If we have one thing in common as human beings, I would say that would be the hardships that we have to go through. Some of us have more luck than others, but at one point in our life, we will all go through something that’s hard, something that will shatter our world. I certainly am one of those. My parents’ divorce when I was 11 was certainly a difficult point in my life. In one of my articles, I’ve shared about my experience with sexual abuse. I’ve had my fair share of depression and I tried more than once to end my life. But today, I would say that, even though hardships still come and go, I have become more resilient than ever, and I believe that I can face any trials and remain strong, happy, serene. There is one thing I’ve learned in my life that made me into the resilient being that I have become. This is what I will share in today’s article.
No matter what happens in our lives, there is one thing that will always be true. We cannot change what’s in our past. What happened happened and we all have to learn to live with ourselves after the facts. And that is probably the hardest thing we’ll have to do. We often think that our circumstances define how we’ll feel, how happy we’ll be. But that’s far from the truth. In reality, our circumstances have no power over us. We have the power to feel the way we want to feel. All we have to do is change the way we think.
“Remember happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think.” -Dale Carnegie
I hear you say “I have no control over what happens to me, what others impose on me!” That is entirely true. We do not have the power to shield ourselves from the external world. But what we have control upon is our mind. Be mindful of what is going on in your internal monologue. Are your thoughts positive, negative, neutral? Chances are, if you think strongly about an event in your life in a negative way you will feel negative emotions as well. Your thoughts influence the way you feel. Now, try to change your thoughts in a more neutral way. How do you feel?
The Self-coaching model
There is a podcast that I very much enjoy called The Life Coach School with master coach instructor Brooke Castillo. Brooke created a self-coaching model that she teaches in her podcast. The model helps us understand the impact that our thoughts will have on our emotions and on the results we will experience in our lives. Her model goes like that :
- Our circumstances trigger thoughts
- Our thoughts create our feelings
- Our feelings create our actions
- Our actions create our results
For Brooke, our circumstances, in themselves, are neutral. They are facts. We can objectively agree on the facts. For example, if I have been laid off from my job, that is a fact that we can all agree upon.
Our thoughts aren’t neutral. They are subjective. They are the opinions we form about our circumstances. From the same facts, different people will produce different thoughts. This is what we have power upon.
Our feelings are a result of our thoughts. Positive thoughts will produce positive feelings; negative thoughts, negative feelings. This is a very simple equation.
Our feelings will generate either action, reaction or inaction. Brooke gives the example of someone who thinks he or she is fat and ugly. Fat and ugly is a thought. Circumstances would be his or her weight in pounds or kilo. A person who weighs 100 pounds can think he is fat and ugly, as well as a person who weighs 200 pounds. The thought is subjective and is not relative to the actual weight of the person. Our feeling could be disgust, anger, self-loathing. This could lead to the action of overeating, or food deprivation, for example.
Finally, our actions create our results. In the case of the person who overeats out of self-loathing, the result will be gain weight, which will reinforce the thought of being fat and ugly.
Act on our thoughts
The first step to act on our thoughts is to be mindful of the affirmations that we think on a daily basis. Be aware of your internal monologue and notice patterns in your thoughts. Our brain often goes into default mode. We tend to think the thoughts that we allow ourselves to think most often. For now, do not try to change anything, just notice. If you keep a journal, take note of the thoughts that you experience most often.
Now that you’ve figured out the patterns that go through your brain, you can choose a thought that you would like to change. With our previous example, you could try to change the thought “I am fat and ugly”. Probably that if you try to change your thought from fat and ugly to thin and beautiful, you will have a hard time believing it. The thing with affirmations is that we have to believe them to reinforce our beliefs. Coach Castillo suggest that you start with something neutral like “I have a body”, or “I have a strong body”, or “I have a capable body”. When you notice your brain saying that you are fat, reframe your thought with the neutral thought of your choice. Then after that thought becomes the new default, you can build on something more positive.
Practice your new thoughts. Allow yourself to repeat them often, to ingrain your thoughts into your being. Mindfulness is a discipline that you need to practice often. If you need, meditation can be a very powerful way to practice awareness of your thoughts.
Changing the way you think is not an easy process. You will find yourself going back to your negative thoughts more often than not. You need to be patient and compassionate towards yourself. Gently remind yourself that you want to think more positive thoughts. Take your time, don’t rush it. You will soon reap the rewards of your efforts.
When you learn to control your thoughts, you will experience the sense of control over your life. Your circumstances will not affect the way you feel, nor your results. You will experience that you have control over your life and that you can decide how you feel. You will feel empowered and strong. You will look at the past in a way to sets you free.
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