~ JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY ~
It’s a new day, and I hope you’re ready for new revelations coming your way. It even rhymes!
Today I’d like to mention another important topic—thoughts.
Nope, you won’t be trying to read other people’s minds. (Although, sometimes we wish our significant others could read ours.) Instead, you’re going to pay attention to what’s going on in your own head. And here is why:
1. What you think influences the person you become.
Whether you realize it or not, your thoughts influence every area of your life. Everything starts with an idea in your head and a decision to accept or decline it.
Lau Tzu wrote: "Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny".
The Bible also teaches that "as the man thinks in his heart, so is he".
2. What you think determines what you can achieve.
Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”. If you accept the thought that a certain area is beyond your ability, you won’t even try. On the other hand, if you believe that with hard work and perseverance anything can be achieved, you will make progress despite all the limits.
3. What you think forms your reality.
In this age of information, there is an ongoing battle for a hot commodity—our minds. If toxic thoughts are planted, they can keep us from reaching our true identities and destinies. If we accept negative mindsets as our own, they take over and grow into anxiety, doubt, self-depreciation, judgment, envy. It’s time to put a stop to it.
Our thoughts can influence our physical and mental well-being, our relationships, career choices, and overall happiness in life. You probably heard of the mind-body connection: what the mind thinks, the body does. But not only our thoughts can control you, but you can, in turn, have control over your mind. The problem is that most of the time we don't pay attention to what's going through our heads during the day. But today will be different. If you're up for it, here are a few things to try... starting now:
Step #1 is AWARENESS.
Martin Luther wrote: "You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair". You might not be able to stop the thoughts from coming and going, but to agree with them and let them remain is your choice.
Today you'll become the "bird" hunter. You'll capture thoughts in your own head. It might be easy to do, but as you go through your usual activities, try to pause once in a while and catch what you're thinking about. Set a reminder on your phone to help you.
We think constantly, but, most of the time, don't even realize it. What's going through your mind when you look in the mirror, drive, talk to others? Try to pay attention today and write down your thoughts, especially the ones that are associated with unpleasant emotions such as stress, guilt, frustration, intimidation, doubt.
Step #2 is ANALYSIS.
As you examine each thought you identified, ask yourself—where is it coming from, is it true, is it beneficial, does it lift you up or put you down, what will it lead to if it remains? Do similar thoughts pop into your head? Do they persist? Play on repeat?
Our thoughts are not random or harmless. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist, teaches that thoughts are like trees that we allow to grow in our brains. If the tree is toxic, it will produce bad fruit that will poison your life. And, unfortunately, weeds grow easier than good crops.
But if thoughts can be planted, they can also be plucked out. To get rid of them, we need to dig into the root and identify the source. Possible roots could be people that said something negative about us, individuals at work or at home that constantly complain and criticize, unfortunate experiences that led to wrongful convictions, our current difficult circumstances.
Step #3 is ANNEXATION.
As you capture the negative mindsets and figure out the cause or at the least identify the patterns, the next question is—how to get rid of them. Whether it's just a few unpleasant thoughts or a constant onslaught in your head, it's never too late to take over the reins. Even if the roots are deep and the toxic tree is thick and tall, you can still hack it out little by little:
1. Remove the source. If the cause of the toxic thought is obvious—step away from it. Distance yourself from negative people, turn off the news or social media, remove yourself from the stressful situation, even if just for a short time. Take a breather.
2. Dig into the root. For the mindsets that followed you from childhood and have an elaborate root system and deep-seated beliefs, you might need to spend more time figuring out the causes, talking with a counselor and studying that specific area in more depth.
3. Replace negative thoughts with positive. Once you identified the false belief in your mind, ask yourself—what is the truth? Focus on that. Spend time on it and dwell on that topic until it grows into a good tree in your mind. It will take to see the positive fruit.
4. Fill your mind with helpful information. Listen to motivational books or videos. Surround yourself with positive uplifting people and let them speak into your life. Speak words of affirmation to yourself, tape them around your house, internalize them.
5. Keep the "birds" from landing on your head. Stop the toxic self-talk as soon as it enters your mind. It will take time and practice to recognize it, but if you'll continue with the daily awareness and catch these thoughts in a moment, it will get easier.
Changing the way we think is not a fast process. Sometimes it takes years, but it's the effort worth pursuing. To help out, I created a board on Pinterest with positive affirmations. And to find out how to make them work, read this blog post about how to make positive thoughts stick.
For more resources, see the links below:
Read the previous blog in this series: Learning How to See Yourself
Read the next blog in this series: Finding Your Courage