You’ve heard about the power of positive thinking.
You’ve seen positive affirmations and maybe even practiced them from time to time.
But for some reason…they don’t stick.
Or maybe you’re skeptical of the benefits of “thinking positively” when you don’t actually believe the thoughts.
If so, you’re not alone.
And what’s more, you’re absolutely on to something.
Sure, positive thoughts and affirmations are great.
But if we don’t believe what we’re thinking, they’re not going to do us much good.
So what can we do about that?
How can we start shifting our thoughts and actually believing these new perspectives?
How can we believe new things and start transforming our lives?
That, my friend, is exactly what we’re talking about on this episode of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast.
So make sure you listen to episode 56 below or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:
Prefer to read? Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE!
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL DISCOVER…
- How both your positive and negative thoughts create your current circumstances
- The importance of both recognizing and questioning your thoughts
- My favorite strategy to shift your negative thoughts to create the life you want
LINKS FROM THE PODCAST
- Sign up for your free strategy session with me here
- Take the Mastering Your Motivation training here
- Share your new ladder thoughts with me on Instagram here
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Episode 56: How To Retrain Your Brain And Think Differently Now
Hello, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for tuning in today.
In this episode, we are talking about the incredibly important topic of believing new things and how we can truly believe new things when what we currently believe feels almost 100% opposite.
Now, I was inspired to explore this topic because of a conversation that I had with my husband the other day. He came across a quote that somebody had shared on social media, which really resonated with him. And the quote falls right in line with what I teach in terms of your thoughts creating the results in your life.
And the exact quote was from J Warren Welch, and it reads, “it will never matter how many people believe you are capable of great things if one of those people isn’t you.”
Quote of the Week:
It will never matter how many people believe you are capable of great things if one of those people isn’t you.J. Warren Welch
And this is so true, right?
When You Don’t Believe The Thought
Just think about a time when you were thinking about trying something new or working toward a promotion or a big project, and you had several people saying, “of course you can do it!” Or “I totally know you can do it!”
But for some reason, you had very little confidence in yourself. You just did not believe their words and were instead convinced that you couldn’t do it. You weren’t ready. Or you didn’t know how.
Do you have an example in mind?
Now think about how you showed up in that situation. Did you agree to try? If so, what happened? And if not, did you turn down the opportunity instead?
My guess is that you probably didn’t dive into the offer until your thoughts changed. You didn’t allow yourself to take the chance until your brain started exploring thoughts like, “well, maybe I can do it…” or “maybe I could figure it out.” and you gave it a shot.
I can tell you that this is definitely true in my life. There have been times when I’ve been asked to give a talk, or write an article, or teach a class. And because I did not have the thoughts I needed – the beliefs in myself and my abilities – I turned the opportunities down.
Negative Thinking Holds You Back
Frankly, it didn’t matter that other people believed me. It didn’t matter that they thought I was a good fit. It didn’t matter that they had total confidence that I could make it happen. Because I didn’t have the beliefs in my brain. They weren’t accessible to me.
Instead, I was thinking thoughts like, “I don’t think I can do it. I’m not ready for that. Or I don’t know how to do that.”
Because I didn’t have the belief in myself (as a side note – beliefs are simply thoughts that we think on repeat). Because I didn’t have the beliefs and I didn’t know how to work on changing those beliefs, and instead kept thinking “I’m not ready.” and “I don’t know how.” I felt nervous uncertain.
And when I’m feeling those emotions, I usually don’t show up the way I want – especially before I found thought work and coaching. So I’d often just turned down the opportunities and played small instead.
But just think how different it would have been if my thoughts were even just slightly different.
Just think if I believed the thought, “maybe I can do it.” Or “I bet I could do this.” Or “Wow! This sounds like fun. Let me figure it out.” Because when I’m thinking (and believing) something like that, then I’m feeling excited, or enthusiastic, or motivated.
And when I feel excited or enthusiastic, then I have the drive to get ready for the talk, or start outlining the article, or prepare for the class. And since I took the time to do prepare, then I show up to these opportunities ready to go. Again, this is all because I had that thought – “I bet I can do this.” or “Of course! This sounds like fun.” And in turn, I’m creating the results that I want in my life.
The Model Refresher
Because remember, the model… (And as a reminder, the model is the coaching tool I use with my clients and on myself when I do my thought work each morning.) The model shows us that when we have a circumstance in our life, which is something that is neutral and factual, we will then have a thought about it.
So if we stick with my examples from earlier, a circumstance might be, “I received an email that said we would like you to contribute an article to this collection.” Then the email and the request are our circumstance. They are neutral. They are factual. Everyone would agree on it.
Where we really want to pay attention, however, is the thought we choose to think about that circumstance. What do I think about that offer? Because whatever thought I choose to think will make me feel something. And when I feel something, that makes me do something. It creates my actions or inactions. And when you put all of those things together, that ultimately creates my result. It creates my experience of that circumstance.
Example of Holding Myself Back With Negative Thinking
And I know that I’ve talked about this in the past episodes; I do an especially deep dive into this topic back in episode eight. But for those of you who might be newer to the podcast, or for those of you who would like a little refresher, that’s how it works.
So again, let’s say that I was asked to give a lecture on September 6th. That would be our neutral circumstance. And if my thought about that was, “I don’t know enough to do this.” That thought would make me feel doubtful.
And when I feel doubtful, I don’t tend to show up the way I want to. I don’t look for information that I could share in the talk. I don’t research the topic so I can learn more. And what’s more, I’m not even questioning whether that thought – that I don’t know how to do this – is even true or not. In other words, I basically shut down to the opportunity, and I might even tell the person “no” without even thinking about it.
So the result that I create for myself in this situation, is that I have an experience where I not only do I reinforce the belief that I don’t know enough, because I keep looking for evidence for it. But also I create an experience where I don’t take the opportunity to learn more information. I don’t expand my knowledge base. I don’t take action in a way that would fill in the knowledge gaps. And again, this is all down to the fact that I believed, “I don’t know enough to do this.”
How to Think Differently & Retrain Your Brain
Now, of course, the seemingly easy solution to this problem is to simply think a better thought, right? If our thoughts create our results, why don’t we just think positive all the time? Why don’t we just think about what we want and stop thinking about the negative stuff?
I mean, sure, that might sound great in theory. But that’s not the way our brains are wired. Our brains are wired to look out for any danger. To anticipate challenges. And to keep us safe.
Thought Swapping Doesn’t Work
So when we try to do what I call “thought swapping,” where you just replace the negative thought with a positive one, you might feel good in the moment, but it probably won’t stick. It’s kind of like spraying perfume on garbage. While perfume might smell nice, we still have all the garbage underneath. Eventually, the smell of the garbage will out. So we have to take out the garbage first. We have to clean up our negative thinking first. And I want to talk about how we can do that in this episode.
Because often when I am working with my clients, we will uncover some well-practiced negative thoughts as we work toward their goals. So we will do some coaching, we’ll dive into an area where they want to see changes or create transformation, and then all of a sudden we uncover this jumble of thoughts that they didn’t even know was there.
And maybe this has happened to you when you’re doing your thought work. Maybe you’re working on a thought download in the morning. As you write down all of the thoughts in your head, you come upon some surprising beliefs that you didn’t realize were in the back corners of your brain. And you see them on paper and you think, “Wow! Where on earth did you come from?”
I’m telling you, these sneaky thoughts can hide in some unsuspecting places, and once we find them, it can take a bit of time to start thinking and believing something new. Often we’ve been thinking them for so long that we don’t even realize they’re thoughts. We just think they’re true. So it takes some time to create new neural pathways in our mind.
For those of us with ADHD, one of those familiar thoughts often sounds something like, “I just can’t get my act together.” Or “I’m always behind.” Or “I can never get enough done no matter how hard I try.”
I’ve also coached clients about their thoughts on money, and some common sneaky beliefs sound like, “I’m terrible with money.” Or “I can never make enough money.” Or “I could never afford XYZ (a house, a car, a new computer, etc.)
For a lot of women and people socialized as women, we have been conditioned to base or worth on our physical appearance. And even if we don’t do so intentionally, simply by growing up in our society, we’re surrounded by it in the media. So with that in mind, I’ve worked with several women who have incredibly practiced thoughts about their bodies and physical appearance like, “I hate my thighs.” Or “my hair is so frizzy.” Or “I hate my body.”
In other words, we all have very practiced thoughts – many of which we don’t even realize are there – and simply “thought swapping” out the negative one for the positive one won’t cut it. We don’t actually believe the new thought, so once again, we’re essentially spraying perfume on garbage.
So what can we do? How do we start recognizing and shifting our thoughts so we can create the results we want in our lives?
Become the Watcher Of Your Thoughts
Well, the first step is simply becoming aware of what it is you’re thinking. Because our brains are filled with thoughts. They’re filled with sentences that we may or may not even realize we are thinking. In fact, some of them are so ingrained that we don’t even realize they’re thoughts in the first place, and instead, we accept them as the truth. And these are the ones that go unquestioned.
It’s kind of like a fish in water, right? The fish doesn’t even realize but they are surrounded by water. The same is true with these sneaky thoughts. And it’s the ones that go unnoticed that can often cause us the biggest challenge. So it’s so important to start creating awareness of what you are thinking. You are becoming the Watcher of your thoughts.
Now if we’re thinking something like 40 or 60 or 80 thousand thoughts a day – whatever them most recent statistic is – how do we know which thoughts we should be paying more attention to? I don’t have a hard-and-fast answer here. Though, I will throw in a plug for both thought work and coaching because you have that objective viewpoint that helps you identify the thoughts from the facts.
Watch Out For These Thoughts
That being said, if you start noticing thoughts that begin with, “this thing [approach, idea, practice] never works, or “I hate it when,” or “I don’t want…,” or “she always does this,” or “obviously it’s their fault because,” or “I can never xyz.”
These are the thoughts often creep up without us noticing. They are the thoughts that we share like they’re the news – total facts – without ever questioning whether these thoughts are serving us. And because we never stopped to question them, and we keep practicing these thoughts over and over, they then become beliefs. They become these deep neural pathways in our brain because of that constant repetition.
You Can Learn To Change Your Thinking and Retrain Your Brain
But here’s the best news. Because a belief is just a learned thought that you’ve practiced over and over, that also means that you can unlearn it. And what’s more, you can learn a new thought that does serve you by practicing it over and over and over.
But what about when we don’t believe the thought? I’ll start with one of my examples that I had to work on for a long time to put it in perspective, and then I’ll talk about a few other examples as well. So as I’ve mentioned in the podcast before, one of the beliefs that I had very deeply instilled in my brain was that there’s never enough time to get it all done. Of course, a positive thought that might serve meme in an ideal world would be “I always get everything done.” Or “there’s always enough time.”
But because that thought was so far away from my belief system. It was so inaccessible to me. That it just didn’t feel true. It wasn’t believable. And so didn’t matter how many times I would practice it, I would still end up feeling frustrated and not showing up the way I wanted. Because when I was thinking I always get everything done, it wasn’t creating feelings of confidence or Focus or determination. It was creating feelings of skepticism and doubt. Because I just didn’t believe it.
So I had to start bridging my two thoughts together with a ladder thought. And this basically means taking my current belief, which was, at the time, “there’s never enough time to get it all done.” and I created a slightly less negative thought that I could replace it with. I started practicing new thoughts that — admittedly still weren’t great – but they helped me open up a little bit more to the possibility that there was enough time.
So I started by simply putting a speed bump in my normal thought Loop. So I would start noticing each time that I would think to myself there’s never enough time to get it all done, and I started practicing instead, ” I’m thinking the thought there’s never enough time to get it all done.”
And I know this might seem small and insignificant. But even this simple shift to I’m thinking the thought that… Signals to your brain that this is indeed a thought. It is optional. You could be thinking something different. And I had to practice that new thought for a couple of weeks until that became true. So now rather than my brain automatically thinking there’s never enough time. I now went to “I’m thinking the thought there’s never enough time.”
Slowly Retrain Your Brain
Once that became a habit, I then created the next ladder rung, which for me was, it’s possible there’s enough time to get it done. And once again, this thought felt slightly less discouraging than the previous two, which had me showing up in a slightly different way. When I was thinking it’s possible there’s I was looking for new ways to manage my time, and get focused, and batch my projects so I could work more efficiently. And needless to say, this is much more effective than the Hopeless and discouraged feeling I got from “there’s never enough time to get it all done.”
Once I started believing the thought “it’s possible there’s time to get it done,” I started practicing “there are times when I do get it all done.” And I practiced that thought for several weeks. That was a bigger jump for me, and it took a little bit more practice.
It Takes Time
I want you to note the time that I’m saying here. This does take work. It took me nearly a month to truly rewire that neural pathway from “there’s never enough time to get it all done” to “there are times when I do get it all done.”
Then from there, I got to three different thoughts, which I still practice on repeat. And these are, “I am in control of my time.” and “I always complete what’s important.” and “Everything gets done exactly when it should.”
I’m still working toward the thought “there’s always enough time.” And sometimes I find myself slipping back into the more scarcity thoughts about time. But because I’ve practiced being The Watcher of my thoughts, I noticed that. So I respond by putting my new thoughts on repeat and remind myself, “I’m in control of my time. I always complete what’s important. And everything gets done exactly when it should.”
How Long Does it Take to Retrain Your Brain
Now I’m not going to lie, this wasn’t just smooth sailing for me.
Changing my thoughts took a lot of practice and a lot of repetition. And there was a lot of cognitive dissonance in my brain; I had two conflicting thoughts battling with one another. My brain was so used to practicing one thought on repeat, and then all of a sudden I’m trying to introduce a new thought. My brain doesn’t like that conflict.
Sometimes We Forget
And oftentimes, because it takes more work to practice and internalize the new thought, it’s easier to slip into the old belief. Because in a way, since it’s familiar, it feels better to us. So if you notice this cognitive dissonance when you are learning to practice your new thoughts, don’t give up. It’s okay when you are stuck in that discomfort. It means that your brain is growing and expanding into those new thoughts.
Money Beliefs and Scarcity
So let’s talk about those other examples I mentioned. The first one I talked about was beliefs about money.
I’ve got to tell you; money beliefs are one of the most charged areas to explore for people. There’s so much taboo around talking about money, and a lot of us feel uncomfortable about it.
Just think about all of the anecdotes and stories like “money is the root of all evil.” or “money doesn’t grow on trees.” So it’s not surprising that we similarly have deep instilled beliefs with thoughts like “I’m terrible with money.” Or “I can never make enough money.” “I can never afford XYZ…”
But again, we can use the same approach to wiggling our thoughts loose by pulling from ladder thoughts.
Shifting the Belief
So if we start with the thought I’m terrible with money. We could move to, “I’m thinking the thought I’m terrible with money.” Then maybe you could think, “some people are good with money, maybe I could be too.” And that might grow to, “it’s possible I could be good with money someday.” After practicing that, you might try, “I’m learning to be good with my money.” And then maybe you reach, “There are times when I’m good with money.” Then you get to ” I’m good with my money most of the time.” And finally, “I am good with money.”
Body Image and Influence
And again, the same approach works for any well-practiced thought that you have. The other example we mentioned earlier had to do with body image. So if you are often practicing some version of ” I hate my body.” You’re probably not going to have an easy time jumping to ” I love my body.”
So maybe the first ladder thought that you start thinking is simply, ” I have a body.” So rather than I hate my body, it is, “I have a body.” both of those filled true, but one is less damaging. And just as we did in our other examples, you keep creating ladder thoughts that are a little bit closer to your end result of I love my body.
It’s Worth It
Now, I know that this may seem like a long process. Or it might seem like these tiny little details don’t make a difference. But I’m telling you, they’re everything. Because you are taking steps – rung by rung up the ladder – to reach that next thought. You are taking incremental steps forward in order to believe that new thought.
And similarly, practicing these new thoughts might feel awkward at first. It might feel a little clunky. That’s okay. Nothing’s gone wrong. I kind of like to think of it like I’m going into a dressing room and trying on a new outfit that’s different from my current style. I’m trying on new thoughts to see which ones fit. I’m trying on the thoughts that – even though they’re different – I still like them. And I want to give that new style a try.
Give it a Try This Week
So this week I encourage you to dive into the world of thought work a bit. Start each day with I thought download. You could either write down a topic that’s on your mind and have a targeted thought download about that topic. Or you could just write down everything that’s on your mind.
Notice the thoughts that are coming up for you. Do any of them sound like those warning statements that I mentioned earlier? Do any of them begin with something like: “I don’t like” or “I can never,” or “She always,” or “I hate”? Or do you notice any thoughts that come up, again and again, each day? Become the Watcher of your thoughts.
Run a Model
Once you identify the thoughts that might serve you, run them through a model. What’s the circumstance here? What is your exact thought? How does that thought make you feel? How are you showing up when you feel that way? What are you doing or not doing? And what is the result you’re creating for yourself because you’re thinking that thought? If you don’t like the result, then it might be time to try on a different thought. Or perhaps begin with the first rung in the ladder, “I notice I’m thinking the thought xyz…”
By practicing those ladder thoughts rung by rung, you’ll eventually reach the top of the ladder and reach that new belief that serves you as you work toward that next level of whatever you’re pursuing.
And of course, if you are struggling with this concept, or you would like a little bit more help in both uncovering the thoughts and learning how to believe new ones, make sure you sign up for a free consultation with me. We’ll uncover some of those thoughts, we’ll explore some new ladder options, and we’ll talk about what you ultimately want to believe and what you want to create for yourself. And then we’ll talk about whether my program is a great fit to help you get there.