Transforming Negative Thoughts & Creating the Life You Desire

Cheerful young african woman smiling

“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” ~Lao Tzu

In my quest for personal development, I’ve done a ton of processing, meditating, reading, praying, exercising, eating well, and helping other people. All of these things are amazing, and I still do them regularly, but none of it matters if I don’t guard my thoughts as though my life depends on it.

The quality of my life literally depends on my thoughts.

I never thought of myself as a negative person, and most people who know me will tell you I’m a bubbly, outgoing, super positive individual.

This is definitely the version of me that shows up in the outside world, and this is absolutely who I want to be. However, when I am under the spell of my “stinking thinking,” I don’t feel so good and happy. I also begin to experience circumstances that are most certainly not what I want.

One thing that’s been really difficult for me is recognizing when I’m thinking negative thoughts. More often than not, they’re totally subconscious thought patterns playing themselves out over and over again, and kicking my butt in the process.

I’ve decided that most of the time, it really doesn’t matter what these subconscious patterns are. What’s important is to shift my thinking immediately, using my feelings and mood as cues.

By staying dedicated, loyal, and committed to positive thinking, I’m able to stay in alignment with the life my heart desires.

When we know what we want, yet something less than ideal continues to show up over and over, we have to ask ourselves what we’re creating, even if by default. This can feel frustrating sometimes because it isn’t easy to take responsibility for what’s showing up.

Sometimes the first step is just shifting your perception of what’s there so you can create something better moving forward.

When I see obstacles as opportunities to learn, and therefore create different results in the future, I begin to feel good again, and I automatically begin to attract more of that.

It can be really easy to disempower ourselves if we have a belief system that’s set up that way. For example, lately I’ve felt a strong pull to do certain things, like dance regularly, build a Kundalini yoga practice, and invest in my business.

When I picture this and really see and feel myself engaging in these actions, I feel a sense of energetic freedom. In this place, anything feels possible.

What happens to me next, unfortunately, is that I slap that little girl on the hand and tell her, “I’m sorry, but we can’t do those things. We don’t have the time, money, or freedom they require.”

Then I begin to plummet into feelings of defeat, frustration, and sadness. I begin to feel like a prisoner in my own body.

My heart tells me to expand in every way I can in my business because I am ready, but then my mind quickly shuts it down.

Recently, my life coach helped me realize I could do the things I want to do without having the resources I previously thought I needed.

I don’t need to sign up for a twenty-pack of classes at Golden Bridge Yoga and a twenty-pack at Millennium Dance Studio, or to spend thousands of dollars on my business. This is the direction I’m moving in, but for now I can do something more accessible with the resources I currently have.

I can buy yoga and dance DVDs, and then schedule them into my day when they fit best, rather than having to adhere to a studio’s schedule. This will also be less expensive, allowing me to make small investments in my business.

I can focus on making changes on my website and blog that cost nothing—things that no one can do but me anyway. I might not have the resources for a complete overhaul, but I can invest my own time and energy into the things I’ve been procrastinating on.

When I change my mind—and therefore begin to see what’s available to me rather than unavailable to me—I feel free and fully expressed rather than stuck.

By following my intuition and finding ways to do the things I want to do for myself with my current means, I move into a place of allowing myself to create the life I visualize. This means I will continue to attract the opportunities, people, and resources that I need to keep me moving in the right direction.

Guarding and transforming our thoughts can feel like a lot of work in the beginning. Even when we feel like we’re really positive people, it can be alarming when we realize how often we feel bad deep down.

The more we shift our perceptions, the quicker we get to experience peace, joy, health, wellness, abundance, and prosperity—and the more regularly we will attract these things in our lives.

When I’m feeling bad, these steps help me get into a positive place that allows me to create the life my heart desires.

1. Have an imaginary conversation.

Sometimes people must think I’m crazy, but who cares! Talk to an imaginary friend; pretend it’s your parent, sibling, or friend. I like talking to the Universe or a power greater than me.

Talk in a normal way about all the things that you want to create as if they’ve already happened. As you describe your trip to India, your wedding, pregnancy, or new job venture in detail, you will begin to connect to the feelings behind these desires.

These feelings will come over you like a big “whoosh,” and before you know it, you’ll be in the right mindset to attract and create the things you visualize.

Do this for at least fifteen minutes a day. The more you do this, the easier it will get to connect with the feelings your possibilities invoke in you, and you will find yourself being able to shift within seconds. Before you know it, you’ll be actively creating the tomorrow you’ve previously only dreamed about.

2. Just do it.

Keep it simple and agree with your higher self to shift immediately. No ifs, ands, or buts—just do it. Otherwise, you will find yourself justifying your pity party.

Remind yourself what you want your life to feel like, and remind yourself that you have a choice. The quicker you jump into a different conversation with yourself, the sooner you will begin to experience more peace and joy. It’s really that simple if you let it be.

3. If you can’t transform your thoughts, sit with them.

Sometimes we need to sit with feelings that are standing in the way of the positive ones we’d like to create. Until we feel though them, they’ll continue to show up, creating circumstances that force us to pay attention to them.

If you have really tried everything to let go of negative thinking, just give yourself permission to feel the feelings in your body without any judgment or mental attachment to them. Take at least fifteen minutes a day to sit in silence and just be with what is there.

Are they in your heart, your throat, your gut? Really explore your body and go into the feelings, wherever they are showing up, until you begin to feel a little bit lighter and freer. You will begin to feel your negative thoughts and feelings dissolve.

If we’re committed to fostering awareness and shifting our thinking, it will be a lot easier to leverage our present circumstances to create the future we visualize.

Photo by spisharam

About Erin Lanahan

Erin is an Internationally Certified Life Coach, Yoga Instructor, and Motivational Writer and Speaker. Her mission is to inspire as many people as possible to return to their natural state of peace, abundance, health, inspiration & love so they may create the life the deeply desire. Visit her blog  and  You Tube Page.

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  • Anonymous

    Erin – I just love how a message appears when I really need it and this one is so perfect for today. I jumped right into an imaginary conversation and immediately felt my spirit lift! A different conversation is the goal of the day! Thank you

  • If we act like we are already wealthy then we will be. Same goes for everything else. Great Post!

  • erin lanahan

    Amen…so true:) Thanks Jonathan!

  • erin lanahan

    Thanks Karen…it toatlly helps me every time too 🙂 So happy it helped you! Have great day!

  • erin lanahan

    Thanks Karen…it toatlly helps me every time too 🙂 So happy it helped you! Have great day!

  • PS

    Hi Erin,

    I would like to echo Karen’s thoughts – this post appeared just when I really needed to hear all that you have so eloquently and persuasively written. Actually, to be honest, this is not the first time it has happened on Tiny Buddha that I have encountered a message or lesson that I needed to know at a crucial moment. Thank you for a wonderful post!

  • Excellent excellent observation, Erin. Especially following up on your piece about “where are my feet?” Wherever we want to go, we still have to start where we are. I’ve been a gardener for many years. I used to fight the soil, the water, the climate. Plants died. Plants malingered. Then I realized that when you put a plant in a spot that meets its requirements, it grows like a weed. It’s taken me a long time to recognize that this works for me as well. No matter how modest. No matter how small. Give yourself what you want and need to be happy. Today. Here. Now. And here and now will only enlarge. xo Pam Picard

  • Jennifer

    Happens to me all the time, too!

  • tarsha

    I’ve been seeking insight into a particular question for a couple of weeks now…meditating on it, tossing it around in my head, arguing with myself as to whether I’m kidding myself or if I can really make it work. I’m a little afraid of failing because its success depends on much outside support and it’s a little revolutionary, lol! But that’s exactly why I feel I must. I’m just tickled at how the universe speaks in such abstract, beautiful ways, like through the message in this post. Now i feel I have no choice but to move forward!

  • tarsha

    I’ve been seeking insight into a particular question for a couple of weeks now…meditating on it, tossing it around in my head, arguing with myself as to whether I’m kidding myself or if I can really make it work. I’m a little afraid of failing because its success depends on much outside support and it’s a little revolutionary, lol! But that’s exactly why I feel I must. I’m just tickled at how the universe speaks in such abstract, beautiful ways, like through the message in this post. Now i feel I have no choice but to move forward!

  • Christina

    Thank you for this, Erin. I’ve been practicing re-aligning my thoughts for the past 7-8 months, and my life is already transformed. It does take some work, and is really difficult at first- those negative thoughts are just insidious!

    I too am one of those outwardly happy, positive people, but behind closed doors, I have a tendency to be really hard on myself. This is a long-established habit. I remember being as young as five, and my mother telling me not to be so hard on myself! I still have a long way to go, but it’s encouraging to see the results, and read that others are able to do the same.

    Your “Just Do It” point is SO important. For years, I’ve been wanting to write a book, but always had a thousand excuses for why I just couldn’t do it now. Once I changed my way of thinking, I stopped worrying about writing several hundred pages, and focused on writing just 1000 words a day. I also tried to refrain from beating myself up on days I didn’t do it. Within two months, I had a decent first draft, and using the same principle, I’m well into the second. Rather than worrying about how to get to the end, try to keep in mind what can be done right now.

    Thanks for the further inspiration!

  • erin lanaha

    I know right! Gotta love Tiny Buddha for the amazing timing on delivering just the insight you need at the p3erfect time:-) It’s an honor to write for this site and to share my journey with you. Thanks for sharing…It’s great to hear from you!

  • erin lanahan

    Wow, that’s beautiful Pam, thank you. I am grateful for your share and insight:-)

  • erin lanahan

    I love when that happens. It is so amzing isn’t it, how the universe delivers with such impecable timing:-) It happens to me all the time too. I am sure your moving forward will be an awesome journey! I look forward to hearing about it!

  • Nser

    This is definitely one of the best post I have ever read on this blog. Thanks for sharing these great thoughts.

  • Hi Erin,

    It’s interesting as I’ve just gone through a very similar revelation and actually related to similar areas in terms of practicing yoga more regularly and with dreams of a kundalini yoga practice – & investing more time in my own blog/writing/interactions with others.

    I wish you all the best

  • A thought provoking post, Erin. Our attitude completely changes the world we see. Trying to grasp too much time is what gets me down most. I think about how long I must wait for a future enjoyable event or dread an upcoming task that will be difficult. It’s better to just enjoy the moment. The future will come along soon enough. When we know what we want, we grab the opportunity when it appears (like the DVDs). Thanks for the post.

  • Erin Lanahan

    Hi David, Yes, when those worries surface (and they do for all of us:), I find it is so helpful to just move right into that imaginary conversation, or if you can’t do that necessarily, then it helps me to just connect to something that really makes me feel inspired or makes me smile. Thanks for sharing! Here’s to you and your journey!

  • Erin Lanahan

    That is interesting Raeeka, but I’m not surprised. I find that so much of what we go through and experience is happening collectively. It is comforting to know we aren’t alone right? 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Erin Lanahan

    Thanks Nser…I am so grateful you enjoyed it. It’s an honor to write for Tiny Buddha, and to have the opportunity to connect with people like yourself. Thank you for sharing.

  • Erin Lanahan

    Hey Christina…that’s awesome! I love hearing about other people’s experience with this practice. Thanks so much for sharing, and I hope you’ll share with all of us here when your book is ready 🙂

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  • vixeniii

    This is very eerie! What you say at the beginning is the same as my posting in a facebook group not too long ago – as soon as you recognize that nasty negative sliding around in your head, grab it and flip it over, beat the heel out of it and send it back to the rotten stinking place it came from; then let your mind gather those positive ions and create something good from them. Sometimes I muck around in negativity for a long while, and then recognize it for what it is all of a sudden. It kind of shocks me when that happens, and it makes me feel empowered when I can banish the dark and let in the sunshine. Each time, I notice the negativity faster. I’m getting better with practice. What usually grabs my attention fastest is when I start thinking bad thoughts about other people. That’s a dead giveaway, because I don’t have the right to judge others – I don’t live in their heads. Thank you for reaffirming my self-healing conditioning. Why didn’t i come up with this idea years ago?

  • vixeniii

    I want to clarify my previous post. I didn’t pay attention to what site I was on. I’m not a buddhist. I believe in God; I talked about self-healing in my post, but it was God who led me to self-realization and positive thinking. I mean no disrespect to Buddha or Buddhists. Everyone is entitled to his/her own belief. God bless.

  • Erin Lanahan

    Hi Vixeniii…thank you! I’m so happy you are on a self-healing path. It’s a delight to hear from you and about your journey. I am grateful we get to share our experiences here. Lots of light and love!

  • Brad

    This is easily one of the best articles on this site. I could really connect with it because lately I’ve been in this zone.

  • Jesus lover


  • Jesus lover


  • Erin Lanahan

    Hi Brad. Thank you. I love how that happens…when we have synchronistic encounters:) It just means you are in alignment with the Universe! Awesome! So happy you are in this zone as well. Thanks for sharing!

  • Genevia

    Erin: This is so correct and true and right on time for me. This path of self discovery and surrender to a power greater than me is by turns delightful and delightfully scary! Find myself at the nexus, a fork in my path…choosing to do what I’ve always done because that’s where a good paycheck is or taking the time, putting forth the positive thoughts and effort to create the life I’ve yearned for. Your wisdom and the forthright, no-nonsense way of presenting it, is refreshing and ultimately, useful in a practical, yet exhilarating way…thanks for your love and wisdom: Genevia

  • Anonymous

    Hey Genevia. Thanks! I am so happy this crossed your path right on time, to deliver Divine reassurance that you are on track:) I love when I encounter synchronicity like that! It’s an honor to be of service…thank you for sharing with me.

  • Maurice Garland

    this post was wonderful, just what i needed. so glad i read this before i went to sleep. awesome.

  • Anonymous

    Me too Maurice…so happy it helped you 😉 Thank you!

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  • cutandclear

    This is just what I needed to read this morning! I’ve recently discovered that I am chronically dissatisfied with life. I am constantly, even without knowing it, looking for things to be unhappy about. I’ve decided that I need to transform my life. I’ve been getting better, and even documenting my struggles in a blog, but on tough days it’s nice to read this and get back on track.

    Thank you, Erin!

  • CapriciousYogi

    Erin- I absolutely love this post. There is a sutra from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that relates to this: Vitarka Bhadane Pratipaksha Bhavanam meaning (in very simple terms) whenever there is a negative thought, replace it with a positive thought. This is easier said than done, of course, but it’s a wonderful practice to work with.
    I also resonate with “talking it out” with an imaginary friend and just letting yourself be with the feelings. To often we think we can just turn a blind’s eye to how we are feeling, but if we don’t pay attention to those feelings and work through them they end up coming back to get us in the long run.
    Thanks for the post!

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  • I Am Unable To Control My Thoughts.My Mind Is Always In Working Condition.How Can I Remove These Thoughts??

  • mrG

    what is the source of that Lao Tzu quote at the top? I had always heard this as something similar attributed to Buddha, but phrased as a question, something like “If we attain Right Mind, will Right Action follow?” but now I can’t locate that reference either 😉

  • Lily

    Responding to this after a long time – but Erin, I am SO exactly like this. Im a bubbly, happy, positive person on the outside who is always helping and compassionate but on the inside, the negative thoughts run wild. Ive been on a quest for personal development – reading, praying, meditating, exercising etc but THIS is what I was lacking – patrolling my negative thoughts ‘like my life depended on it’.

    Im struggling with a few things that I might encounter in the uncertain future (plus a big move overseas) and I have had nothing but negative thoughts and scenarios in my mind about it. It has brought me to my knees and I havent known what to do. Ive had massive anxiety and cant seem to find my intuition – I dont know if Im meant to abandon the route Im taking or go without fear and see what life unfold into. I however feel greater calmness when I think of going with the latter so Im hoping this is what the Universe/God/gut/intuition wants me to do.

    So after reading your post today, I have decided that I am not going to worry about it until this dreaded thing actually happens (if it does at all!) and that I HAVE to guard my thoughts at all times. Im committing to this right now and Im hoping this commitment will get me through to a new, positive, healthy frame of mind and life. Thanks heaps!

  • Anjan Vikas

    hi Erin Im a 12 class student and need a help very badly becoz my nega desire doesnt allow me to study properly . it has acomplete control now . I have lost the interest in my subjects . from my 11 class Iam getting very low marks and merely passed my 11 class with just 69.8% not even 70%. to its becoming very difficult to get on to track . every time I tried to stop it but it overcomes my desire to achieve waht I want to . It is sexual desire that has now become a habit that is i masturbate seeing the videos . It doesnt originate by a interest but accidently I wached the porn video clip and now it is like controlling my thoughts . I tried many methods to get rid off it but Detemination last for aweek or so and then it overcomes my desire to achieve .I almost forget to laugh thinking that Im ignoring it that I dont to . I really dont like watching it but it foeces me to do it and then I feel low , lost and Every time want to get up start from a new day it puts me down . please help me . My examination r coming and Ireally want to study but thi nega feeling doesnt allow me to. Please tell me how control my mind and give it a positive push every day and Ireally want to be happy like others . my friends they do everything and able to get a good marks in the exam …………………………I read ur article it was good

  • Cesar

    Your whole article. Is just positive . I agree with you 100%. And live reading it. Any books you recommend?

  • Jerry Beal

    The ideas given here are good. But when we think and believe, that… “the rest of our life is falling into place”… has anything to do with “better people”, “better conditions” or “better events”, we’re missing the point of what Lao Tzu, was really meaning! The Truth, and the “mnd correction” is… “What happens in the world, has nothing at all to do with the way we experience our feelings or our lives”!! Thus, when we use the Truth… “Only human interpretations (ABOUT things), are able to cause human feelings and human experiences”, then our life absolutely falls into place… just by extending that Truth in our mind! Think through it and you’ll realize it!