I have a confession: When I was a young lawyer living in Los Angeles, I had a circle of friends that were incredibly shallow and materialistic. They would walk down the street and make snarky comments about other people’s hair, makeup, clothes, weight … you name it. After a while, their petty behavior started rubbing off on me. Whenever I was around them, my mind became so busy, judgmental, and arrogant. Except one day, I noticed it. I stopped and questioned my behavior. And, at that moment, I could hear it. I realized how incredibly embarrassing, let alone shallow, it was of me. It woke me up to how much was going on in my mind that I wasn’t conducting.
At that moment, I decided that I was never going to allow my mind to run amok like that again. From then on, I distanced myself from those “friends” and promised to give my mind something better to do. I committed to use my time and mind for value and fun, period.
When you start to figure out what you’re doing with that mind of yours – or, better yet, what it’s doing with you – you can have control over what you actually want to do with it (hopefully something more useful and inspiring than what you’re doing with it now).
Sure, this notion of giving your mind something better to think about may sound a bit trite if you’re a dubious doubter. But stopping yourself long enough to hear yourself, to figure out how to tell yourself to (in the nicest of ways) shut up, and to replace those very thoughts with whatever you want to be thinking about is truly life-altering.
Here are five basic steps to reclaim your mind. Don’t knock it until you try it. And keep trying until you master it.
- Observe it.
The first thing you’re going to do is start paying attention to your thoughts. You’re going to start to use a thought log and write down what you’re thinking in the language in which you’re actually speaking to yourself. Listen to your thoughts and write them down.
- Name It.
Decide which thought patterns you want to eliminate. You’ll start to see that you’re constantly talking to yourself about one particular thing, and it’s negative, and it makes you feel bad. Find your negative thought patterns that aren’t aligned with your goals, dreams, and values, and name them. Make sure you figure out the right name for each negative thought train you get on so that you can hear it the minute it leaves the station.
- Stop it.
The minute you hear that particular thought pattern, you’re going to roll up your sleeves and deal with stopping it. You’re going to figure out that you can, trite as it may seem, actually tell yourself to think about something else. Because you’ve let your inner dialogue run wild in certain areas of your life, you have no idea that if all of a sudden you no longer tolerated its tantrum, you could put your foot down and change it. You can stop its rant, decide the game of chicken is over, and call the shots. It’s that simple. I dare you to do it. Your goals and dreams implore you. The best ways to stop your negative thoughts are to either confess them to someone out loud or make a consequence for yourself for engaging in those thoughts.
- Replace it.
Decide which thoughts you actually want to cultivate instead of your current ones, making sure they align with your goals and dreams. As simple as this, too, may sound, I promise it works. You’re in charge of what you want to be thinking about; you just haven’t been. You sublet your mind to your vicious inner critic and your judgmental inner gremlin. The worst tenants ever. And just as it takes time and patience to kick bad tenants out, this, too, is going to take some time. These mental squatters have been living there for years, so hire your dreams a good attorney (aka your higher self)!
- Implement it.
Direct your new thought patterns, ensuring that you’re thinking about what you wantto be thinking about. So, let’s say your dream is to fall madly in love and find your soul mate. Instead of entertaining negative thoughts in your mind about how “dry” your city is or how unlucky you are or how you missed the (nonexistent) boat, start instead imagining your trip together to Bali, his or her hand in yours, the ring on your finger, etc. Start getting your mind to quiet down and do what you want it to – replacing the bratty, cowardly, and self-sabotaging old thoughts with new, bold, and dreamy ones.
I challenge you to implement these five steps and realize the power you have to take back your mind!