If you feel stuck in a less-than-ideal life and can’t seem to find your way forward, consider that it may be because our brains are made for efficiency. The main goal of our primitive human brain is to keep us alive, and one way it accomplishes that goal is by being efficient. When it comes to our thoughts, efficiency equals redundancy.
Our brains offer us the same thoughts, day in and day out. We tend to believe that everything we think is true.
Thoughts we think over and over again become beliefs. In the spirit of efficiency, our brains file our beliefs in the subconscious. It is inefficient, after all, to consciously re-think things that we already believe to be true.
At no point in our development does anyone teach us:
As we become better eavesdroppers on our thoughts, we can learn to observe without judgement. We can simply say, “Oh, this is what my brain is offering me today,” knowing full well that those thoughts may or may not be true and may or may not be serving us.
Only then can we become fierce editors of what our brains offer us.
In a life that often feels like it is spinning out of control, thinking thoughts on purpose can become our first opportunity to regain control. Although our brains might be offering one thought on repeat, a host of other thoughts are also true.
We have the ability to direct our brains to think the thoughts that are both true and useful. This is how we get unstuck and step into new possibility.
Since our thoughts directly create our feelings, and since our thoughts are 100% optional, it is best to choose thoughts that don’t make us feel horrible. After all, life can be tough enough without our brains manufacturing unnecessary additional suffering.
As a coach for widows, I encourage my clients to create a Belief Plan. It is something everyone, widowed or not, can benefit from.
A Belief Plan is a list of thoughts that are true for you and that serve you. It can also include thoughts that you want to believe but you’re not quite there yet. It does not include thoughts that you do not believe at all. No unicorns, no rainbows, just truth.
Here is an example of a Belief Plan. (Note: not all these thoughts will ring true for you or serve you, but feel free to use the ones that do.)
Just a few steps will help you create your Belief Plan and start benefitting from it right away.
#1 Grab a piece of paper and create your own Belief Plan. Add thoughts that are true and useful to you. Add or delete as needed. Be sure to include beliefs that you are still learning to believe.
#2 Read your Belief Plan at least daily, or more often as needed.
#3 As you read each belief, pause to feel the feeling that each thought creates. Make a note of the feeling.
#4 Optionally, ask yourself, “On a scale of 1 to 10, where a 10 indicates very strong belief, what number would I give this belief today?”
Notice what a Belief Plan is not. It’s not a unicorns and rainbows type affirmation that is too far from your current truth. It’s not a fake-it-until-you-make-it approach to living life. It’s also not forced positivity. Those don’t work; Belief Plans do.
What thoughts hold you back from living the life you want? What do you believe about yourself and your ability to grow? In what ways have your beliefs about yourself changed over the years?
I’m learning to pay attention to my thoughts after reading about and (trying to) practice meditation. I tend to worry and overthink. What-if thinking. Imaging the worst etc. It was like a lightbulb going off when I realized at some point that “These are merely thoughts!, think of something else!” or “Don’t react to your thoughts, just let them float” It takes work though. Like exercise. You have to keep it up.
Excellent article that really works! I need to start repeating those statements again. It is amazing and so helpful if you are in the throes of estrangement of adult children. Mine are manipulative and say things that make me think I’m going crazy!