“For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.” ~Author Unknown
Try this little exercise for a moment. Think back over all the years of your life and the things that you worried about, anguished over, and ruminated upon for days. Remember the time, energy, and negative emotion spent on these situations and the disruption they caused for you and those close to you.
Now, what percentage of these concerns or worries actually merited the amount of emotional energy and angst expended?
How many of your problems were solved or fears dispelled by worry and over-thinking?
If I could reclaim all of the energy and time expended trying to out-think a problem, anticipate potential negative outcomes, and control situations, I probably could have written ten novels and traveled the world. Nothing was so bad that I couldn't handle it. Everything, even the bad things, were manageable.
In my last post, I wrote about our propensity for trying to manipulate and manage our lives through controlling tendencies that manifest in a variety of limiting behaviors. I mentioned that the first step toward changing these self-defeating habits is recognizing them in your own life.
It's not easy to take a good look in the mirror and acknowledge the insecurities and years of reflexive thoughts and actions that have spawned these nasty little habits. But if you don't, you will never embrace full and joyous living.
However, it's one thing to recognize them and quite another to try to rid yourself of them. You've spent years building barriers, defenses, worries, doubts, guilt, anger, and excuses. These reactions to life's real or perceived disruptions have become ingrained and reflexive.
Although you may feel bound to them, you don't have to be a victim of your own behaviors or the overwhelming feelings that generally precede reflexive thoughts and actions.
It is possible to break these reflexive habits and build new ones if you have some mental tools at your disposal.
Recently, I saw a television program about a man who had lost his short-term memory. Even if he'd met you a hundred times, he wouldn't remember you if you left the room and returned in two minutes. He was totally immersed in the present moment. He could not remember the past nor anticipate the future. As awful as this condition sounds, the man was quite happy. He was completely disengaged from what causes most of us unhappiness and worry.
Of course we don't want to lose our memories, but wouldn't it be wonderful to live so blissfully in the present? In his book, The Power of Self-Coaching: The Five Essential Steps to Creating the Life You Want, Dr. Joseph Luciani suggests that you can learn to coach yourself away from reflexive thinking and behaviors and free yourself from the pain and limitations they foster.
Dr. Luciani has worked successfully with hundreds of clients on developing self-coaching techniques in order to dissolve years of bad habits. These techniques must be implemented regularly, but with practice, they will become your new habits. Here are a few of them:
Separate Fact From Fiction.
Do you ever have two conflicting voices in your head? One voice spins off in a diatribe of negative, fearful, and insecure thoughts. The other healthy minded voice might try to insert a dose of reality into the conversation, but it is quickly drowned out by the fearful voice.
By separating fact from fiction, you can successfully tamp down over-thinking and worry. You don't have to keep feeding your insecurities. Instead, begin to challenge them with fact. According to Dr. Luciani, “facts are verifiable, objective, and observable phenomena, while fictions are based on interpretations, judgments, and probability predictions.” Scrutinize every negative thought like a detective, and then focus only on the facts. The facts generally don't merit your negative feelings or behaviors.
Stop Listening To The Voice
In addition to challenging your negative, insecure voice with facts, work at tuning out that voice all-together. You don't have to be a receptive audience to these thoughts and fears. You know they don't bring anything positive to the table in terms of solving your problem. In fact, they only make things worse.
Practice shutting down those thoughts as soon as they begin. Using visual imagery can reinforce your efforts. Imagine an impenetrable wall slamming down between you and your negative thoughts, blocking them from your mind. Or picture each thought as a soccer ball, and you have a super-powered kick that will send it flying into orbit. Keep practicing these “mind games” until blocking these thoughts becomes a natural reaction.
Learn To Let Go And Trust
Think how it would feel if you could package up all of your worry and insecurity and give it away to someone who would handle everything. You could proceed with your life with the confidence that everything will be OK. The truth is, everything will be OK most of the time. And when it wasn't in the past, you've been able to handle it. Allow yourself to fall backward and let the universe catch you. Release control. You don't have to work so hard — life will happen naturally.Dr. Luciani offers three mantras to write down and repeat to yourself as a reminder that letting go is liberating, not scary.
- First, let life unfold. There are obstacles, but no dead ends. Things might feel hopeless, but that is only a distortion of the truth created by insecurity.
- Secondly, trust that your instincts and intuition will serve you. Be willing to take the risk that you will find answers and solutions in time with the help of your own inner wisdom.
- Third, every problem has a solution, and sometimes you have to wait for an answer. Things may not happen in your time, but they will unfold in time. You need to be disciplined enough to wait and not allow insecurity to make you panic and demand an answer now. In the interim, practice separating fact from fiction and cutting off the negative voice.
Dr. Luciani offers additional techniques and insights in his book, but these three alone will give you powerful tools to release yourself from the trap of insecurity and reflexive thoughts and behaviors. Your feelings can be like trained seals, responding to the commands of old learned habits and patterns. Override your feelings by focusing on facts, blocking out negative thoughts, and allowing life to unfold, and you will be on the way to freeing yourself for a bolder, happier, and more expansive life.
Do you have any techniques for overcoming reflexive thinking and limiting behaviors? Please share them in the comments.