It’s all between your ears. All those thoughts. As a client said to me “It’s a hamster wheel”. The same thoughts over and over and over and over again. The I think I can’t, I think I can’t, I think I can’t mantra. You see your boss’ door closed and you assume you’re in trouble. Your wife doesn’t respond to your text and you decide she must be mad about something. You hear your coworkers laughing and you feel shut out. Guess what. You get to choose your thoughts. Really you do.
But, Cathy, I can’t! I can’t stop my mind chatter. It’s always negative. I know. I’ve been there. There isn’t a magic wand that is going to turn off that faucet. What it takes is deliberate practice. Having a coach (like me) is a really good way to change course. A good coach will hold up a mirror and help you pick through those thoughts and question their value. We all have different beliefs around trust, money, love and work. “If I love, I will be hurt.” “I’ll never get a promotion, so why apply?” “I’m not worth more money than I am making.” And then that broken record keeps playing over and over and over again.
Here are some disciplines to begin doing now and so you can throw out the recording:
- Practice mindfulness. This means stop dwelling on the past or assuming the future. Be in the moment. Now. And now. And now. Feel the chair you are sitting in. Feel your chest rise with each breath. Listen to your dog sighing. Smell the aroma of your coffee cup. Feel your big toe. Mindfulness is being in the moment and tapping into all your senses. It takes you out of your head and into your body.
- Accept failure. As J. K. Rowling said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” You cannot break out of the status quo unless you are open to failure. Most of your thoughts are full of “what if” scenarios. That is a waste of energy. It’s OK if you fail. You’ll learn something if you do.
- Stop worrying. A quote from Arthur Somers Roche that I love: “Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” I’ve met a lot of people who view worry as a sort of penance. If I worry about my son driving to Orlando to meet me, then I am preparing myself for the worst. I’m expending energy and I can assure it is not changing the outcome. It is futile and exhausting. Worry does not change the future.
- Think about positive outcomes. This is the flip side of worry. So instead of worrying about my twenty-year-old son driving to Orlando safely, I think about embracing him when I see him. I think about his magnetic smile. I think about how his reaction times are so much faster than my own. His flawless driving record. I feel more upbeat now. I’m in a much better mind set.
- Use mantras. I have a mantra that I use in the middle of the night if I wake up from some sort of stress. “In an easy and relaxed manner in a helpful and positive way, joy comes to me easily in its own perfect time for the benefit of all.” I put that on a broken loop in my head. Make your own. Make sure it is simple and positive.
- Good enough. So many of my clients are frozen by perfectionism. Let it be “good enough”. I’m not suggesting you do sloppy work but let go of it being perfect. If there is anything blasting thoughts through your head it’s the perfectionism judge. “I won’t apply for the job until I have that certificate.” “I’ll sign up after I’ve lost 15 pounds.” “I’ll ask for a raise after I finish that project.” It’s good enough. Quit being paralyzed.
This is not a quick fix. Your thoughts have been riding the same railroad track for a while. Even acknowledging that your thoughts are not the truth can help you slow it down. Get off the train at the next stop and see the possibilities.