15 Sep Why You Don’t Have to Change Your Thoughts (Even if You Could)
“If you change your thoughts you can change your actions.”
— Robert Kiyosaki
First, is your brain busy? Try to make a tick mark for every thought in two minutes. You’ll be astounded at how many of them pass before you. It’s an endless parade, just like clouds before the sun on a windy day.
If you try to change your thoughts, it could drive you crazy. How could you stop one from marching in the parade long enough to change it? Think of the energy expenditure! You’d soon be exhausted and frustrated. I can see the fog rolling in just thinking about this impossibly futile process.
You might say that you won’t think of them! This is equally difficult because your brain doesn’t understand the word don’t. For example, try not to think about a hot fudge sundae with nuts and whipped cream for the next ten seconds. You guessed it. Rows of hot fudge sundaes parade through your head.
This aspect of brain function, focusing upon the subject even when it’s preceded by a don’t or not, is well understood by therapists who use hypnosis. For example, look at the following phrases, and pick the one that would most clearly produce the intended result:
- Don’t forget to take your car keys when you leave the house.
- Remember to take your car keys when you leave the house.
It’s obvious, isn’t it? The first suggestion puts “forget to take your keys” into your mind. The second, “remember to take your keys,” is easier for the brain to follow and, therefore, more apt to influence your behavior in the desired manner.
So you probably see by now that it is difficult both to try to change a thought and to ignore the one you already have. Each strategy takes a lot of energy and gives you few results. In addition, you can become rigid and hemmed in by your thoughts. They seem to get louder as they repeat themselves over and over again.
What we’ve covered so far in this article:
- The brain has a tough time dealing with “negative” instances of something, as in “Don’t worry!” or “Don’t be late!” It will focus on whatever comes after the “Don’t.”
- Whatever thoughts you focus upon directly will cause them to repeat.
- Trying to change your thoughts keeps your focus on those thoughts, causing them to recycle.
Ultimately more elegant, easy, simple, and powerful than trying to change your thoughts is learning to shift the way you think them. And it starts with activating a power you have to lift above the swirling thoughts that circulate your brain, especially when you are tired or stressed.
Please look at this year’s earlier newsletter articles if you haven’t done so. In a few of them, I mention that your most incredible superpower is your ability to “Be Willing.”
Unlike the “negative” instances we looked at above, Being Willing is all about saying “Yes” to your life in all its ins and outs, ups and downs, lefts, and rights.
Being Willing is one of the most life-affirming phrases you can utter.
Anything that comes after “I am willing to be” will give you thoughts worth thinking.
So, here’s a question you might want to consider:
Am I willing to be compassionate with my brain?
Think of it this way: your brain was designed around 100,000 years ago to keep you out of danger. We didn’t have fangs or fur. We couldn’t run very fast. But we had a brain that could look for things that could go wrong in the future. The brain’s architecture hasn’t changed much since then. It still believes that we are living 100,000 years ago.
When it gets busy and thinks the same thoughts repeatedly, it’s usually trying to protect us from some danger that doesn’t exist. Some saber-toothed cat at the door to our cave.
I know what you’re probably thinking:
“That sounds like a bunch of California woo woo thinking.”
But hear me out (or read me out). Believe it or not, your brain will respond to some compassion. Try this and see what happens.
- The next time you hear incessant thoughts, say something compassionate to your brain like:
“It’s ok. I know you’re trying to protect me. I appreciate what you’re doing.”
- See if your brain begins to relax!
- Then, find one thing right now for which you’re grateful.
- Gratitude will allow you to shift to a thought worth thinking.
- You might find yourself taking a deep breath.
In future articles, we’ll look more deeply into how to shift what your brain attends to. You’ll undoubtedly see that you have the capacity to change the way your brain thinks. That’s the true power that you possess.
Remember to send some compassion to your brain whenever it gets agitated or busy. And watch what happens! Until next time, take care.
See you again!
“You have the power to change your thoughts and your thoughts have the power to change your life.”
— Ron Willingham