Want to Know the Secret to Better Days? Treat Your Thoughts Like Your Email.
You always have a choice to press the mental delete button.
When you receive an email, you have three choices:
You can read it immediately, save it for later, or delete it.
Although you can’t control the volume of emails you receive, you can choose what to do with each one.
There is also a plethora of software available for organizing, managing and optimizing your inbox.
Research shows that you have between 12 000 and 60 000 thoughts per day, and around 80% of these thoughts are negative — battling guilt, shame and the inner critic’s internal monologue reminding you that you should be further by now.
Even more disturbing is that you tend to repeat the same thoughts daily, which means you are recycling these negative patterns.
In the same way, you can’t control the thoughts entering your mind, but you always have the choice of how to respond to each one.
What if you managed your thoughts the same way you managed your email?
Manage your spam.
I recently received a spam email saying I have won the UK lottery (and am based in South Africa) and must send my bank details to receive the payment.
I laughed at it, and it went straight into my deleted items. I didn’t spend a minute of my precious time or mental bandwidth giving this email any significance or contemplating if it’s true. I could see it as a scam and moved on with my day.
The difference between a day experienced in a suffering state (anxiety, overwhelm, stress) or a beautiful state (gratitude, contentment, joy) is whether or not you believe your thoughts.
The next time you have an absurd negative thought, you can tell yourself, ‘hit delete’. Literally! Don’t give it any airtime because it is spam thinking. The most profound insight is that just because you have a thought, it doesn’t mean it is true.
Your thoughts are like a snow globe. When you shake it, all the tiny flakes roll around the glass dome and eventually sift to the bottom. Can you watch your thoughts like that snow globe and allow them to filter down without attaching to them?
The problem is when you attach to your thought and believe it. Not only do you believe it, but you also create an entire story around it and go down the rabbit hole for the rest of the day.
For example, you think you will never finish a project in time, and you’ll let the entire team down and maybe even jeopardise your career. If you believe that thought, you create anxiety, overwhelm and fear. You will never make good decisions nor see any possibilities from this state.
Instead, press the mental delete button.
Managing your anxiety and overwhelm begins by taking deliberate action and creating a micro win. A micro win is the first step forwards in the direction of your goal. Rather than focus on the thought that you don’t have enough time, take your calendar and schedule exactly when, where and what you will do over the next week to ensure you meet your deadline.
You can set a timer and spend the next thirty minutes on the task to create momentum because anxiety often comes from not starting. Once you have created progress, even one slide, you can continue in a better state.
It’s easy to identify a spam email; you need to apply the same logic to identifying a toxic thought and deleting it immediately.
Manage your newsletters.
I am a newsletter junkie; more accurately is that I collect newsletters, but I don’t read all of them. I always tell myself I’ll come back to it when I have more time, but they remain in the newsletter graveyard.
This habit has its downfall because it overtook my inbox, so I went on an unsubscribe mission to distinguish the ones I genuinely enjoy reading from those I “should” be reading like a technology trends newsletter.
I’m in personal growth and development; as much as I thought I should be in the IT know, it doesn’t light me up, and I never read one newsletter. I unsubscribed from about twenty newsletters and now only have those I enjoy reading and see as valuable.
You get to do the same with your thoughts. You can unsubscribe from the daily negative ones like ‘I am not enough, I am not perfect, good things don’t happen to me, I always self-sabotage’ and the list goes on.
What if you created your own inspiring newsletter? It can be a single sentence newsletter using affirmations or powerful mantras.
You can even include a video link in your newsletter, where you are the Director of the clip. Use daily visualization to create a picture of what you want to create in your life, including financial, physical, emotional, and work. Include the holidays you want to take and the life you want to create. Have fun — it’s your newsletter.
Create a gratitude newsletter and remind yourself daily of everything you can feel grateful for.
If you’re going to subscribe, make sure it is worth watching and reading.
Implement virus protection and security software.
You need to protect your email with antivirus software. Similarly, you need a mental firewall to protect yourself from negative thoughts.
How can you distinguish between a toxic thought and a healthy one? The ultimate antivirus to protect you against sabotaging thinking is Byron Katie’s Enquiry process from The Work.
This is a four-step process you can use to determine its validity. The next time you receive a negative thought in your mental inbox, ask yourself these questions:
1. Is it true? (Yes or no? If no, move to 3.)
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (yes or no)
3. How do you react? What happens when you believe the thought?
4. Who or what would you be without the thought?
The destructive thought is ‘The only way to achieve success is by grinding through the days without breaks’ or ‘Taking sick days is taking advantage of my employer; I have to be borderline hospitalization to give myself permission to rest’.
Now put the thought through enquiry:
1. Is it true — no!
2. How do you react? What happens when you believe the thought? I feel trapped.
3. Who or what would you be without the thought? I would be free and kinder to myself.
4. Is there a stress-free reason to keep the thought? No.
When you place the thought under a microscope, you reveal its toxicity and impact on your feelings and emotions.
When you feel trapped, you become fearful, resentful and overwhelmed because you feel helpless to change it.
When you let go of the thought, you free yourself from the heaviness of believing it and open up to new, empowering possibilities.
Organize your inbox.
I recently implemented a software tool to help me organise my inbox, and it has made a world of difference to my productivity.
Order creates clarity of thinking and focus.
How do you organize your mind? With a mindfulness practice like meditation.
Meditation is not about stopping thoughts but allowing yourself space to become aware of your thoughts. Remember the snow globe — meditation allows the thoughts to sift to the bottom of the bowl without attaching to them. You can even pop the thoughts like a soap bubble if you want.
Meditation is mental training for your day. Like an athlete will train legs to get stronger, the practice of focusing on your breath enables you to insert a mental pause button in the moments you feel triggered in your day.
Over time, you can begin to respond mindfully rather than react to the things that would typically trigger an angry or stressed response.
Meditation enables you to slow down and identify negative thoughts. It brings presence and awareness to your mind rather than going through the day on autopilot.
I’m sure you know someone who has been caught by a Phishing scheme and given away their details with financial consequences. They weren’t paying attention to the finer details and were unaware it was a scam.
If you are too busy to notice your thoughts, the consequences affect every area of your life. These filter into your entire operating system, and eventually, the system comes crashing down in overwhelm, stress or even depression.
Setting up your filing systems for your inbox takes some effort, but the initial set-up paid off. It now takes a few seconds to keep your email orderly.
A few minutes of mindfully watching your breath every morning may feel like a waste of your time, but the long term benefits yield incredible results.
You don’t only file your mail in the morning; you do it frequently. What if you could introduce the habit of taking a few deep mindful breaths throughout the day to keep you sharp, focused and attentive to the door of your mind?
You cannot stop people emailing you, but you can set healthy boundaries around when you reply and what you will pay attention to.
In the same way, you can’t stop the thoughts arriving in your mind, but you always get to choose how to respond.
The meta-habit of personal growth is self-awareness — you need to be aware of the thought to poke a hole in it.
You need to be able to hear the inner critic’s voice to shut it down.
You need to question the thought’s validity and not accept it because it showed up.
You need to create an intentional practice to own your thinking and stand guard to the door of your mind.
Here’s to the wisdom of your email,
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