5 Steps to Cultivate a Healthier Relationship with Your Thoughts
Writing a book has many benefits, not least of which are the insights you learn along the way. A few truths of life revealed themselves to me when writing A Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your Way. As I reviewed and analyzed my journals, patterns started to emerge. I became more aware of how I had changed. And I realized that cultivating a better relationship with my thoughts was at the root of my own personal transformation. As I said in the last chapter of my book, "We have killer skills for searching the Web for answers to all sorts of random questions about anything and everything. But as a society, we largely lack the ability to look within, which is where we need to search in order to answer the toughest questions that life throws at us." In order to be able to do this, to look within for answers to life's toughest questions, you must cultivate a healthier relationship with your thoughts. We all have thought patterns from childhood that are unhealthy, part of becoming an adult (and a leader) requires us to become aware of and intentionally shift these limiting thoughts. Here are five steps to help you get started on this journey:
1. Invite stillness
One of the gifts of this current crisis is that it has forced many people throughout our society to slow down as common busy tasks have fallen by the wayside. Our fascination with productivity and getting more done keeps us in unhealthy patterns of thought. And since the rise of the internet and the 24-hour news cycle, we can surround ourselves with noise and clutter that keeps us from being present with our own thoughts. The first step to cultivating a healthier relationship with your thoughts is to invite stillness and be with the discomfort that may cause within you.
How do you feel about being still with your thoughts?
2. Simply notice without judgment
Once you invite the stillness it is important to simply notice what you're thinking without judgment, shame or ridicule. We all have patterns of thought that we criticize ourselves for. Placing value on our thoughts turns into a vicious cycle of reactivity and powerlessness. Instead of allowing your inner thought police to critique yourself, invite your inner curiosity to be a neutral observer.
What helps you to simply notice your thoughts without judgment?
3. Distinguish between the voice of your inner critic and the wisdom of your inner genius
We are constantly narrating our own lived experiences in our minds. This narration, our way of understanding life's events, impacts how we respond. Our inner critic uses fear to keep us small. When we experience a conflict with a co-worker, it's our inner critic that tells a story of judgment and blame in order to explain the frustrating behavior and protect our sense of self. Whereas our inner genius shares wisdom, valuable insights and compassionate guidance. Being able to recognize the voice of your inner critic enables you to step back, and invite your inner genius so you may gain perspective and respond with integrity instead of reacting out of fear.
What can you characterize between the voice of your inner critic and the wisdom of your inner genius?
4. Rewrite your story
As you become more aware of your thought patterns from a place of curiosity, you are now ready to move into discernment so you may rewrite limiting stories that are holding you back. Some of the limiting stories I've had to rewrite include a pervasive belief I was stupid because I had trouble learning how to read as a kid. That story led to me having reactive thoughts in critical moments where I told myself things like - I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, I don't know what I'm doing and I'll never figure this out. Those thoughts were hurtful to my sense of self-worth and well-being. They were unhealthy and they stemmed from a limiting story I had been telling myself. Rewriting my story provided the fuel to catalyze a shift in my thoughts, so instead of being judgmental, cruel or harsh, I started speaking to myself with kindness, compassion and care.
What story do you need to rewrite in order to shift the quality of your thoughts?
5. Check-in with yourself regularly
The work of cultivating a healthier relationship with your thoughts is ongoing. That is why it is so important to have methods for checking-in with yourself. I, of course, love to use journaling for such check-in's. Routinely journaling helps me to see patterns, while also offering me an opportunity to be honest with myself, which creates an accountability loop. Therapy or coaching can also be a valuable relationship to establish for making continuous progress in these areas of life and work.
What's the best way for you to check-in with yourself, and how frequently?
Humans have been exploring the connection between our thoughts and our reality for thousands of years. Marcus Aurelius is famous for saying, "Our life is what our thoughts make of it."
While we have made massive technological advancements in the last few hundred years, we are still, as a species, at our infancy when it comes to cultivating a healthier relationship with our thoughts. With so much on the line, now's the time to take a giant step forward and do the inner work.
Not sure how to get started on this journey? There's still time to register for tomorrow's Journal Jam where you'll gain valuable insights by listening to your inner genius! Register online here.