Our Chronic Thoughts
I asked one of my coaching clients last week about a potential employment opportunity to which he replied, “I can’t do that. I’ve never done that before.” As we continued, I could see a pattern unfolding. His perspectives about everything in his life—his career, relationships, choices and experiences—were coming from a place of lack. He felt that his life was filled with so many things he didn’t want. It was just never enough.
My next question was, “So what do you want?” To which he had a difficult time responding. Since he’d been so focused on what he didn’t want for so long, he couldn’t clarify what he wanted. He’d lost his focus. Everything he was experiencing in his life was a direct result of his chronic thought patterns.
Each of us have an emotional default setting that was formed at an early age—usually during our impressionable childhood years—by the environment and the people around us. In turn, this default became the foundation for a set of matching beliefs and the chronic patterns of thought associated with those beliefs. This is helpful if our patterns of thought are positive; but can be very challenging if they’re negative. Negative belief systems create what are called limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs can be recognized by statements such as:
- “I have no choice.”
- “Life is a struggle.”
- “I made my decision and now I need to stick with it.”
- “Things never go my way.”
- “I always seem to mess things up—that’s just my nature.”
- “Other people always seem so much happier than me.”
- “This is just the cruel hand life’s dealt to me.”
They may also take the form of questions:
- “How come I never get what I really want?”
- “Why is life so difficult?”
- “What is wrong with me?”
- “Why do bad things always happen to me?”
- “How come everyone else is succeeding while I’m failing?”
- “How can I possibly be a good friend/mother/brother/coworker when I can’t even be good to myself?”
Each of those statements and questions come from limiting beliefs. What they don’t consider is often they’ve been created by simple observations (i.e., one experience or one observation), or have been passed down to us by others and we’ve chosen to believe them with limited firsthand experience.
There is another perspective that brings hope, clarity, and relief: it’s called reframing.
Reframing is the practice of recognizing that how we respond to something is just as important (and sometimes more important) than the actual event. We can choose our attitude just as easily as we choose our clothing!
Reframing includes developing a higher tolerance for ambiguity and being willing to take a new perspective without have the proof to back it up. Reframing requires trust and facilitates hope. Reframing always gives us options, especially regarding limiting beliefs:
- “I have no choice,” becomes, “I always have choices, even if it’s only my attitude.”
- “Life is a struggle,” becomes, “Life can be challenging, but it’s helping me grow.”
- “I made my decision and now I have to stick with it,” becomes, “I realize that things change, and I can always choose again.”
Can you see how this works?
This week, make the conscious choice to become aware of your limiting beliefs (catch yourself when you think or say them!) and practice reframing your perspective. You may quickly notice your energy shifting and your mood improving. Eventually, your limiting beliefs can become unlimited beliefs and you’ll start navigating your ship towards new destinations. Think: The Bahamas instead of the cold Atlantic!
To Your Better Balance
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg
Image courtesy of discovery-zone.com
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