I don’t like to do the dishes.
Seems like a simple statement. It is totally subjective of course, but if you heard someone say that, you would assume that they meant it, barring any obvious sarcasm.
I don’t like doing the dishes.
It seems truthful, factual even.
How many times do you hear these kinds of statements in your mind?
These habitual thoughtless statements of fact that somehow filter to the surface on their own in the most inopportune times; like when I need to do the dishes.
But at what point did I decide that I didn’t like doing the dishes?
Sometime during my childhood I”m sure. I remember that it felt like I was always doing the dishes, and because I didn’t like washing them, I made it an unpleasant experience.
Now in reality, I know that it was simply one of the ways my parents asked me to help with the household chores. It wasn’t even like I was the only one who did them.
But unpleasant experiences seem to almost magically become disproportionately bigger than they actually are, and we create conclusions or beliefs around those experiences.
Then we have to push and struggle to do this thing we don’t like, and the cycle continues.
This creates more evidence around the belief that we don’t like doing it; thus making it more and more “real” and indisputable each time.
It’s just a thought.
I’ve read so many books and articles over the years about the power of thoughts.
You may have heard about the power of positive thinking or daily affirmations.
There are many self-help gurus professing such things.
The fact is, thoughts themselves have no power.
If they did, all you would have to do is think about having a million dollars and it would appear.
Thoughts suggest emotions, and all emotions are the result of thoughts.
It’s just the way the human brain works.
Think of something pleasant, and you feel relaxed, satisfied, and content.
Think of something unpleasant and you feel, anxious, fearful, angry etc.
Now, that doesn’t mean that every time you have a thought you feel an emotion.
If you have a thought about something mundane, or something that you care little one way or the other about, then it will not usually elicit an emotional response.
The thought of watching grey paint dry comes to mind….
But don’t take my word for it.
The next time you realize that you are feeling an emotion, take a moment to see if you can remember the thought that you had right before you started feeling it.
Sometimes the thoughts you may have that are making you feel like crap are obvious, because you hear them all the time!
The bad news is that…
It’s impossible to control your thoughts.
You also can’t “override bad thoughts with good thoughts”.
This is why I’m not a fan of affirmations, at least the way they are commonly practiced.
Does that mean that you are a slave to your thoughts and therefore your emotions?
Here is the good news.
You will only feel the corresponding emotions if you believe the thoughts you are listening to.
If someone came up to you and called you a purple people eater, would you feel bad? (If you don’t get the reference, it’s a one eyed, one horned flying monster from a hit song in the 1950’s)
The point is that since you know that you are not a purple people eater, you might think that they are being silly, but it wouldn’t make you feel bad.
Now if that same person said that you were fat, ugly, or stupid, you might feel bad, but it was only because you believed them. Otherwise, there would be no offense.
It’s the same way with our own thoughts.
So how can you separate your thoughts from your beliefs in them?
Meditation allows you to listen to your thoughts without believing them.
During meditation, you allow thoughts to surface without trying to control, analyze or judge them.
You create space to observe your thoughts as they arise, without attachment or assigning any meaning to them.
From this place of observation you are able to separate your thoughts from your emotional response.
With practice you can do this not just while you are meditating, but throughout the day.
Meditation is just one way to develop this skill. Life coaching is another.
One of the things a coach does is help you to create the space to observe and identify the thoughts you are listening to.
Once you can see the thoughts you are listening to, you can question them.
That is when the magic happens.
That’s when discomfort disappears and you suddenly realize new ways of moving forward that you never saw before.
Often, you will see that the only thing stopping you was the thought itself!
Once you separate your thoughts from your emotions, you are able to see that you are not our thoughts!
This simple truth is a game changer.
Let me just say that again.
You are not your thoughts. You are a being who has thoughts.
When you realize that you are not your thoughts, and that they don’t mean anything about you, you are then free to question them without making it about you.
We can then separate our thoughts from our identity of self, thus eliminating any self-judgments those thoughts suggested.
You also then realize that you have a choice whether to believe them or not.
But more importantly…
Once you create observational space, you realize that you can choose whether or not you even have an emotional response to those thoughts.
The next time you hear a thought that causes you to have an emotional response, ask yourself if it is true. Is this thought that I am thinking true?
Sometimes you are then able to admit that it isn’t. Sometimes, if you answer yes, it is just a defensive reaction of your ego.
Ask again. Can you be absolutely sure that it is true? Look at it. Allow yourself to really look at it.
At this point, you will start to feel a little space of observation open up around this thought.
Continue to look at it. Can you be absolutely sure it’s true?
Your mind may present evidence based on memories of past experiences that prove its validity.
But does that mean it’s true?
For instance, the thoughts “I always make this mistake,” or “ I never get it right” are absolutes.
If you can remember even one instance that it wasn’t true, then by definition those thoughts are false.
Your mind may then say, “ok, well almost always or never.” It will continue to fight to be right.
Your mind is designed to always defend it’s rightness, whether it’s being equivocal or absolute.
It is a survival mechanism built into your brain, and most of the time it can be very useful.
But when you are trying to move past a limiting belief, playing tug of war with your thoughts is a losing battle.
This is the point where many people feel stuck, frustrated, or even resigned to the fact that nothing will change.
However, there is a way for you to release limiting beliefs without the tug of war.
Use conditional statements.
A limiting thought can be like a big wall that you can’t get over, under, around or through.
It prevents you from moving forward, or even seeing what’s on the other side.
But what if this thought wasn’t true? How would that change things?
If this thought wasn’t true, what might you be able to do that you are not currently doing?
You see, you are not challenging the truth of the thought itself. You are not confronting, ignoring or dismissing it.
You are not saying that it isn’t true. You are simply asking, IF it wasn’t true, what else MIGHT you be able to see? What else MIGHT you be able to imagine?
Just as before, take some time with it. Really let yourself imagine what it would be like.
Then suddenly, the wall turns transparent. It is still there, and you are not denying its existence. You are simply seeing through it.
When you can see beyond the wall of your limiting beliefs, other options become available to you.
You can consider other paths, or even outcomes that may be in better alignment with what is most important to you (because you are not just staring at the wall).
You can consider other perspectives which may better serve you.
Who knows, you may even learn to like doing the dishes.
- Your thoughts have no power in themselves.
- Your thoughts suggest emotions, and all of your emotions are the result of thoughts that you believe.
- You can’t control your thoughts, and you don’t need to.
- Meditation and coaching are two ways that you can develop the skill of observing your thoughts.
- When you can observe your thoughts, you can separate them from your emotional response..
- If you question limiting thoughts, you can see new options and choices that you couldn’t see before.