We’ve all experienced the popular notion that “our thoughts shape our reality.” When life is working well, it’s easy to focus on thoughts that feel good and perpetuate success and happiness in our lives. However, what do you do when you are attached to thoughts that clearly don’t serve you? How can you transform stressful thoughts?
Below are 7 keys to transforming stressful thoughts, and making the shift.
1. AWARENESS – Before we can influence our thoughts, we need to become aware of them. How do you know there is a disempowering thought lurking in your mind? Your EMOTIONS serve as signals to catch your attention. These feelings may be subtle or extreme. A feeling that “something is off”, discomfort, anxiety or a mild sense of resistance or depression is worth paying attention to. Some reactions are blatant and obvious, serving as giant clues that the mind has attached to a thought. Become a detective and identify the thought or thoughts that are associated with the feeling. Awareness is the first key. You cannot shift what you are unaware of.
2. Is it true in REALITY? So often, the thoughts that drive our feelings have no basis in reality, leaving us attached to thoughts that are simply fantasy. When an event happens, our minds instantaneously attach a meaning (meaning is a synonym for “thought”) to the occurrence. Separating the FACTS (what happened) from the MEANING or interpretation is one way to connect to reality. It’s important to recognize the myriad of ways that we distort reality. We EXAGGERATE or MINIMIZE it. We DENY it. We think it SHOULD be different than it is. We ARGUE with it. And, we FORECAST it. Each of these results in stress or anxiety. When the mind recognizes that a thought is NOT true in reality, it often simply releases the thought. Getting in touch with the REALITY of the situation is the second key to shifting thoughts.
3. Identifying Impact – Often times a thought that we investigate appears to be factual or true in reality, yet the resulting feeling is one of stress, anxiety, or sadness. Death, accidents, unmet expectations, annoying sounds, flat tires, and deflating stock markets happen. Some of the feelings associated with these events can become “addictive” in a strange way. We connect with others through sadness or disappointment. The adrenaline rush of anger can also give us a sense of certainty or power. When a thought is true in reality, but you’re finding the result is not serving you — it’s time to identify the impact. If you continue to attach to this thought, how will it make you feel? How will you treat others? How will you live your life if you constantly focus on this thought? When the mind comprehends that there is more pain associated to a thought than pleasure, the mind often simply let’s the thought go.
As we discussed in last week, it’s also helpful to identify the perceived PAYOFF. Typically the benefit we unconsciously believe we’re receiving, isn’t REALLY giving us what we desire. When the mind realizes this, it lets go of the thought more easily. Identifying the impact is another key to transforming thought.
4. Willingness – In order for any transformation to occur, one MUST be WILLING to shift. Someone can know they have a food, TV or alcohol addiction, but without a genuine WILLINGNESS to shift – NOTHING will disrupt the destructive behavior. Such is the case with thoughts that one is consciously or unconsciously addicted to. That authentic willingness works magic.
5. Just Let Go – Sometimes unresourceful thoughts arise, and we can simply let them go because they don’t serve us. The inner critic may say, “Who are you to think you can do that?” or “This isn’t going to work”, or “What if you fail?” Maybe the thought is trivial negativity or fixated on something that can’t change. The most powerful part of you can respond with a simple, “Thank you for sharing”, and let it go.
6. Redirect Focus – Our minds are like children. Whatever you place in front of them becomes the focus of their reality. When caught up in addictive thoughts, consciously redirect your focus on something more positive or neutral. If your spouse is running late, embrace the beauty in your environment. If you find yourself frustrated in traffic, focus on your breathing, music in the car or the opportunity to relax and slow down. LANGUAGE is a powerful means of redirecting your focus. Consider shifting your internal dialog. Choose words that empower you over words that deplete your energy.
7. SCRAMBLE the Thought – Tony Robbins and NLP practitioners know of this powerful tool, and it’s simple for anyone to use by themselves. You simply must be WILLING to try it. If you’ve been embracing a negative mantra over and over in your mind, simply recognizing its impact may not be enough. Let’s take a mantra like, “I have so much to do”. To scramble this sentence, or any other, do the following.
- Say the sentence 5 times really fast in a MICKEY MOUSE voice (yes, I’m serious).
- Say the sentence 5 times really slow in a COWBOY’S voice.
- Say the sentence 5 times is your most SENSUAL and SEDUCTIVE voice.
- Say the sentence 5 times BACKWARDS (i.e. “Do to much so have I”).
You must play FULL OUT. If you’re playing full-out, you’ll find yourself laughing out loud. Just continue until you’ve made it all the way through the 4 steps above. When you’re done, notice how you feel about the original sentence. Most people experience the sentence as neutral or humorous after completing this exercise. The addictive thought has been transformed. Try it!!
8. Replace It. As you loosen the grips on the thoughts that don’t serve you, it’s important to replace them with something more empowering – so the thoughts don’t have a home to return to. Consciously choosing the antithesis of the original thought is a simple solution. Another way to find a replacement is to turn the statement around. Identifying a thought that is “as true” or “truer” than the original statement. Or it may simply align more with what you want to create or attract into your life. In the example above, “I have too much to do”, could be transformed into, “I’m on track”, or “It’s all going to get done”. As long as the replacement is more powerful that the unresourceful, you’re on track.