In the short-term, anyway. It’ll save you a lot of time.
Why Do We Care So Much About the Content of Our Minds?
If you find yourself spending a lot of time thinking, reflecting on that thinking, and then being frustrated at yourself because you’ve determined the thinking is “bad,” this post is for you.
When we find ourselves swept into the cycle I just described, we are heavily identifying with our thoughts.
By this I mean that we’re under the impression that our thoughts are representative of who we are and what we do. So I’m gonna do my best to prove that they’re not.
It’s only natural to want our thoughts to be perfect: we don’t want them to bother us or anyone else ever, and so we dwell on “fixing” them.
Therefore, we grow to care about our thoughts and be conscious of them all the time.
We’re taught that thought precedes action. And this is often true. What people neglect to show us is that thought precedes action until the very moment you don’t want it to.
Imagine we acted out every impulse we had—we’d all be broke, homeless criminals.
And the fact that we’re not (knock on wood) indicates that thoughts don’t have to lead to action every time.
Short vs Long-Term Thoughts
By “short-term” thoughts I mean the thoughts we’re having right at a certain place at a certain time. By “long-term” thoughts, I mean the general stability and content of our thoughts over weeks or months.
Real Quick! Don’t think of a pink elephant!
You thought of a pink elephant, and it isn’t your fault. The pink elephant is an example of your short-term thoughts taking control over your consciousness.
And as simple as this exercise was, it’s proof that we don’t often have conscious control over the present state of our thoughts. If this is true, then why do we try so hard to influence them?
Short-term thoughts are quick and hectic; long-term thoughts are much more manageable and can be affected by our lifestyles. I’ll talk more about how to manage long-term thoughts in a future post.
How and Why to Stop Fighting
Everyone who has dealt with Anxiety at some time or another understands that by ruminating and sitting with your worries, you accidentally exacerbate them. When you hate your thoughts or feel guilty about them, you’re fueling them, tempting them to continue and beat you.
So if we know that we can’t often control our moment-to-moment thoughts and fighting them makes us feel worse, the productive thing to do is stop fighting them since it’s such a waste of time and energy.
This is much easier done than said, but if, when we worry, we redirect our energy to something else, we can get past the worry instead of making it worse.
What you should do is put all of your energy into your next action, not your next thought.
Here are some examples: if you’re struggling to be productive and hating on yourself because of it, focus instead on your muscle movements. Instead of placing your energy in your mind, feel it in your body.
Put all your effort into lifting yourself from your bed, walking to your desk, opening your computer, and beginning work. If you can do this, you’ll see that your thoughts and doubts about yourself didn’t matter—they didn’t get what they wanted, and this is empowering.
If you’re really bored at work and your thoughts start bothering you, put your energy into saying to yourself “I’m bored, but I can’t always control my thoughts. The natural flow of mine is normal, and all I can do is observe them.” Say it as many times as you need.
As soon as you start acting in spite of your thoughts, you’ll see that your thoughts don’t actually have to have anything in common with what you end up doing.
This is a radical statement, but it’s important to understand that literally anything your mind wants to do is normal. COMPLETELY NORMAL.
Your thoughts can trick you, scare you, throw you around. But if you can steadily act through them, you’ll see that they don’t have to determine what you do or whom you are. That being said, it’s a waste of energy to try controlling your thoughts every time they bother you. Just keep putting attention into observing them without judgment and making decisive action.
Take this process slowly: make a positive change whenever you can and you’ll become someone your worried thoughts would hate. (And that’s an excellent thing!)
Have you ever found yourself being bothered by the thoughts you had? If you remember them and are willing to share them, I’d love to hear it. Keep in mind that anything is normal.
If you have a suggestion, advice, or need an accountability buddy, please let me know by commenting or by messaging me!
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