These days, I spend a lot of time observing my own thoughts. Sometimes I can see myself thinking a negative thought and see how that plays out in my day, and sometimes it all happens at a more unconscious level.
When I see it, sometimes I just keep watching.
Sometimes I get out my journal and do some thought work.
A couple of weeks ago I did the first. I was very upset but I wasn’t sure why, so I just kept watching.
I noticed that after one (perceived) negative comment from someone in my life, I would find many more. But when I really looked at the statements, they weren’t truly negative, they were neutral.
I keep relearning this lesson, which can be frustrating, but I really think it’s one of the most important lessons I’ll ever learn, so I’m willing to keep learning it:
Whatever someone else says to me cannot hurt me or make me feel bad; my thoughts about what that person said are what cause me to feel hurt or to feel bad—and I can change my thoughts.
Here’s a recent example: Someone asked me, “Did you call the bank?”
Can you believe how negative that statement is? No? Oh, I guess it’s just me.
Here are the thoughts that hearing “Did you call the bank?” generated:
- I don’t have time to do anything.
- I’m such a loser.
- Why do I have to do everything?
The problem is that I didn’t realize I was thinking those thoughts when I was asked that question. I reacted to the person as if he had said I was a loser, when all he did was ask a simple question.
Once I did realize, on a conscious level, what I was thinking, I considered each thought. Turns out, none of them were true. At that point, I stopped believing them.
This process took place in my head in the space of a few seconds. Luckily, I did not lash out at the person who asked the question. I finished the task I was doing and responded with this statement: “No, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Then I wrote it down so I would remember to do it.
As a coach, I teach my clients how to notice their thoughts and question them. I have been doing this work for over 10 years now, and I still have thoughts that cause me to feel negative emotions.
The biggest difference between my life now and my life 10 years ago is I continually recognize that those negative thoughts are a choice and I can choose differently.
Now, when I feel bad, I ask myself: “What am I thinking?”
Once I know what I’m thinking (and that can take a while), I can decide if it’s true or not. I can stop the downward spiral into negativity, which makes lots more room for positivity—including joy, fun, and laughter.
Who doesn’t want more of that?