Our brains are an amazing piece of anatomy. More powerful than any computer, it’s one big prediction engine that makes processes habitual to conserve energy. This is great, except when it isn’t.
It’s not so great if you are trying to get a different result in your life. In a habitual process, thoughts turn into feelings that turn into actions in nanoseconds. In fact, it can seem that it all happens simultaneously.
In order to change a habit, you must be aware, or able to “watch” what you are thinking and feeling. This is easier said then done. Here are a few tools that I’ve found useful in discovering my thoughts and feelings.
- Journaling. Write it down my friends. Even if you have to start writing blah, blah, blah because you have no idea what to write. Just write something. Every day. Even when you don’t feel like it. Here’s the key. Go back and read them. I like to do this at the end of the week to see if I can discover a thought pattern that I hadn’t seen before.
- Gratitude. Write down three things that you are grateful for every single day. This helps you stay in the present and helps you be empathetic to yourself and to others. This self-empathy generates a sense of curiosity which is necessary to discover your thoughts and feelings.
- Meditation. Having a consistent meditation practice helps you learn to become self-aware and to bring the focus back to the present. This skill is essential in ferreting out your habitual thoughts.
- Daily planning. This is one of the best ways that I have found to bring up a bunch of obstacle thinking from my brain. I plan my day and then my brain throws a big hissy fit when it’s time to do the thing on my schedule. This is the perfect time to write down those thoughts to review later.
- Reduce Digital Distraction Time. I know this may be a hard pill to swallow, but put down the phone for several hours during the day. At a minimum, turn off as many notifications as you possibly can. It has trained you to react when it dings which is distracting you from watching your thoughts.
Please do not think that I’m advocating that you start doing all of these things at once. I’d suggest you pick one and make it a habit in your life and then move on to the next. That’s how I did it with the philosophy of 1% improvement week over week.
Figuring out what you are thinking is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. You cannot change your results without knowing your thoughts.