In my last Post I shared how we often put an enormous emphasis on our feelings, rather than focusing on whether our thoughts are self-defeating or moving us forward. Again, I am not saying that we should disregard our feelings (a la Mr. Spock in Star Trek whose main focus is summed up in the words “Seems logical to me, Captain”).
The key principle here is that if we do not take charge of what we tell ourselves, then our feelings will simply follow those thoughts, whether true or not.
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford
It might be a thought that begins innocently enough yet, when not challenged with the truth, takes you down a rabbit hole of self-doubt, discouragement and fear. I remember such as moment in high school.
On the golf team, I found myself on the 18th hole of the last round of our match against our cross town rivals. Until this hole I had played confidently and was feeling pretty good about myself. As I walked up to the final green, where I would only have to make one very short putt to win my match, a very quiet thought popped into my head,
“What if I miss it?” Then another thought showed up, “What if I blow the match for the whole team? This was followed by the final blow, “What if everybody finds out I lost the most important match of the year?”
My feelings of confidence, so strong only moments before, turned into fear and anxiety (hardly feelings a golfer needs at such a moment!).
Well, you guessed it, the ball rolled past the hole. The voice in my head got louder and my next putt went past the hole again. Finally, on my third try, the ball clunked down into the hole, putting my anxious anticipation to a merciful end.
I had allowed a tiny, yet very cruel, voice in my head to take charge, leading to feelings of fear and potential shame.
I had created a thought that became my undoing.
The key here is the word ‘created’, as I did not realize at the time that if I created such a thought, I could create another in its place.
Eric Maisel, the foremost creativity coach in America today and one of my favorite authors, says the following about the importance of thinking versus feeling in his book Making Your Creative Mark,
“ Your first task as a creative person is to ‘mind your mind’ and think thoughts that serve you.”
Wow, what a concept, to think thoughts that serve you!
My thinking on the golf course did not serve me.
The self-sabotaging thoughts I often have when I wonder if anyone will want to read my new book do not serve me.
The thoughts that I have that cause me to doubt my worth and value do not serve me.
How, then, can we create thoughts that allow us to turn negative beliefs that do not serve us into those that lead to a positive, appropriate and productive way of life?
Here are 4 ways to ‘mind your mind’:
1) Be Aware of What You Are Thinking
Monitor how you talk to yourself. It has been said that we are capable of 1,000‘s of thoughts per second! Are they positive or negative? Critical or affirming? Are they thoughts that serve you well or do they lead to self-sabotage.
2) Listen for the ‘What if’s…”
Whenever we say “What if” to our self, our physical activation level goes up, leading to more anxiety and more negative thinking. As soon as you hear “What if” say “So What!” Stop negative thoughts dead in their tracks.
3) Tell the Negative Thoughts to Shut-up!!
Challenge them as soon as you hear them. Tell them firmly where they can go! Picture a bright red Stop sign every time you are aware of a negative thought. Do whatever is necessary at that moment to move your thinking out of anxious anticipation or self-doubt.
4) Replace Your Thoughts with Those that Serve You Better!
Example: I tell myself that finishing my new book is something that would be a tremendous accomplishment for me. Yet, I then create another thought that says that no one will probably want to buy it, so why try. This new thought absolutely does not serve me well towards achieving my dream so I choose to replace it with a thought that will keep me moving forward with my writing.
The exciting reality is that you can create any thought that you choose. At first it doesn’t even matter if you truly believe it. We are not doomed to feel bad or think negatively. Listen for the negative and then replace it with thoughts that serve you better.
The great news is that the choice is up to you. Commit to ‘minding your mind’.
Question: What thoughts are you currently tolerating that do not serve you to achieve the things that matter to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Click on the comments box and tell me what you think.