Our minds have the power to either make us or break us, depending on whether we choose to focus on the positive or the negative. Our brain interprets the thoughts we allow to tumble around repeatedly in our minds as reality, whether they are actually true or not. No matter how often the people we care about compliment and encourage us (or criticize and discourage us), our niggling inner voice ultimately has the last word. And these words gradually shape our realities, as our expectations—be they limiting or expansive–result in self-fulfilling prophecy.
Consider the self-defeat we set ourselves up for when we repeatedly say and think to ourselves, “I’m not good enough,” or “I can’t do this,” or “I don’t deserve to be happy.” This is how the inner critic paralyzes the artist with writer’s block. This is how fear and self-doubt keep the bright and ambitious innovator with a plethora of brilliant ideas from ever getting her business to transition from the muddled drawing board to its mobilizing launch. This is what keeps the tender and tentative soul from leaving the dysfunctional relationship that always leaves him wanting emotionally; after all, this is the best it gets for someone like him, right?
Yet we need not permanently succumb to our negative self-talk. By building awareness of the types of messages we tell ourselves with frequency, we can actually reprogram our mind to begin working in our own best interest. If we can conceive of our brain as a muscle that needs daily training in positivity, we can learn to redirect our inner voices to speak positively on our behalf. The more our thoughts and words reflect what we actually want to be our reality, the stronger our ability grows to act in a manner that manifests our most authentic ambitions, wishes and dreams. We begin to have faith in ourselves once again; we believe in our possibilities.
Setting Straight Your Self-Talk
When was the last time you took an honest inventory of the type of thoughts you allow to dominate your own mind? Has your self-talk been mostly building you up or tearing you down? Has your inner dialogue been propelling you forward or keeping you stuck in a rut?
One of the best ways to “hear” the messages you’ve been telling yourself is by giving yourself permission to spill onto the pages of a journal your thoughts without a censor. Every day for a month, take at least 15 minutes in the morning to just vomit out the first thoughts that come to your mind. Don’t worry about making sense, about being grammatically correct, about being boring and repetitive, or about “sounding good.” Be as honest as you can.
Within a week or two, you’ll begin to see repetitions and patterns about the thoughts you have about yourself and your life. You’ll be able to note what occupies your mind the most. You’ll begin to get a sense of what your biggest frustrations, worries, fears and desires are. Take a look at some of the messages that appear. Are they accurate? Are they true? Be brutally honest with yourself and start to challenge some of the messages that are revealed.
Maybe you keep telling yourself you have no great ideas. But look, there’s one neat thought you expressed last Tuesday. And what about that whopper of an idea you tossed about this morning? You are full of new and brilliant ideas!
We know that where our attention lands, our energy expands. If your mind tends to drift towards the negative, start to take notice of the exceptions. Are you seeing that you frequently complain about everything that is wrong with your life? Start deliberately taking note of the things that made you happy, no matter how small and insignificant you might think they are:
Did you have an uplifting conversation with your best friend that put you in good spirits? Did you accomplish something cool at work? Was there sun you basked in after a weekend of rain? Write these things down at the end of each day to keep them fresh in your mind. You have so many things for which to be thankful. Your life is overflowing with joyful moments.
Perhaps you’ve been stuck in a rut, and feel powerless to get out of it. Look back over the past week—did you engage in an activity this week that filled you with joy? When did you feel most energized? Can you find a way to recreate that experience in some way today or tomorrow? You are waking up to your strength of spirit. You have the power to create your own joy, no matter what your current circumstances are.
The Powerful Possibility of Positive Affirmations
Affirmations, or mantras, can work in mysterious ways, helping to reset our mindset to manifest our highest self. Repeating them can focus our minds, energize our spirits and transform the direction of our days. The more we speak affirmatively to ourselves, the more we come to think and believe in the bright possibilities available to us. Our actions start reflecting these beliefs. We find ourselves drawn to new experiences and people. Before we know what’s happening, we are saying yes to different opportunities, where previously our fear would have led us to say no. We start seeing synchronicities—or experiences that reflect our new beliefs—everywhere we turn. We begin to have faith in our desires, dreams and selves once more.
I saw how affirmations might completely transform a life by noting the incredible events that transpired for my love in 2015. A lyric from the song “Black as Night” by Nahko & Medicine for the People resonated deeply with him early on: “I believe in the good things comin’.” He began to see and hear this phrase everywhere: on roadside billboards, in articles, in podcasts. He found himself drawn to listening to that song constantly, even though its style was very different than the music he normally listened to; its message was extremely comforting and reassuring, especially through his most stressful and anxious periods of great change. Over the year, he was promoted at an old company, hired at a new company and given an even greater promotion a few, short months later. He traveled overseas, moved across the state, got engaged and got married (to me, of course). At any point when the next bend in the road seemed hazy or uncertain, he just kept repeating the mantra, “I believe in the good things comin’,” and great things indeed kept coming to fruition.
His best friend, a master of manifestation, has also set an excellent example for setting positive intentions, claiming affirmations, and achieving his dreams and ambitions with aplomb. The two men have been incredibly inspiring to so many of us as they’ve mastered the art and science of positive thought and powerful action. To them, the possibilities in life are nearly limitless, and their accomplishments reflect this mindset.
While their experiences might seem extreme, they have only confirmed my belief that the words and thoughts we allow to pervade our mind have a critical impact on they way we lead our lives. So really, the choice is up to each of us: Is 2016 going to be a year of constriction and frustration or a year of expansion and fulfillment? I choose the latter:
My life flourishes with courage, creativity and compassion.