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The power of our thoughts

My greatest wish for everyone is that they create a practice of paying attention to their thoughts and to how those thoughts affect them. Seriously. And I can’t help myself, even when I’m not coaching , I’m listening to hear other people’s thoughts and wonder how they are being impacted by them. Questioning my own thoughts has been revelatory. The pain and suffering of not questioning them is now so obvious, yet I still, on occasion fall into the trap of believing whatever it is I’m believing.

And that is the most obvious whenever I find myself in a situation I don’t want to be in. For example, I had a job I hated, absolutely hated, and when I was in that job I believed or thought it was the only job I could get, that I was lucky to have it and that a miracle would happen and somehow the job and the people there would change. HA. Crazy thinking, but I did it, and surprise, that thinking did not help.

What would have been more helpful, and something I know now is that had I NOT believed those thoughts, had I really given it some thought and did a reality check and really paid attention to the daily grind of it all, I would have left it much more sooner than I did. Oh so humiliating to leave and yet, at the very same time, liberating. Whoopie, I won’t have to ever walk into that place ever again. So on the other side of all of that angst was exhilaration.

Here's what I know now. If I had taken all of those thoughts I had back then through the four questions Byron Katie askes in her book, Loving What Is, four questions that can change your life – 1. Is that thought true? 2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? 3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought and 4. Who would you be without that thought, then turn that thought around to three examples of how a turnaround could be true or truer than the original thought.

So let’s go through my example. Here’s the thought: This is the only job I can get right now.

1. Is it true? It certainly felt like it at the time, the labor market was tight and there weren’t many job openings for my education, training and experience.

2. Can you absolutely know that it is true? No, I suppose not, there were probably other jobs out there I would have been successful in and enjoyed.

3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought? Well I felt like crap, I was not excited to go to work, quite the opposite. I begrudged every minute of it. I wasn’t happy and I’m sure I didn’t exude confidence or even the level of experience I actually had.

4. Who would I be without that thought? Oh, much happier, much more open to trying new and different rolls, and much less miserable.

Turnaround potentials: How are these statements true of truer?

1. This isn’t the only job for me – true, I just needed to do more networking and job searching to find one.

2. This is a good job for me – could be true, and had I had that attitude, I may have been much more productive and successful.

3. There are many other opportunities for me – probably true, like number 1. I just had to apply myself to find them.

What did I learn from that brief exercise? One, that the only reason I felt trapped in that job was believing my own thinking. I had the capabilities to do so much more, but refused to believe it in the moment and spent a great deal of energy (ill-placed) in thinking I could change things of which I had no control. I also learned that I was a huge part of the problem. Feeling out of place and disengaged did not endear me to my managers or team mates. While that isn’t very flattering, it is somewhat liberating in that I realized I gave away my power instead of owning it.

I wish I could tell you I learned from that experience and went on to greater success in my next work environment, but I can’t. I went from one bad situation to another, again thinking that I could change things when they weren’t within my control. I’m not a slow learner per se, but then I did not know how impactful my thoughts actually were. Nor did I understand that questioning my thinking was the most powerful, life changing thing I could do. Now that I’m much more aware of my thinking, and now that I make it a practice, my life has changed exponentially for the better. Give it a try, I bet you’ll find it useful too.

If you’d like to learn more about this practice, pick up Byron Katie’s “Loving What Is, Four Questions that Can Change Your Life” or go to her website:

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