Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life
We all have the potential to create the life we want. But in order to do that, we first need to understand the power of our potential and the critical role that our thoughts play in the creative process.
Recently, I asked one of my transition-coaching clients about an employment opportunity; she replied, “I can’t do that. I’ve never done that before.” As we continued, I asked her about another option for her to consider, to which she remarked, “That’s impossible. I’ve never even heard of that before.”
I noticed a pattern throughout our conversation: Her perspectives about everything in her life — her career, relationships, choices, and experiences — were coming from scarcity. She felt that her choices were always limited and there would never be enough.
“So what do you want? And what do you believe is possible?” I finally asked.
She had a difficult time responding. Since she’d been focused for so long on what she didn’t want, she wasn’t able to articulate what she did want. She’d lost her focus. She was wandering. And everything she was experiencing was a direct result of her chronic patterns of thought.
Thoughts are powerful. In fact, our thoughts create our reality as we experience it. Much like a captain navigating a ship, our thoughts take the wheel and steer our lives in different directions. Thoughts are reflective. Our life experience is a direct reflection of what we are focusing on — what we think about and what we believe is true. Beliefs draw our maps, and our expectations create our destinations.
So if life is a journey, is your current expedition filled with blue tranquil waters or rough stormy seas? What has been your experience, and if it’s not what you want, how can you change it?
When we change our thoughts, we change our experiences
Each of us has an internal default setting — usually formed in our impressionable early years — that becomes the foundation for a matching set of beliefs. These beliefs are sculpted and reinforced through chronic patterns of thought associated with those beliefs. When our approach is positive, our beliefs will be positive. When our approach is negative, it’s hard to reverse — and over time, negative thoughts create limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs are evidenced 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.”
• “Other people always seem happier than I am.”
• “This is just the cruel hand life has dealt me.”
Most limiting beliefs have been created by simple observations — one experience or bad memory — or have been passed down by parents, teachers, or other role models who created them. Once heard, a limiting belief can be difficult to overcome, especially when we are young and have less experience in life.
However, just because we’ve grown up with a belief doesn’t mean we need to continue with that belief — especially if it’s not serving us. Instead, we can reframe our negative thoughts to bring ourselves hope, clarity, and relief.
Reframing is the practice of seeing things from a different perspective — exercising our power of choice and deliberately choosing a different thought — which, in turn, creates a different belief. Reframing gives us opportunities to see the upside of an event or circumstance even among feelings of disappointment or loss. Reframing helps us remain optimistic and hopeful.
Reframing gives us options, especially when we face limiting beliefs:
• “I have no choice,” becomes, “I always have choices, even if it’s only with 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.”
Here are other ways in which reframing can serve us:
Allow space for acceptance. When something is frustrating or disappointing, it can be difficult to remain positive. By reframing a situation with a positive affirmation, we give ourselves room to discover new possibilities. What might have started as a problem can create momentum for a solution — a blessing in disguise. Reframing lets us look for the learning in each experience and teaches us that there is power and growth in acceptance.
It could be worse. It really could. Finding perspective in difficult times can be challenging, but with practice and a healthy dose of humility, we can view our troubles as not so critical when compared to the larger issues in the world around us. When we are faced with disappointment, reframing can bring a quick reality check that can lead us to appreciate what we already have and remind us that we are, indeed, blessed to have such freedom and abundance. Many people on the planet don’t have it so good.
We are what we think. Becoming conscious of our thoughts takes a bit of work at first, but once we realize how much of our time is spent on unproductive thoughts (i.e., worrying, limiting beliefs), we can regain our personal power and momentum. Reframing quickly and easily transforms our limiting beliefs by simply becoming aware of them. We always have options — even if it’s by simply changing our attitude. And with time and practice, our limited beliefs can be transformed into unlimited beliefs so that we can start creating the life and the experiences that we really want.
What are some ways in which you have reframed a bad situation? Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will consider adding them to a future post!
Learn more about how to harness the power of our thoughts in Balancing Work, Relationships & Life in Three Simple Steps or another book from Michael’s collection at michaelsunnarborg.com/books
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on August 16, 2016.