What’s the Secret to a Better Life? Stop Believing the Crap You Tell Yourself
I used to do this workout video and the instructor in the video said, “If you want a different body, you have to DO something different.”
Damn. That's the hard part.
The same is true about life. If you want a different life, then you have to do something different. I suggest (and Gandhi would have agreed with me) you start with how you think.
Scientists estimate that we have 60,000 thousand thoughts (give or take a few thousand) a day.
A lot of them are a load of crap.
I used to believe that in order to be happy, I needed to change everything outside of me: where I live, who I live with, my job, my friend group, a project I’m working on, a coworker… blah blah blah. Everything would be great if it weren’t for ______. You know how it goes, right?
So it's been extremely difficult for me to pull on my big-girl pants and see myself — not the external world —for my bouts of unhappiness.
The truth is that what makes me unhappy is how I talk to myself, and I bet this could be true for you, too. We all have this Inner Critic. Some people call it your Gremlin, others call it the Censor, the Bitchy Roommate...I often think of mine as the Peanut Gallery.
Regardless of what you call it, it’s the part of your brain that produces a running, negative, commentary on you and your life. That’s the crap you shouldn’t believe.
Because it's counter-productive. We often tell ourselves, "That's reality," but is it? Or is it just the way you're looking at things?
Anytime I start to even consider doing something outside of my comfort zone, my Peanut Gallery of grumpy old men start pummeling me with punitive thoughts. They are full of neurotic anxiety, self-doubt and see nothing but problems. And they are here to make sure that I hear them, loud and clear.
And I listened to them for so long without questioning what they were saying that I thought it was The Truth.
Here’s what I’ve learned (ok, what I’m in the process of learning).
Just because we think something doesn’t make it true. Remember Galileo? We've all thought things that we really, really believed. But our thoughts and beliefs are not facts.
Like our thoughts, feelings are not facts, either. It may be a fact that we are feeling an emotion, e.g., sad, angry, lonely, etc., but we are feeling that way because of what we’re thinking.
thoughts —> feelings —> actions
What we think determines what we feel, and then based on that, we take action. When I’m telling myself a bunch of crap, I feel like crap. And when I feel like crap, I do things that just make me feel worse instead of better. Like eat an entire bag of Smartfood popcorn.
If you want to change the results you're getting in your life, take a look at what you're telling yourself.
Here’s an example.
I woke up this morning and looked at the clock. It was much later than I wanted to get up. I was grumpy about it. Because I was grumpy I was irritated at my housemate, who just happened to be making coffee when I wanted to make my breakfast. So then my brain went into evidence-gathering mode, finding all sorts of evidence that she is “bad,” and she is the reason I’m grumpy. Here’s the “evidence”:
She said, “Good morning!” cheerfully. (So irritating.)
She put a container in the trash that belongs in the recycle bin. (Crime punishable by death.)
She asked me (still nicely and cheerfully), “Did you sleep ‘good’?” (OMG. “Good?” No, I did not sleep “good”! The right adverb is “well.”)
So you can see I was a real charmer in the kitchen this morning. On the surface, I was telling myself that the reason I was grumpy was her. She's too cheerful. She can't ever recycle anything the right way. Why does she always ask me how I slept AND use improper grammar?
The truth is that I was grumpy because I slept later than I wanted, and that’s when the Peanut Gallery started in on me behind the scenes of my consciousness. It wasn't until I stopped to really think about what made me grumpy that I started to hear the incessant cacophony of crap running like a broken record:
You should’ve gotten up earlier. Weren't you going to take the dog to the big dog park? Now there's no time and he's going to be antsy and bother you while you are trying to finish this blog post. How are you going to finish your blog post? When do you think you're going to clean the house and put away the Christmas decorations? When are you going to get that done, huh? Lazy. Unreliable. Lame.
Take a wild guess at what was making me grumpy--my own damn self, not my housemate.
Here's the point.
The number one thing you can do for yourself in 2017 is start observing what you’re thinking. Just notice what the steady stream of chatter in your brain is. Resist the temptation to believe it and find evidence to prove it’s true. What if, instead, you consider that all those thoughts come from an unreliable narrator?
What would you like to believe instead? If you could change ONE belief, what would it be? How might it change your life if you believed it?
If you don’t like the life you’re living, but feel stuck and don’t know where to begin getting un-stuck, send me an email. I offer complimentary 1-hour phone sessions to new clients.