Building positive thoughts
Thoughts play a powerful role in influencing our outcomes. You may have heard of affirmations as a positive thinking strategy. It is a great practice but one that cannot be fully harnessed without understanding basic principles of thoughts.
THREE THOUGHT PRINCIPLES
Thoughts create feelings, feelings fuel actions and actions bring results.
Your brain is wired to find evidence for your thoughts.
Repeated thought patterns + evidence = deep rooted beliefs.
Everything starts with our thoughts. A very simple way to look at thoughts is to consider them as ‘conversations’ you have with yourself in your head. You can listen but you do not have to believe every ‘conversation’. When you believe a thought, it can trigger an emotional response - a feeling. This feeling then prompts an action. The outcome of that action provides evidence for you to repeat that thought.
For example, having the thought, ‘I can do great things’ can lead to the feelings of inspiration. This can prompt you to strive for excellence which leads to success and cements that thought that you can do great things. It becomes a repetitive thought and eventually a belief you have about yourself.
On the other hand, having the thought, ‘I am not cut out for this’ can lead to feelings of inadequacy. This can prompt you to shrink back which could lead to failure and cements the thought that you are not cut out for this. It becomes a repetitive thought and eventually a belief you have about yourself.
Did you know that humans think an average of 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day and about 80% of them are negative and a whopping 95% are repetitive thoughts?
We have spent our whole lives accumulating positive and negative thoughts that have resulted in certain beliefs about ourselves. So it becomes necessary to actively create new thoughts to replace our old thoughts and beliefs. This is not going to be a quick fix, but it is possible with the right strategy.
For a thought to influence action, it has to be believable. No matter how much you repeat it, a thought you don’t believe is like white noise in the background. It can be loud but not comprehensive or meaningful to you.
Take this example of one of my clients who has been working on her body image. She had a goal to be a certain weight and love her body but she battled with spiralling negative thoughts. She tried combating these with positive, spiritual thoughts such as I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). But this didn’t work! In fact, it was doubly discouraging because it made her feel useless at the simple task of managing her mind. All because she could not quite believe this amazing positive thought!
So does this mean we are stuck with the negative thoughts forever? Thankfully not!
The THOUGHT LADDER is a powerful tool useful for changing your negative thoughts. Imagine that at the bottom of the ladder is a negative thought and at the top rung is your goal thought. Your goal thought is something you are struggling to believe right now while your ladder thoughts are neutral thoughts on your way to the goal thought.
Each neutral thought needs to be practised so that it can be believable before moving on to the next one on the ladder until you reach your goal thought. The neutral thoughts can be practised as part of a morning/evening routine or at different times in the day. You can set reminders on your phone to prompt you during the day. This way, you consciously build new thoughts and beliefs.
Remember the 2nd fundamental principle? Our brains are wired to find evidence for our thoughts. So whenever we dwell on thought, our brain finds evidence for it. So using our previous example of my client, neutral thoughts can lead to her noticing beauty in other people of various shapes and sizes or perhaps encountering people whose bodies have undergone major changes.
This evidence that the clever brain has detected helps to ensure that thoughts are repeated enough times with conviction and transformed into a belief.
So, I encourage you to catch yourself thinking. What negative thinking patterns would you like to squash? What would you like to believe that feels so impossible right now?
Get to work using the Thought Ladder and generate neutral thoughts until you get to your goal thought.
The Thought Ladder model is credited to Kara Lowentheil.