Having thoughts is easy. It’s automatic, like breathing. If you don’t breathe, you body will move breath for you. If you don’t think, your mind will have thoughts anyway. Thinking requires some effort. The problem is that the more effortless thoughts tend to be less empowering than the ones you generate yourself. And whatever thoughts dominate your mind also steer your life.
Beliefs about what is possible for you, how the world works, and the nature of human beings, shape your experience of Life. If you believe people are untrustworthy, you experience distrust. If you believe they are well-intended, you experience faith and trust. If you believe you are resourceful, you experience yourself as capable and confident. If see yourself as a helpless victim, you experience a constant need for approval and protection.
Most people bounce around between such extremes, but when they are fatigued or overwhelmed they tend toward a less empowered image of themselves and the world. On our best days, we may see ourselves as awesome and unstoppable. But when extraordinary challenges arise or we find ourselves fatigued and overwhelmed, those empowering thoughts may not have enough power to keep control of the ship, and the more limiting ones take over.
By consciously tending the garden of your mind (which requires effort) you can transform your experience of being alive. Affirmations are a time honored personal development tool for a reason. By spending time mindfully cultivating empowering thoughts and a positive self-image, not only do you expand your own belief in what’s possible, you also build up a resistance to the thoughts that wait to take over when times get tough.
- Observe your thoughts, whether through free-writing, meditation, or other mindfulness practice. Ask yourself which ones serve you and which ones hold you back.
- Ask which ones are actually valid and evidence-based, and which ones are just random decisions you’ve made about yourself and the world. Make note of the thoughts that do not serve you. The ones that represent a way you don’t want to think of yourself.
- Transform them! Rewrite your limiting beliefs as affirmations. “I can’t” may become “I can” or “I’m learning how to.” You might turn “I’m tired” into “I’m preparing” or “My energy runs deep.” “The world is unfair” becomes “The world is as it is, and I’m rising to meet it.”
Note: Be careful to avoid too much cognitive dissonance. If you’ve recently been lied to or betrayed. “People are honest and trustworthy” will likely be experienced as a lie, and you yourself become untrustworthy. Honor your experience. Try something more along the lines of “The guy who betrayed my trust is not representative of all people. I choose to meet new people with curiosity and an open mind.” The point is to make sure that the thoughts moving through your head throughout the day are both more empowering and trustworthy than the ones they replace.