Our thought processes and the thoughts we have of ourselves directly influence our life experiences. Thoughts trigger an emotional response, whether positive or negative, and this eventually translates into action (or inaction). This is so important in our day-to-day existence because the way that we live our life, the emotions that we feel, and the events that we experience all start with a thought or a belief.
I feel that I have a pretty firm understanding of this concept, but yet I still find myself ruminating over negative self-talk from time-to-time. I think it may be for the same reason that so many of us in this world tend to have negative thoughts: fear and uncertainty. I find that when I fear something, my mind tries to convince me of the ways in which I will fail. When I am unsure of something that is going to happen to me in the future, I fall prey to negative self-talk.
“I can’t run that fast.” “I could never do that.” “I really don’t feel like going to work today.” “I’m tired.” “I’m not sure I’ll ever find work that I truly love.” “I have never been able to swim well.” “I could never start my own business.” “I don’t know how to write a book.” “I’m just not that talented.” “I’ll never find anyone that loves me.” “I give up.” “He/she is just better than me.” “I’m too fat compared to him/her.” “I’m not strong enough.” “I don’t know how to do this.”
Do any of these sound familiar? The list of negative, self-limiting beliefs and thoughts can go on and on. The unfortunate thing about these negative thoughts and beliefs is that they then set limitations on what we can achieve. If you believe that you aren’t good enough, well then your behavioral outcomes will most likely reflect this belief and you will get mediocrity in your results. If you tell yourself that you simply aren’t talented enough to get the job that you want or that you aren’t as good of an athlete as you want to be, then you will consistently be passed up by someone that chooses to believe in him/herself.
However, if you believe and know that you will be successful, then you will eventually realize success because you will be more likely to take the necessary steps to become successful. If you believe that you are worthy of being loved by someone else, then you will be more likely to find yourself in a loving relationship because you will be open to experiencing it and open to taking the actions that are required to find yourself in this type of relationship. If you acknowledge that you are unsure of how to accomplish a certain task in this particular moment in time, but you are capable of learning how to accomplish it with a little hard work and dedication, then you will eventually learn to master the task. It’s a simple concept, but it’s not easy to do in practice. Our thoughts don’t guarantee us of anything, but they can set us up for success or for failure, depending on how we choose to see ourselves.
The power of our thoughts is important in just about every aspect of our lives. If you desire a happy, healthy, and successful life, then working to eliminate negative thoughts from your consciousness should be just as important as brushing your teeth or taking care of your health through proper diet and exercise. It is incredibly challenging to change the way we think about ourselves and to change the way we see ourselves as human beings, but the benefits of making these changes is well worth your while. I don’t claim to have all of the answers on this subject, but here are some of the ways in which I continually work to eliminate negative, self-limiting thoughts from my day-to-day existence:
1. Writing down positive affirmations in a journal
Simply write down a positive, affirming thought in a journal at the beginning or the end of each day. It can be about anything you want it to be, but I will usually write down a positive affirmation in direct opposition to a negative thought that I may be experiencing at any given point in time. Here is an example of one that I wrote down a while ago when I was really struggling with negative thoughts surrounding my future career in lieu of my impending graduation from graduate school:
“I will find work that is fulfilling and that makes me happy.
2. Acknowledging my negative thoughts when they do occur and changing that negative thought into its exact opposite, a positive one
When I find myself experiencing a negative, self-limiting thought, I work to change that thought or belief around into a positive thought or belief. For example, if I wake up one day frustrated with my recent performance in a training session, say a bike workout, and I am telling myself that “I’m just no good at cycling”, then I work to change this statement around into a positive one, such as “I am a great cyclist and am constantly striving to better my cycling abilities. I may have had a poor training session, but this doesn’t define my abilities as a cyclist or a triathlete.”
3. Meditating while repeating a positive self-affirmation and coupling it with a visualization of that which I want to experience
This is one method that I, unfortunately, don’t feel like take advantage of enough. The power of meditation is incredible, and while there are many different styles of meditation, it can be used as a time and space to focus on a particular “mantra”, which is simply a word or phrase that you choose, or as a time to be to visualize anything that you want to focus on or to come into your life. One of my favorite methods of meditating involves focusing on a particular “mantra”, and repeating it over and over again in my head while simultaneously visualizing exactly what it is that I want to experience in real life. For example, I use this type of meditation all the time before a big race. I will sit or lay down and visualize myself performing successfully in my upcoming race. I may visualize myself having a smooth and relaxed swim stroke during initial crazy, frantic start to the race and repeat something like, “I will have a smooth and relaxed swim stroke during the race.” There are an unlimited number of ways to do this, and it can be for as long or as little as you would like.
Next time you doubt yourself or find yourself placing a limitation on what you can accomplish, flip that belief or that thought around and know that you are capable and that you will succeed. It will just take time and effort, but you will get there with the right mindset and beliefs to back it up.