. We can choose to relinquish that authority over to another, but the power to do so belongs to us-as does the ability to reclaim it. This can be difficult to accept, especially when our lives feel out-of-control, but it IS very good news. Even if we do not believe that we have that power, we can take action steps to regain our sense of self-ownership. There is every reason for hope.
I have wrestled with negative thoughts, fears and insecurities. I remember thinking it would never get better. But it did. I feel so much more freedom and happiness now that I’m not shackled to those mental goblins. I enjoy my life immeasurably more-and so can you.
The first step is to become aware of what you are thinking. Most of the time our thoughts flow freely through our minds, unacknowledged, unguided and unchallenged. It takes some effort and intention to pay attention to what we are thinking, but it becomes easier with practice. You might be surprised at what occupies your mind most of the time. Many people don’t realize the amount of fearful and negative thoughts they have until they become aware of their own thinking.
As you identify these reoccurring negative thoughts, write them down. Then take each one and scrutinize it. Ask yourself, “What makes this thought/belief true?” In other words, what evidence is there to prove that it is true? Really analyze it as objectively as possible.
Next, ask yourself if is helping you. It must be BOTH truthful and helpful-otherwise it isn’t serving you and needs to be replaced with a view that is. For example, imagine I was working on losing weight and my goal was to fit back into my favorite pair of jeans. If 3 weeks into my efforts I put the jeans on and they still didn’t fit, I might decide that my attempts were a failure and give up. First of all, just because the jeans don’t fit (yet) doesn’t mean that I have not lost some weight or that my efforts were a failure. Can you see the skewed thinking? I’m seeing it in an all-or-nothing way. Seeing it as a failure is false because there isn’t enough evidence, nor has there been enough time to prove it a success or not. Secondly, believing I have failed isn’t helpful—at all. Here is an example of a more accurate and helpful conclusion: “Although I have yet to reach my end goal, I am committed to this process.” There are a few thought distortions that are common to us all.
Next in this two-part series, we will identify them so you can recognize those mental traps and replace them with thought patterns that are both truthful and helpful.
If you would like a personalized plan to improve your thought life, book your 30 minute consultation today. Let’s begin to cultivate the landscape of your mind so you can flourish.