Let’s start with a premise: what you think becomes your reality.
Knowing that, isn’t it uncanny how we have a knack for believing all of the thoughts that run through our heads?
And here’s why that’s a bad thing:
- Repetitive thoughts nourish feelings.
- Repetitive negative thoughts nourish negative feelings.
- Negative feelings can morph into unpleasant physical and emotional ailments and unhealthy behaviors.
But let’s back up for a minute to the thoughts themselves.
Most of our negative thoughts aren’t grounded in reality. They are either only partially true or not true at all. But because we think them and give them permission to reside in our minds, they become true for us.
I call this “outside in” living.
Something happens to you on the outside, and your thoughts latch on to the event and begin to shape your experience of it. The outside event holds the power, and you react to it based on years of “conditioning” from reinforced beliefs and past experiences.
It’s as though you are riding the river life without a paddle. Every shift in the current, every wave or rock in the path causes anxiety or pain even when they are benign. You have no control. You experience yourself as a victim.
But as soon as you take responsibility for creating your experience of the world from the inside out, you shift from being a victim to being the creator of your life.
Here’s another premise to consider: all events in themselves are neutral. It is our perceptions of them that charge them with meaning.
For one person, a rainstorm is a disruption of their day, a reason for feeling out-of-sorts or angry. For another, it is beautiful and magical. But without our internal perceptions of it, a rainstorm is merely a rainstorm. Nothing more or less.
As a disclaimer here, I’m not suggesting that there aren’t some universally good or bad events or that experiencing grief or suffering isn’t a valid and necessary part of the human experience. I’m speaking more in terms of everyday situations or long-term patterns of a victim mindset.
We do have a choice about the power we wish to give to our thoughts.
By accepting responsibility for our experience of life, we are free to create our lives in a way that fosters inner peace and happiness.
So how does one go about shifting from the victim mindset to the creator mindset? If you’ve read this far, you have already begun the process. The simple awareness that you’ve given your power away by being a reactor to life can change your vision of the world forever. Now you can begin to reclaim your creative power.
Here’s an example that might make this more clear.
One of my coaching clients wanted to leave her full-time job to start her own business. She is smart, attractive, experienced, and extremely capable. But she had a lot of fear around her ability to make a livable income on her own.
I asked her to tell me some of her thoughts around her fears about making money and her success as an entrepreneur. Here’s what she said:
- I don’t have any financial security working for myself.
- I don’t know if I’m capable of making this business work.
- I could possibly lose everything if this business fails.
Then I talked with her about “outside in” living, and how she can create her own experience by taking responsibility for her thoughts about the new business. I asked her to re-frame her statements above by claiming full responsibility for the thoughts. Here is what she came up with:
- I create the experience of insecurity by believing that full-time employment is the only way to be secure.
- I become incapable and paralyzed by constantly thinking that I’m not capable of success and not believing in myself.
- I scare the crap out of myself by allowing my thoughts to focus on a negative future that isn’t real.
After she took full responsibility for her experience of starting a new business venture, I then asked her to create statements of a new way she could experience this phase of her life.
- Being an entrepreneur is a great way to make an income. In fact, I can make more money on my own than I ever could working for someone else.
- I have all of the experience, skills, and know-how to make this business a complete success.
- I have a vision for an amazing future with a successful business that provides fulfillment and plenty of money.
By proactively changing her thoughts about the situation, and revisiting her new thoughts every time she felt the old beliefs and fears creep in, my client was doing two important things.
First, she was releasing herself from the struggle and resistance that negative thinking creates, thereby freeing up more energy to put toward creating a successful business. Secondly, she was setting an “intention” for success, seeing it as a reality that she simply had to work toward.
I’m not suggesting this is an overnight accomplishment, especially for those who have trained themselves for years to believe all of their thoughts. But with practice, you can retrain yourself to be the creator rather than the reactor to life.
Let’s get down to some really practical steps you can take to make this shift happen for every experience in your own life.
Think about a situation in your life that is causing you stress, difficulty, fear, or any other negative emotion. Write down a couple of paragraphs about the situation exactly as you have been experiencing it. Here’s an example:
“I am so upset with Susan. She hasn’t called me in weeks. She is so thoughtless and selfish. I thought she was a good friend, but it’s clear she doesn’t want anything to do with me. She must not like me. There must be something wrong with me that she’s not telling me.”
Go back through the paragraphs you’ve written and circle the words or phrases where you have attributed beliefs and “truths” to the situation itself or to other people involved in the situation.
Now rewrite your experience as though you bring those beliefs or “truths” to the situation, rather than the situation creating them for you. For example:
“I really miss Susan. I would really like to talk with her. We have always enjoyed being together and talking on the phone. She’s always been a good friend to me. She must be really busy, and there is no point in keeping score about how many times we call each other. I will give her a call to make sure she is doing OK.”
Now dig a bit deeper to get behind the negative feelings by shining the light of truth on them. Write your paragraphs one more time by opening your mind to the false beliefs behind your initial experience and the way you want to experience this kind of situation in the future.
“Whenever a friend doesn’t call me when I think they should, I allow myself to think about “worst-case” scenarios. I see them as an adversary who only wants to hurt or ignore me, when I don’t have any real evidence of that. Then I let those fearful feelings impact my own self-confidence, making myself feel even worse.
What I really want is a loving relationship with my friend. I want to feel secure in that whether or not she calls me every week. I want know that I am lovable and worthy, even if I don’t get constant reinforcement from others.”
After you practice these steps with a few situations in your life, you will begin to notice all of the ways you release your creative power to negative thoughts about your experiences. You will catch yourself at it, and when you do, take a moment to go through the steps above. Eventually, you will be able to do this mentally, re-framing your thoughts and feelings to create a happier, more positive life experience.
Remember, the world is what you think it is — so choose to think about it positively. You tend to see what you are looking for — so look for beauty, happiness, kindness, and peace. You are the creator of your own life — so create each moment exactly as you wish it to be.