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Stop Assuming the Worst: Your Thoughts Shape Your Reality

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“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.” ~Buddha

My morning bicycle ride had been uneventful until I spotted a small lump in the middle of the bike path. It wasn’t a twig, a dead mouse, or a smelly “gift” from a dog, which are some of the most common sightings during my rides.

It was a perfect, intact slice of bread.

In a nanosecond, my mind created several versions of how this piece of bread had ended up where it was.

I pictured a young mother pushing a stroller and her two-year-old tossing the bread out to the side. But no one in her right mind would give a whole slice of bread without butter or jam to a picky toddler.

“Well,” I said to myself, “Maybe this was the woman’s first child, and she had no clue what to feed little children.” Now, this woman’s poor choices had resulted in perfectly good food being wasted.

My mind then traveled to countries where a good slice of bread (or any kind of food) is very hard to find, and I started to feel anger.

That’s when a voice inside told me, “There you go again, making up stories in your head.” I chuckled at my crazy imagination. And that’s when it hit me: We all create stories in our head, and many of these stories make our lives miserable.

I used to be a pro at assuming the worst.

I remember being upset that a friend seemed to be ignoring me and hadn’t returned my emails, until I realized I had been sending the messages to her old (and inactive) address.

I recall the time I paid an evening visit to Wal-Mart, and when I spotted a man running in my direction in the parking lot, I thought I was going to be attacked. The man only wanted to ask for a couple of dollars because his motorcycle had run out of gas.

I remember a time in my life in which all the pieces were falling perfectly into place, and instead or rejoicing in the moment, I wondered when the next disaster would happen because life couldn’t be so good.

The stories in our head are courtesy of our subconscious mind, which has been programmed since the moment of our conception. But without going into the technicality of how our subconscious mind is programmed, what matters is that we make our own reality.

So how do we know when we’re judging things correctly or when our mind is playing tricks? The answer is, we don’t know.

But we can learn to reprogram our subconscious mind. We can deactivate the programs that lead to unhappiness and replace them with uplifting thoughts of love.

How do we reprogram the subconscious mind? The following have worked well for me:

Become aware and inquisitive.

Every time a thought that produces a negative emotion pops into your head, contemplate the origin of this thought and question the validity of it. Remember that beliefs are nothing more than repeated thoughts, so question your beliefs as well. 

Feed positive programs to your mind.

Once you’re aware of a negative story in your head, replace it with its positive counterpart.

In my case, I could’ve chosen to think that my friend wasn’t receiving my emails, and called her instead of insisting on sending more emails. I could’ve also assumed the man who asked for money had good intentions, and that my life could actually be good and joyful. 

Make your environment positive. 

Surround yourself with peaceful, uplifting stimuli. Instead of going out to the bar to yell to be heard and to get drunk, meet up with friends for dinner and make real connections. Instead of watching the disasters in the news, go out for a walk in nature.

Associate with positive people.

Think of your current relationships, and define whether some of those people are feeding negative programs to your subconscious mind. Send the toxic people away from your life, and welcome those who share your values and love you for who you really are.

Changing the crazy thoughts in your head requires attention and practice, but once you’ve made progress, you’ll notice how amazing life turns out to be. As Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Photo by Marcos Dias

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About Cloris Kylie Stock

Cloris Kylie Stock, MBA, is a career, academic, and life coach from Simsbury, Connecticut. She is a sought-after lecturer who achieved the highest Toastmasters awards in communication and leadership. Her calling is to help people realize their maximum potential. Visit her on Facebook or Twitter, and check out her online radio show.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Amy

    Thanks :) I seem to do that alot – waiting for something bad to happen when its actually all rosie!

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Cloris,

    Me and you both ;) I was a worrywort and I deliberately pictured negative scenarios for years. Intense reprogramming and meditation helped me to see more bright, rosy scenarios based on observations I made.

    The bread story hits home. Even the smallest occurrence can lead to a high or low energy outcome, based on the thoughts that we choose.

    Of course, we need to do the choosing, and quite carefully, if we are to effectively assume the best and see the best in our lives.

    Thanks for sharing Cloris.

    Ryan

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Hello Cloris,

    Good points and I loved reading it. Thanks for sharing. However, I believe a combination of thoughts and action shape our reality. We can think about all the positive things we want in life and we will definitely get a more positive life. However, in order to shape our reality we need to take action as well.

    Best,
    Anders Hasselstrøm
    Motivational speaker

  • Debbie Bills

    Our own mind can play trickes on us. When we learn to think on the psoitive side of life, it is amazing the difference it can make. Even when something not so good happens, there is always something positive it the situation. Now I look at the slice of bread as, That is cool someone left it so a duck could have something to eat. My first thought was that maybe that mom was going to a lake close by and was going let her child feed the ducks.
    Debbie

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Debbie, thank you for your comment! Changing my way of thinking has really turned my life around. I like the story about the ducks :-) Blessings.

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Anders, thank you for commenting to my second Tiny Buddha article. I agree that action is needed, and also that the way we behave (act) depends on our thoughts. Best to you!

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Thank you, Ryan! Glad to hear you’ve also changed your limiting beliefs. Blessings to you.

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Thank you for the comment, Amy! We all tend to do this, huh? :-)

  • Sam

    I once created such a sad and elaborate story that I began to tear up in the waiting room of my doctor’s office. An overweight woman (not unlike myself) was sitting across from me, and she quickly (embarrassed?) grabbed a pamphlet about how “your husband’s low sex drive could be connected to his testosterone”. I immediately told myself that this poor woman’s husband must not need to have sex with her anymore, because she was unattractive to him and he was in fact cheating on her. I began to cry a little, and luckily got a hold of myself, realizing now that those are in fact all my fears about myself and my own relationship. It’s funny what the mind can come up with, and how long I indulged in this fantasy about this person I know nothing about.

  • http://www.getoutofstuck.net Roberta Budvietas

    As a man thinketh. It is interesting though that sometimes your secret fears can become your reality

  • Talya Price

    I agree with you on that. Thoughts and action create our reality. I know I have been thinking too much. Now I need to put in some action to achieve my goals.

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful post, and message! Thank you for sharing your great advice, and perspective! :)

  • Luca Samson

    Hey Cloris,

    Great post, I have been trying to live this post for the last 7 years. I also believe that they way we act is controlled through our thoughts and emotions, and that is why we need a clear head in order to accomplish anything important.
    I found meditation helped a lot with this.

    Cheers

  • growthguided

    What a great skillset to be able to pull yourself out of that constant negative anticipation!

    Thank you for this great message!

    Let me know if you would like to do a guest post on GrowthGuided!

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Thank you for your comment, Kael! Also, I visited GrowthGuided. Very nice site! Thank you for the offer to guest post :-) Will stay in touch.

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Thank you, Luca. The fact that you know it’s been 7 years shows that you are aware, and awareness is the most important step for getting rid of limiting beliefs. Best to you!

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Yes, Roberta, because what you think about is what expands…Thank you for your comment!

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Thank you so much! I really appreciate your words…

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Interesting story, Sam. You were looking at this woman through the lens of your subconscious mind. Continue being aware of those beliefs that might be obstacles to true happiness.

  • Michelle

    This is great for me to read at the moment. My dad has always been the critical voice in my life and looking back he always caused me to assume the worst. This may have been out of protection for his little daughter, but now I see it as a negative influence.

    I’m 24 now and I don’t want to continue thinking like him as I’m way too critical on myself as it is. His way of thinking is not beneficial to me and I’m in the process of breaking away from his pessimistic outlook… it’s draining. I guess not everyone out there is out to get me ;)

  • Joseph Robinson

    Cloris,
    I agree with your post’s theme that thoughts do indeed shape our reality. I believe this is a type of truth more and more people need to know about.

    I totally get what you are saying about thought and the subconscious mind.
    Maybe we can even look at this a little deeper. Perhaps, we can broaden the concept to provide a larger view. Can we include the idea that thoughts, feelings, and consciousness come from outside of the physical elements, people, or circumstances we may find our selves in either good or bad, positive or negative?

    I am on a mission to help evolve consciousness. What this mission has done for me is to help me learn ways to deal with thought, feelings, and belief in new way.
    In some recent study, I found a teacher who taught me some simple principles. I was ending a very dysfunctional relationship. My soon-to-be ex-wife had various addiction issues and I was sure she was unfaithful.

    As you can imagine this was a very negative situation and I was right to feel betrayed and suspect of this person. And just like your example of how the mind comes up with a story about a random slice of bread, I was coming up with a perfectly logical, prove-able story about this failed relationship.

    The difference in this model I learned, was that all reality is subjective 100% of the time even when faced with negative “facts.” I learned that 100% of our feelings about anything comes from our thoughts in the moment.

    This is the important part. In parsing out what is negative or positive, I learned that there really is no reliable judge. Because our reality is subjective, our judgment of good or bad thinking, is subjective too. When you put that on your mind instead of working hard at keeping “bad thoughts out,” it becomes easier to look towards thoughts that come from a deeper connection within or what could be called Big Mind or this “Deeper Awareness” you describe.

    Circumstances in life happen all the time that aren’t the way we believe they should be. If our feelings come from our thoughts 100% of the time and we can become aware of them before we react emotionally, we can settle down and become more solid in awareness before the “outside” judge gets us all in a twist about things. We can accept the personal responsibility for our feelings and not blame or give power to the other person, circumstance, or thing for being the cause of our negativity and anxiety.

    This acceptance is very freeing. An ordinary process of this training is to cycle the moment quickly, feel the feelings fully but without creating a mess and then moving on.

    Warm regards,

    Joseph

  • http://www.zenfly.co.uk/ Zenfly Media

    ahhhhh thankyou

  • Meredith Forder

    Thanks Cloris! Another great article. i’ll be sure to post this on clear4thinking tomorrow. Keep up the good work ;)

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Thank you for reading :-)

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    I’m so glad to hear this article helped you, Michelle. Sending my best to you!

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Meredith, thanks a million for spreading the word. Best wishes to you!

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Joseph, thank you for your insights on the subject. We all grow spiritually and emotionally after a negative experience such as what you went through. Continue on this path! Best wishes.

  • Maria

    A sunny attitude in life helps. Right now, these days, I am telling my partner to focus on all the good things that happen to us and around us rather than on the negative… i feel uplifted by this attitude. However, your thoughts do no create your reality, to say so is unscientific and there is large evidence to show the contrary. I am talking about my own experience and that of others around, like my older sister, who died last year of cancer in spite of having a wonderful attitude towards her illsness and believing in her recovery. I even find this type of sentence only creates dogma and invalidates the experience of many human beings whose experience is quite different, that it, their reality has nothing to do with their thoughts, ie., people caught in wars through no fault of their own. Careful with dogma! Yes, let’s be and focus on the positive, but let’s be humble enough to realize we dont have the power to create via our thoughts… The power we really have is that of acceptance.
    Bless everybody.

  • Luca Samson

    Cheers Cloris,

    And Best to you too!

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Maria, thank you for your input. I am very sorry about the loss of your sister. We could probably have a long talk about the power of our thoughts, but I wanted to let you know I am basing my statement on quantum physics, which is a science. I believe everything happens in divine order, even things we cannot comprehend. I believe there is a Higher Force moving all the pieces, and sometimes the reasons are not evident to us…And yes, acceptance is essential. Blessings to you.

  • Maria

    Hi Cloris,
    Thank you for your reply and your thoughts. I am opened to learning and I would like to know more about quantum physics.
    Cordially,
    Maria

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Maria, the best place to start learning more about quantum physics is by reading a book like E-Squared, by Pam Grout. Pam was a previous guest on my radio show, and her book has a lot of quantum physics elements in it. I will also have Greg Kuhn, a quantum physics expert as a guest on 10/29 (check my show’s schedule.) This will get you started on such a fascinating topic. Dr. Wayne Dyer also explores this in “Wishes Fulfilled,” one of my favorite books. Finally, check out “Dying to Be Me” by Anita Moorjani, a book in which she talks about her near death experience after having end-stage lymphoma. She does a great job talking about cancer/death, and after reading this book, you’ll see life in a very different way. Hope this helps :-)

  • Judy

    Hi Cloris,
    I am trying to reprogram my inner voice and this message is enlightening. I lost my job three days ago due to restructuring and find myself very critical of self. I am trying to focus on positives, but struggle with the inner critic. Thank you for giving me a message to use as guidance out of the critics corner.

    Judy

  • Riley

    “I recall the time I paid an evening visit to Wal-Mart, and when I
    spotted a man running in my direction in the parking lot, I thought I
    was going to be attacked. The man only wanted to ask for a couple of
    dollars because his motorcycle had run out of gas.”

    I like and agree with your post except for the above. I think it would be naive to think some random stranger running at you in walmart parking lot at night has “good intentions.” They could very likely have a good intentions, but there are lot of crazy people out there. You have to be prepared to defend your self or run (fight or flight) and not be a victim. It would be prudent to carry mace and/or get a conceal carry…

    I agree with your overall message though…Thank you!

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Riley, thank you for reading my article, and I do see your point. We’ve learned to program ourselves to be wary in these kinds of situations because of what has happened to other people in the past. Blessings to you.

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Judy, I just read your comment. It’s been over two weeks since you lost your job, and I hope you continue focusing on your next career move rather than on the loss. I’m sending you lots of positive energy! Stay in touch via FB or Twitter. Blessings.

  • Judy

    Thank you Cloris, the inner voice is getting louder but I take one day at a time. I am focused on the next job, just hope it shows itself soon. Again, thank you. Judy

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    The job will show itself soon, Judy. Trust that it will. You’re already connected to that new job, remember that. Sending you all the best.

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Thanksgiving is almost here. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who read my article and commented on it. Also, thank you very much to those who connected with me via Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. Many blessings to all, and continue focusing on what is going right in your life. Direct your energy to the goodness and more goodness will come to you.

  • chandrasen

    Hi Cloris. I had to quit my job last year Jan because of restructuring. then i got other job in May but pay was very less. I have now joined another company in Nov last year which has good pay package. But the job culture and environment is not very conducive. This point keeps bothering me. And also I have thoughts what would happen in future if I continue in this job. I would like to learn stopping automatic internal talk in mind of negative tone.

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Thank you so much for your comment. It seems to me that you still haven’t found a company/job environment that is aligned with your values…I would suggest to take some time to visualize exactly what you want in your job and then take small steps to steer you into the direction you truly want to go. The first step might be to take a class, or to redo your resume. Nothing last forever (including this job,) so choose to think a much better job is in your future. I hope this helps. Blessings, and please stay in touch via FB or Twitter!