By Leo Babauta
Every one of us has thought patterns that keep us stuck:
- Discouragement: What’s the point, I’m going to fail anyway, why even try, it’s too hard.
- Rationalizing: It’s OK to skip this, I can do it later, one time won’t hurt, do it but don’t try that hard, wait out the clock, go through the motions.
- Defensiveness: It’s not my fault, I didn’t mean to, why do they have to attack me?
- Avoidance: It’s overwhelming, let me just check one message, I don’t know if I can do this.
- Blaming others: Why do they have to be that way, they’re always treating me badly, I can’t have a good life because of them.
- Anticipating judgment: People won’t like this, they won’t value my contributions, they’ll think I’m a failure or stupid, I shouldn’t even try.
- Harshness towards self: I suck, I need to do better, I’m always screwing up, I should be better than this by now.
The exact categorization of the thought pattern isn’t important — what matters is whether the thought pattern is helpful. What effect does it have on you when you think it? Is it moving you toward the life you want, or getting you stuck?
Most of us aren’t aware when these thought patterns happen, so we’re beholden to their power without realizing it.
To be clear, these aren’t “bad” thoughts — they’re natural and normal, but they aren’t always helpful.
If they’re unhelpful, then what would be more helpful?
We can train our minds to use a more powerful thought pattern.
For example, you might try one of these:
- I don’t know if this will work out, but I will always put in my best effort, and get the best result I can.
- Life is short and precious, and I want to make the most of it. I use my time consciously and powerfully.
- I am strong enough to turn towards things that make me feel uncertain, afraid, overwhelmed, and to use them as a teacher.
- I don’t know if I’ll be good at this, but I’m going to act as if I will, and have unreasonable confidence.
- I don’t know what others will think, but I won’t know if this was worthwhile until I try. I’m going to have an incredible learning journey no matter what the outcome.
- They might be frustrating, but I won’t be at their mercy.
- I value myself, and acknowledge my light.
The training is to:
- Catch yourself when you’re using the old pattern. You’ll usually know because you feel discouraged, you’re reaching for distraction, you are avoiding or putting off, you are feeling mad at someone, you are feeling victimhood.
- Pause and acknowledge your fear. Underneath the old thought pattern is simply a bodily sensation of uncertainty and fear. Acknowledge that it’s there, that’s it’s OK to feel fear, and give it reassurance and calm it down.
- Try the new thought pattern. Say it to yourself and try really believing in it. Fully empower it. See what effect it has.
You have to do this over and over. Set visual reminders wherever you can. Write notes on your phone, on a mirror, on your desk. Practice, over and over. When you get discouraged from practicing, notice what thought pattern is discouraging you, and try a new one.
What powerful new thought pattern do you want to train yourself in today?