“You are your choices.” ~Seneca
Lately I‘ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps. A few things have happened at work to make me feel like nothing’s going my way.
I’m guessing that pretty much everyone experiences weeks like this from time to time. You know, where it feels like the whole world is against you. No matter what you do, nothing goes right.
This has been my life for the past few weeks.
And my initial reaction was to feel sorry for myself. To retreat to the safety of self-pity where nothing’s my fault—it’s simply the world ganging up on me.
And then like a lightening strike out of the blue, amidst my dark cloud of pity I had an epiphany:
I have a choice.
Instead of reacting in a way that renders me helpless, I have the choice to pick myself up, dust myself off, and turn those negative thoughts into positive ones.
When it comes to filtering our thoughts, even though at times it may not feel like it, we do have a choice.
Just because some of our thoughts are negative doesn’t mean we have to listen to them.
Did you know that our brains produce 70,000 thoughts every single day? Just imagine trying to take action on every single thought—all 70,000 of them. It would be pretty much impossible, right?
In fact we actively “filter” our thoughts pretty much all the time. Our brains are constantly deciding which thoughts are useful and which ones to ignore. So when a negative thought pops into our heads, we do actually have a choice.
Either we listen to the thought and allow it to trigger a whole host of other negative thoughts, or we decide that we have better things to do in life and we ignore it.
The truth is, you are not your thoughts.
Think about it. The thoughts you have inside your head do not reflect who you are as a friend, partner, parent, or worker.
This is an important point.
So many people get caught up feeling sorry for themselves or worrying without even realizing it! And then they beat themselves up about it when they realize the negativity of their thoughts.
But here’s an interesting fact:
Most of the thoughts that roam around our heads are completely inane and useless! Your thoughts do not make you a bad person, because guess what? Your thoughts aren’t real. They are just fleeting ideas that you can control if you take the time to learn how.
It’s pretty obvious, but the way you handle your thoughts will massively impact your life.
Those of us who get caught up with spiraling negative thoughts when things don’t go our way will find it hard to progress in life and get stuff done, as we’ll be dealing with things like fear and anxiety.
Whereas those of us who work at “controlling” those thoughts and reactions to difficult situations in life will find it much easier to achieve and be happy.
Imagine if you escaped the arms of self-pity and negativity and converted most of the thoughts inside your head to positive ones. Imagine what you could achieve!
So what can you do to tame your negative thoughts?
1. Be aware.
Notice next time you experience a negative thought. Often we are so “in our heads” that we don’t even realize that we may have spent the last 20 minutes in the throes of self-pity or worries.
2. Keep calm.
Try not to have an emotional reaction to any negative thoughts that pop up. Remember that you are not your thoughts, and try to distance yourself from them.
3. Catch the first thought.
If you can catch your negative thinking early on, then it will be much easier for you to stop it before it escalates into a big problem. Often something that starts out as a minor problem ends up being completely blown out of proportion.
4. Assess if the thought is true.
Most negative thoughts are not based on reality. So ask yourself, “Is that thought 100% true?” Usually this will help to break down the meaning of the thought.
5. Look for a positive take on it.
Instead of finding ways to escalate the thought, do the opposite and look for ways to prove that the thought is not true. For example, if you’re doubting your capabilities you could look for an example of someone else who has achieved in this area. If someone else has done it, then what’s stopping you?
6. Don’t beat yourself up.
You are not your thoughts. Resist the urge to beat yourself up when you catch yourself thinking negatively. Everyone has negative thoughts from time to time. Just be aware and choose not to listen to all of them so you can get on with living your life.
Today, take power back from your negative thoughts, and see how much more you can achieve!
Photo by fauxto_digit
About Zoe B.
Zoë B is a strategist, coach and author of the SimpleLifeStrategies blog. Through her coaching programs and blog, Zoë helps others to learn the strategies that exceptional people use to perform at their own personal best.