What Are You Thinking?
Everything starts with your thoughts. You've probably heard me mention this a few [hundred] times.
But, knowing that and understanding that, and then doing something about it, are all very different things.
Knowing that everything begins with your thoughts is wonderful, but it means nothing at all if you don't know what it is you're thinking in the first place.
So this week, we're going to dive in and take a look at how you can start a habit of becoming aware of your thinking.
Let's start by firstly understanding what a thought is.
A thought is a sentence.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
It has no meaning. It creates no emotion. It sparks no action.
It is simply a sentence.
The tricky bit here, is that once we think a thought, we almost immediately make it mean something.
And these meanings come from our own beliefs, perspective, experiences, and general understanding of our own reality.
They are often auto-responses coming from our subconscious mind.
And that, my friends, and how we get into trouble with our thoughts.
We think the same - or similar - thoughts so often that those connections between thought and meaning in our brain start to look like a super highway. Lots of traffic. Easy to get from Point A to Point B. Efficient. Safe.
Which is exactly what our subconscious mind wants. Safety and efficiency.
So anything that seems safe and efficient is going to happen A LOT. Even if it is the opposite of what we want to be thinking or have happen. Frustrating, no?
The problem with that, is that these thoughts provoke a reaction or response so quickly that we don't even know what it is that we're thinking in the first place. All we notice is the response. And the response is so common and expected that we don't question it and we take it as truth.
And it isn't until that auto-response prevents us from doing something that our conscious mind wants to do that we ever take notice of it at all.
This typically happens most often when we've made a decision to start or stop something. Something new.
A new behaviour. A new habit. A new goal. A new dream. A new outlook. A new feeling.
Something that is different than our customary thoughts, feelings, habits, or behaviours and all of a sudden we start experiencing road blocks. It suddenly feels like we're walking through mud instead of driving on a motorway.
And because of this, a plethora of things start to happen.
We begin to feel overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated. We begin to doubt ourselves, our businesses, our entire mission and purpose. We start to want to hide away, avoid, put things off. Things feel really freaking hard and we start to not want to do it anymore.
All because our subconscious mind doesn't like new. It likes safe and efficient.
So, how do we circumvent the system and stop the auto-response to a thought we didn't know we were having so we can actually get things done?
As expected, this brings us directly back to our thoughts.
We have to be able to know what we're thinking in order to decide whether or not that thought is helping or hindering us in that moment.
Keeping in mind the auto-response to any unmonitored thought is going to be the safe and efficient option - the one that is going to keep you nice and cozy - we have to pay attention to what we're thinking first before the auto-responder kicks in.
To do that we need to learn to recognise when our automated system has taken over for us.
For many this happens when we start to notice all those feelings and thoughts mentioned above. The resistance. The desire to walk away. The doubt. The fear. The procrastination. The stories. The excuses.
All the stuff that slows down our progress and journey into the growth arena.
Here's what you do. I'll offer an example.
Example: You notice that all of a sudden something that seemed really exciting and goal-centered just a few days ago suddenly feels a bit like a slog. At first you may try to push through and assume that you're simply tired or a bit more stressed or generally out of sorts. But then the feelings don't dissipate and now you're spiraling downward into territory that isn't a fun place to hang-out. Doubt. Fear. Lack of self-worth. ick!
How to switch things up: Rather than assuming that you're just off or spiraling into the unfriendly rabbit hole of doom and gloom, just STOP.
Give yourself a few moments away from you computer to pause. Head outside for some fresh air. Clear your mind a bit. Take deep breaths. Calm down. Visualise walking away from all the mounting emotions.
Then, grab a journal and begin to free write. Free writing is when we don't edit or analyse what we're writing while we're writing it - we simply let it flow out of us. And flow it will, given the chance. ;)
Write it all down. What you're thinking. What that means for you. How you're feeling. All of it.
And then keep writing. Keep going deeper and deeper until you're able to track down that initial thought that prompted an auto-response. Keep looking until you can find that thought that started it all.
*Note: This initial trigger thought is often not what you would expect and when looked at closely in the light of day, is generally illogical and close to nonsense. Don't edit or judge. Remember, it is just a sentence.
** Note #2: Sometimes it is hard to get to that root thought because it is so hidden. That's okay. Get to where you think it all started and work from there. Over time you may find that there was something even deeper beneath where you were looking, but until then, work with where you're at.
Once you find your trigger thought, have a look at it. Look at it without judgement or shame. Then decide whether or not that it should be kept or let go of. Decide if it is helping you or hindering you?
You get to decide. Remember, a thought is simply a sentence. We get to choose which ones we want to keep.
If you decide to keep it because it is helping you move forward into growth and action, then great. Keep it. If it feels uncomfortable to keep that thought, consider a reframe and then add in some self-care practices - tapping, journaling, gratitude, forgiveness. Whatever you need in order to feel good with that thought residing in your mind.
If you decide to let it go, then that's exactly what you need to do. Release that baby into the world. Release meditations are great for this. Meditate and with every exhale you say the word 'release' while thinking that thought. You can also do visualisations on releasing that thought and watch it float away with the breeze.
As you get comfortable with the habit of looking at your thoughts and digging into the underlying ones, it will get much easier. Eventually you'll notice the thoughts when they're happening, a bit like a shooting star flying across the night sky.
You'll notice the thought and immediate stop and say, 'what the hell was that?' And that pause and immediate recognition will allow you right then to keep or discard that thought and move on to something that is going to help you move forward.
So, knowing what you're thinking is the first step. Being aware is a wonderful state to be in. However, for the purposes of growth and taking action, we then have to do something about those thoughts. And that is when the digging and keeping or releasing comes in.
Give it a try the next time you're noticing feelings or behaviours that feel contradictory to what you were thinking/feeling previously or what you thought it would feel like when you started that new thing.
Gift yourself a few moments to investigate your thoughts and see where it leads. Because, it all starts with your thoughts and you can use your thoughts to stay safe and efficient or to help you grow and move forward.
The choice is yours.
Until next time,
With grace, grit, and gumption
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