Thoughts rule our world.
A simple thought like “Rember to give people a smile” can give us a day made of wonderful encounters.
Too often, though, our thinking makes us small, uneasy, limited.
But are we really at the mercy of our thoughts?
The answer is no. Thoughts – especially the nagging ones – like to pretend to be the boss.
But they are not. The real boss – over your thoughts and your life – is always you.
The following five steps help you to win back control over your thoughts, once for all.
Step 1 – Say no to the anarchy of your thoughts
Just like emotions, thoughts are always with us. But if we ask ourselves what thoughts were part of our day, we barely remember a handful (often the nagging ones) of them.
That’s because the thoughts we are aware of are just the tip of the iceberg. Most of our notions happen on a subconscious level. And our thoughts use that unattended situation to lively connect with each other and build (preferably) toxic thought-chain-reactions.
These “hidden” thought programs are the breeding ground for the nagging thoughts you are aware of.
So to beat your nagging thoughts, you first have to “clean up” the thinking culture in your subconscious underground.
Let’s see how to get access to that “underworld” in the next step!
Step 2 – Start a thought journal
Thoughts are always the starting point of the following chain reaction:
Thought – emotion – behavior.
A thought leads into an emotion and that emotion directs your behavior.
Research shows that any form of negative rumination will send you into destructive emotions that lead to destructive behavior.
To change these chain reactions, we have to reverse engineer them. Since most thoughts are not easy for us to catch, we focus on our emotions to detect and decode them.
Whenever your emotions “feel bad,” you reverse engineer:
- In what situation did the bad emotions come up?
- What were you thinking in that situation?
- What were you feeling in that situation?
Write down these observations in a thought journal with the situation in the first column, your thinking in the second and your feelings in the third.
Here’s an example for a typical journal entry:
You called your friend to ask her to go out for dinner. She was curt and said she has no time to go out with you.
- she doesn’t like me anymore
- she finds it boring to have dinner with you
- she prefers to go out with someone else
To brighten up your journaling with some good stuff, we will add a nice “feel good” column to your journal in the next step!
Step 3 – Cultivate new feel good thoughts
Add a fourths column to your journal and name it “good thoughts.” There, you write down alternative thoughts that feel much better than the uneasy thoughts of your second column.
Coming back to our example, some relieving alternative thinking could be:
- she has no time because she has to prepare for an important meeting in her job tomorrow
- she’s really tired because she had a very stressful week and all she wants is to get some extra hours of sleep
First, it’s hard to come up with these alternatives. And if you find some, you will probably doubt them. That’s because your mind wants to stick to the thought patterns it is used to.
The next step helps you to break through that resistance.
Step 4 – Make the reality check
A huge portion of our daily thoughts is made of speculations.
Unfortunately, we take these speculations for real.
Instead of questioning them, we trust them and act on them. And acting on assumptions that are based on negative thoughts almost always ends in a disaster.
The reality check helps you here by asking this:
Are your thoughts based on facts or assumptions?
Check all your negative thoughts with that question. You will soon find out that many of them (if not all) are based on speculations.
For example, as long as your friend doesn’t tell you so, thinking she doesn’t like you anymore is just a speculation.
The next and final step is the most important one to make your thought changes sustainable.
Step 5 – Start your journal today and stick to it
No doubt, diving into the dark side of your thoughts is a challenge far outside your comfort zone.
But isn’t the outcome – a happier life with less if not zero nagging thoughts harassing you – more than worth the temporary discomfort?
That’s why I want to encourage you to make your thought journal entries a daily routine you consistently stick to. You’ll see, your harmful thoughts will soon give in to the wealth of good thoughts you’ve cultivated!
So don’t wait and start your thought journal today.
Your future self will thank you forever.
Vera Kuhr is a coach that helps the overwhelmed, distracted, procrastinating, impatient, paralyzed and however else struggling digital entrepreneur to get unstuck and pivot to success. Get her free course and learn how to leave out the most sneaky game-over traps of blogging.