When you receive a message that your phone’s operating system will be automatically updated, you don’t put much thoughts into it. You get the notification, and the following day, all the bugs and software have been upgraded for a smoother user experience.
I mention this because your operating system runs on the thoughts you tell yourself. These thoughts become your mental chatter, the internal dialogue that begins when you wake up to when you go to sleep at night.
Author Jon Kabat- Zinn says, “Most people don’t realize that the mind constantly chatters. And yet, that chatter winds up being the force that drives us much of the day in terms of what we do, what we react to, and how we feel.”
If your mental chatter is harmful, the way you experience your day will be filled with self-sabotage and negativity.
Ethan Cross, the author of Chatter, says:
“Chatter in the form of repetitive anxious thought is a marvellous saboteur when it comes to focused tasks. Countless studies reveal its debilitating effects. It leads students to perform worse on tests, produces stage fright, and undermines negotiations in business.
One study found, for instance, that anxiety led people to make low initial offers, exit discussions early, and earn less money. This is a very nice way of saying they failed at their jobs — because of chatter.”
Your phone is one step ahead of you because the updates are automatic. Unfortunately, when it comes to upgrading our thoughts and beliefs, this is a manual process.
“My mind is a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.” — Anne Lamott
Here Are Steps You Can Take To Eliminate The Cycle Of Repetitive Destructive Thoughts And Start To Create A Better Mental Neighbourhood:
1. Become Aware Of The Thought.
“What you are aware of, you can control. What you are not aware of is in control of you’ — Anthony De Mello — Awareness.
Negative self-talk is often unconscious, and you’re not even aware that it’s happening. It’s not just in the way you speak to yourself; it’s also the unconscious words and phrases that pepper your daily thoughts like: “I’d better; I must”.
These phrases are commonly referred to as ‘Mind Sneakers’ and cause you to put unnecessary pressure on yourself. They are often the catalyst for the roller coaster of anxiety and ruminating thoughts about what you should be doing.
When those thoughts appear in your mind, notice them. It is a habitual pattern. Habits are not limited to physical activities like brushing your teeth but thought patterns that play like a record player on repeat. Once you know it is there, you can start to take action.
Cultivate this self-awareness by keeping a thought journal for the next week and become conscious of the words you use and keep a lookout for the destructive narrative of ‘I should be’.
The mental chatter becomes — ‘I should be further by now; I should have more clients or have more money’. It’s exhausting!
Author and personal development Guru Tony Robbins say we all have an internal blueprint of how we think life ‘should be’. When the blueprint doesn’t match your reality, you start to feel discouraged and frustrated. The way to move forward is to either take a different set of actions to create more alignment or, very simply, change the blueprint by changing your thinking and dropping the unrealistic expectations of yourself.
How can you escape this spiral?
Replace the word ‘should’ with ‘want’. Instead of starting the day with the question ‘what should I be doing today?’ ask yourself, ‘what do I want to do today?’ Using the word ‘want’ is the difference between cultivating an attitude based on creativity and flow versus fear and overwhelm.
‘Should’ creates pressure and a feeling of what if it’s wrong or what if I am making a mistake?