A Man is but a product of his thoughts – what he thinks, he becomes. – Mahatma Ghandi
The Link Between Thoughts, Feelings, & Your Behaviors
What we think and continue to nurture with repetition and emotion, will become our reality. When your thoughts are in control of Self, it’s important to understand the link and recognize harmful patterns so you can work to correct them. What you think directly affects how you feel. How you feel directly affects how you behave. And then how you behave is a reinforcement on the initial thought. So, if you think you’re not good enough, you’ll feel like you’re not good enough, and then you will behave like you’re not good enough (missing out on potentially amazing opportunities and experiences). What that cycle does is reinforce that you must then, not be good enough.
The Implications of Bad Thought Patterns on the Self
If we then don’t feel good enough, we continue down the dark path of self-limitation. Our brains will likely continue to look for ways to reinforce this thought or we will not listen to anything (thought or verbal) that is contradictory to this original thought. Think of times when you’ve gone through these patterns. You might have a day where you tell yourself you’re a failure. Immediately, that follows with a strong negative emotion. You then look for other instances in your collective memory in which you’ve “failed”, or at least deemed yourself a failure. That spirals into I must be a failure. I failed today, I’ve failed at these other 5 things, I will continue to fail. This on repeat becomes toxic to our Self and will ultimately lead to our defined reality.
If in those times you’ve had a friend, family member, or even boss reassure you “Hey, don’t worry about it, we all make mistakes, you are not a failure“, how many of those times have you listened? How many times has what they said changed your reality of your Self? Likely none. This is because our thoughts have more control over our realities than anything anyone else can say. If you think it, you believe it, you become it.
How to Gain Control and Change Thought Behavior
Although this can be disheartening to many at times, especially when those thoughts feel uncontrollable, the negative patterns of bad thought – bad emotion – repetition – reality, are completely within our power to change. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to change the thoughts were having, or at least control how we view those thoughts.
Dissociating Feelings of Thought with Self
When you have a thought such as I am a failure, one of the first steps we can take is to remove our Self from the thought, lessening the opportunity for us to define ourselves with these thoughts. Instead, replace it with a feeling thought. So I am a failure becomes I feel as though that project was a failure. It helps shift the perspective unto something else and away from the Self. Only then can we truly analyze the why something felt that way. I was in charge of the project and I didn’t do a good enough job leading my team to complete it on time, so the project was scrapped. This isn’t a good thought either you’re still associating the feeling of failure as a direct result of something YOU did, which puts the Self at risk of being defined as a failure, keep digging. The project was not a top priority for our department so another path was followed. That really is what is at the root isn’t it? The project simply was a no-go not because you are a failure. It just simply didn’t happen. Why does everything have to have a reason behind it? Why do we have to analyze everything and tie it back to ourselves? We don’t and you can control whether or not you do so.
Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go.
Replacing the Bad with the Good
It’s also very important that we practice telling ourselves good stories. Ultimately, if we are going to define our own realities, why would we ever want to choose something so terrible for ourselves? Surely, that is not what we’d prefer. So we must work at having good thoughts with good feelings and repeating that process until that becomes what we believe and ultimately our realities.
⇒ Not all Thoughts are Created Equal
It’s important to remember that the power of these thoughts on Self is determined by not only how often you have the thoughts, but also the strength of the emotion tied to those thoughts. It does no good to you if you have one-off good passing thoughts throughout the day, but then continue to have habitual negative thoughts for the rest of the day. Essentially thoughts cancel themselves out and your reality is a sum of all of your thoughts plus the strength of each. If your emotions and frequencies are higher for negative thoughts, those good thoughts will be of little help.
The key is to start with simple awareness. Just entering a state of awareness of all of the thoughts passing through on a daily basis will give you insights into which types of thoughts you’re experiencing more of (negative vs positive), the frequency in which you have them (daily or often each day), and the emotional strength of those thoughts (scale of 1-10 on how they make you feel).
Then build to replacing those unwanted thoughts. If the disassociation process is a little too difficult right now (it will get easier), start with replacing a bad thought with it’s positive equivalent. For every I am a failure and will always be a failure, replace it with I am successful and will continue to work hard at my success. Then, think of specific instances in which you did work hard, accomplished something you were proud of, and allow yourself to feel those strong positive emotions in thinking about it. If this process is repeated, you’ll begin to notice a change in how you shape your own reality and what that reality looks like.
Your mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.