Your Thoughts Become You

 Photo courtesy of Matthew Kane

Photo courtesy of Matthew Kane

Last year was an especially tough one for Janet. As the New Year begins, she took some time to reflect on the past 12 months.

She lost her job early in the year. Less than a month later, both of her parents died. Soon afterwards, her husband filed for divorce. Her entire world crumbled within the first half of the year. The rest of the year was no better. By mid-year, she started having problems with coworkers who suddenly didn’t like her for no reason. Going to work became very difficult.

That was a bad year!” She thought to herself.

As Janet continued to replay these events in her head, she couldn’t help becoming angry.

Why do bad things keep happening to me?

What did I do to deserve all these?

Why can’t I get a break?!

The more time she spent pondering over these negative experiences, the stronger her negative emotions; and the more bitter she became.

Can you identify with Janet’s feelings? Have the last few months or years been tough on you? Did a trusted friend or family member betray you? Do you find yourself indulging in similar sessions of self-loathing and reflection?

Your situation may not be as extreme as Janet’s, but if you find yourself spending time thinking on events that evoke negative emotions, allow me a few moments to steer you in the other direction. Why don't we start off the new year with a different frame of mind?

Here are a few things to consider.

1.      Tough times don’t last. We all go through rough patches at one time or the other. While your world may seem like it’s falling apart when you’re in the midst of setbacks, these are really momentary. People who quickly recognize the temporal nature of these events find ways to get through the difficult times and emerge stronger. Those who do not, are buried under the load of the resulting negative emotions and end up worse.

2.      Negatives emotions are not good for you. They are dangerous and harmful. Even when you have the facts to back them up, spending time to think about all the hurts and pains inflicted on you affect your attitude. It can make you bitter and turn you into someone you don’t like. Our emotions strongly influence how we perceive and react to life. This in turn, is a strong determinant of how successful we become. Negative emotions stifle learning and thinking. They can drain your energy and prevent you from pursuing important life goals. The consequences can be devastating.

3.      You can snap out of it. On the surface, it may seem difficult to pull yourself out of an endless stream of negative thoughts and emotions. But it can be done. Dr. Albert Ellis, who developed rational emotive behavior therapy, concluded that we can change our attitudes and thinking in a conscious way. You do this by taking conscious control of our thoughts. This helps you turn those negative experiences into something more positive.

How do you do this?

1.      Set up reminders at regular intervals. If you’re especially prone to wandering easily into these periods of negative thoughts, have a regular and constant reminder to help you snap out of it. You could set up an alarm on your smart phone or schedule it on your calendar. Constant reminders several times a day will eventually help you beat the habit.

2.      Turn it around. During these scheduled reminders, flip the negative situation around and make an effort to focus on a positive substitute. For example, if it’s a situation with a difficult coworker, focus on how it would feel if your relationship with the person were to be turned around. Ask yourself, “What’s the best that can happen if my relationship with this person improves dramatically?

3.      Turn on your creative side. As you consider the benefits of the improved relationship, begin to imagine and creatively think about what you can do to make this happen. Instead of frowning when you see them, what if you flash a smile? Can you lend them a helping hand in an area they may be struggling? You know the situation best. Take the time to think about creative ways to turn this around.

4.      Follow through! Now it’s time to implement. Carry out what you’ve decided to do. Warning – you may not see a desired response immediately from the other person, but you need to stick with it and not quit. You may even have to find and implement another creative approach. If you don’t see a change in them, stay with it! Whether they are changing or not, you will change! Your attitude and outlook will begin to transform if you don’t quit. Remember, you’re doing this for you; not for them. The goal is to change your negative feelings and emotions so that you can be more productive and successful.

Negative feelings and emotions come from negative thinking. Become intentional about the thoughts that you allow in your mind. Get rid of the negative ones. Choose to focus on the positive ones. This is where you get purpose and excitement to pursue and accomplish your goals. So, I ask you,

What do you spend your time thinking about?

Considered by many to be the most important law of all, in explaining both success and failure, the Law of Attraction says:

Whatever you think about, you bring about.

With about 60,000 thoughts flowing through your mind each day, which ones you spend your time on determine your attitudes and outlook in life.

People who succeed in life do not allow anything to keep them down. When they experience hardships and difficulties, they look for a silver lining – what lesson to learn; what new thing to try; who else to ask for advice. These give them the energy and motivation to move on.

In this New Year, you can get the same energy and motivation to move on and accomplish your goals, no matter the obstacles that come your way. Take control of your thoughts. And soon, you’d start seeing changes in your life. Begin now to:

  • Think about what you think about.
  • Pay attention to what you pay attention to.

Remember, your thoughts become you.