I was talking with a Life Coaching client the other who was apt to give herself a very hard time.
I pointed out as I do that being kind to yourself is not a sign of weakness and will almost certainly not mean you go off the rails.
She understood that at a conscious level, but followed up by saying, “But I just can’t stop thinking the same thoughts over and over again”
In self development terms there are two major problems with that statement like that and both are likely to prevent you from making beneficial change.
Firstly, it’s delivered as a statement of fact rather than a belief.
Of course there are things we know we cannot do for certain, but often that’s not the case and we’re merely articulating beliefs and/or opinions.
I know for a fact I can’t speak Chinese. This was superbly demonstrated when I recently received the Chinese version of How To Be Rich and Happy and couldn’t even tell where my own name was on the cover.
However, I don’t know for a fact that I will never be able to speak Chinese. I suspect I won’t because I’m not that interested in putting in the hundreds of hours work that would be required just to read my own book.
The reason it can be a problem turning a belief into a fact is down to your brains primitive desire to always prove you (itself) right.
Therefore, when you say something like “I cannot change my thoughts” your brain will sort for evidence (largely unconsciously), to support that belief and make you think it’s a fact.
It will do this to the extent that it will even ignore or skip past contradictory evidence because that creates cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is caused by tying to hold two or more contradictory beliefs at the same time and your brain hates that feeling more than I hate mosquitoes
So effectively what you and your brain are conspiring to do at this stage is create a negative self-fulfilling prophesy.
The second problem stems from the fact that there is a presupposition nestled in there that suggests nothing will change in the future.
The statement doesn’t say I can’t do this now, it says I can’t do this. Thus it rather naughtily implies that you’ll never be able to.
And again your brain doesn’t want to let you down or make a fool of you. Therefore it will happily delete and distort opportunities that may come your way to make sure you’re correct.
I’m not into denial and delusion and I don’t want anybody to claim to themselves and/or others they can do things they obviously can’t.
However, there is a simple way of literally rewiring your brain so that you leave the option for change open, and as such make it far more likely.
For instance, me saying “I can’t speak Chinese” is accurate. But so is me saying, “I can’t speak Chinese yet”
The latter statement though doesn’t rule out the possibility of things changing in the future if I want them to. In fact it presupposes they can change if I want them to.
This tiny shift makes a huge difference to your outlook and ability to spot opportunities.
I suggested to my client that rather than saying she can’t change her thoughts she start to say:
“Up until now I haven’t been able to change my thoughts”
That is a statement of fact about how things are now, not what is going to happen in the future.
Never under-estimate the power of the language you use because your language reflects your thoughts and your thoughts dictate the quality of your life.
Note: I just uploaded a 4 minute video to YouTube where I talk about what I think are the 4 best pieces of self development advice.