"Don't believe everything you think."
I think I learned this genius aphorism on Facebook. Anyway, it's true. I know because I've tested it. My best example is what I think when it's time to get out of bed (after a decent night of seven hours). I find it remarkable that I always THINK I should stay put. Regardless of how happy I am in my life or what the day entails, I think I should stay in bed when the alarm goes off. Just in case you think there might be something obvious I am avoiding, note this: I love my husband, my children, my home, my body, my work and my plans. And I still think it's a good idea to stay in bed. I've conceded that I might always have to consider the voice in my head telling me to stay in bed.
Do you have this voice? Have you noticed it's inevitable, and it has a lot of cousins? I've figured out how to outsmart mine. Once I start actually thinking about my day or my to-dos, I know it's time to get up. My mind is already at my real job, I might as well get my body there, too. The other way to shush the voices in our heads is to listen long enough to discern their familiar patterns and then make promises about how you will act, regardless of what the voice says. Here is what I propose. Make a list of your most common detrimental thoughts. Really consider all the different areas of life when you make your list like: career, health, love, romance, sex, body, money, spirituality, etc.
Here are some of my thoughts and when I hear them:
- "I'm not in the mood," when it has been a while since my husband and I have been intimate.
- "I should leave now," when my kids are being hyper.
- "One more won't hurt," when I am already stuffed.
- "I'll feel better if I just send it," when I am about to send an obnoxious corrective email to a coworker.
- "I'll write later," when I am avoiding my due blogs.
- "I don't have time for this," when my husband wants attention.
- "I will totally meditate later," when I'd rather get my email fix on.
I have tested this, and I never regret ignoring these thoughts. I am always happier when I do. Once you've figured out the thoughts you no longer want to believe, the next step is to label them "chicken" or "brat," or maybe they are both. Maybe you have heard me talk about these types of thoughts before, but it's worth reminding us all. The chicken voice is the one of fear, the one that would like you to avoid risk and well, stay in bed. The brat voice just really thinks you should do whatever you impulsively "feel like" doing whenever you impulsively "feel like" doing it. It sounds a lot like a young child who isn't well-rested.
At a weekend workshop I was leading, I joked that the chicken and brat each have a think tank working for them. Consider it for a minute. You are no dummy. You don't want to be caught wrong, so most of your thoughts have a lot of substantiation. There is a mechanism (much like a think tank) that is working to provide data, research and statistics to prove that staying in bed (or having that cookie, skipping your workout or time with your spouse, etc.) is a good idea. (Did you get that? I said, your mind is arguing that not only is it okay, but it's actually a good idea.) You have a big day, you should be fresh, you need to know the end of that dream, you'll feel better, you really can get your morning routine done in half the time, nobody will miss you, you can exercise tomorrow just as well as today. It goes on and on.
Expect the brat and the chicken's think tanks to go to work in honor of your bed (insert your version) so you are ready with an army of different thoughts when it does. The best way to win? Have a promise with a consequence. This may seem too simple, too hard or too punitive. Do not knock it 'til you try it. You probably have no idea how it feels to get out of bed on time for two weeks straight, or stick to your food plan, or write when you say you will, or meditate consistently. It rocks! Simple stuff like that is why I love all the things I said I love above. They didn't just happen to me by luck.
Let me show you just some simple promises and consequences that might work for you. I'll stick to my topics, but please use that genius mind of yours to sub in the things that are important for you and the consequences that would work to keep you alert to what you said you'd do.
- No coffee until I meditate.
- No social networks until I have done my daily writing.
- If I lash out or leave my kid inappropriately (walk away when they're upset, etc.) I owe them an hour activity of their choice, including my full attention.
- Be intimate with my husband twice a week, or next week have sex somewhere other than the bed.
- If I am rude to a coworker, I have to write them a poem to her/him.
Are you getting the hang of it? I hope you will write some of yours here in the comments. I love aphorisms like the one above, but they really should tell you how. I hope this blog helped you understand the how of changing your mind. Let us know your great results from testing this. I guarantee them. You may need some guidance, practice and accountability, but pretty soon you'll have set up a think tank that works for your dreams, and you'll start listening more to the data it spits out. Fun!
P.S. Join our Wake Up Your Week teleseries for help in designing and implementing the perfect promises and consequences for you, plus ongoing practice and group accountability.