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Habits Experiment #2: Four Ways to Interrupt Automatic Thoughts

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl Jung

Research has shown that 80-90% of what you think today is what you thought yesterday. More importantly, you think about those things in the same way. The thoughts aren’t evolved, they are solidified.

Only 10% of my thoughts are new? Yikes! But we can’t get so down on ourselves. There is a reason this keeps happening.

Let’s say you have a new idea, dream or goal…

“Should I start my own business?”

Your brain sifts that thought, along with the other mundane thoughts like “I’m thirsty. I need some water.” through an automatic filter. This filter is a survival tool. It tells us whether we should continue on with the idea, or avoid it based on past experiences. The problem with this filter is that it is designed to keep us SAFE but in reality, it is keeping us from taking all risk. Even GOOD risk!

It used to say, “Don’t go outside!” because it was keeping you from getting eaten by a Saber-toothed Tiger. Today, it may keep us from crossing the street without looking both ways, but it is ALSO keeping you from living your greatest adventure!

In other words, our mind doesn’t want us to experience pain, so for the sake of safety, it puts up roadblocks on any avenue that is unfamiliar, difficult, or uncertain.

So, when your inexperienced brain comes across a thought as scary as “I want to start my own business.” It sends you it’s go-to caution signs:

“What if your business fails?”

“What do you know about starting a new business?”

“Do you know what the rate of success is for new entrepreneurs? Like 1%” (I don’t know about your brain, but mine likes to exaggerate the facts to sway me.)

“Where are you going to get the money to do this?”

“Look at all the clothes on your floor. You think you’re organized enough to run a whole COMPANY?”

And so on.

The encouraging part? You’re not alone. Everyone has this filter. It’s automatic. The mega-millionaires on SharkTank had these same thoughts pop-up when their brilliant ideas first hatched. But, they took a radical approach with these caution signs. They drove around them.

Not because they were reckless or gluttons for punishment, but because they saw a key difference.

Successful people train their brains to see the difference between RISK and DANGER.

“Should I go down this dark alley?”  ← DANGER

“Should I ask out Sara Jane?”  ← RISK

In order to grow and be successful, this distinction needs to be made into a habit. The same way the automatic-filter is habitually telling you CAUTION, you need to habitually identify your fears and turn them into POSITIVE reinforcement. When your ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) come up, you have to ask yourself. Is this dangerous? Or is this risky?

Here are FOUR ways to interrupt your automatic thoughts:

1. Positive affirmations- These are positive and present-tense statements which you repeat to yourself, describing how you want to be. This is one technique you can use to train your brain to override any conflicting negative thoughts intervening with your success. For example, to continue with the theme of starting your own business, your affirmation might be:

“I am so grateful that I decided to start my own business. My business is thriving and a source of success for all of my employees.”

Or “I am so happy that I chose to become my own boss. My company is wildly successful under my competent supervision.”

Your brain is constantly trying to streamline the way that you think. It is an incredibly powerful system. Train it! If you tell your brain that something is true, it believes it to be true and conditions the rest of your behaviors to align with what it believes to be your reality. For more information on using affirmations to attract your desired reality, read “Using the Law of Attraction.”

2. Get Up and Flip your Limiting Beliefs! If you catch yourself ruminating on a negative thought(s), GET THE HELL OUTTA THERE. I mean that both literally and figuratively. Stand up and remove yourself from where you are. There is a great metaphor, “You can’t turn a parked car.” You need to be driving to change your direction so you MUST take action. Starting with changing your physical surroundings. Step outside. Go for a drive. Then turn that negative thought upside down and repeat it to yourself. If your ANT is “I have way too much competition to succeed.” Instead, repeat to yourself: “I am the only person who determines my success. If I want to succeed, all I have to do is decide that I will and it will happen.”

3. Set up triggers. These ideas are great, but if you don’t set up triggers for you to actually THINK about your thoughts, they are pointless. Set up triggers to remind you to be intentional about your thoughts. Check out Trigger Happy for ideas about what kind of triggers you can use.

4. RWID (Relative Weight of Importance and Duration) In order to condition your mind to expect positive outcomes, High-Performance coach, Brendon Burchard, recommends we assign intense positive emotion to our thoughts. He calls this technique RWID. Focus and apply attention, sensation and duration to your thoughts because over time you can BUILD a capacity for positive expectation INSTEAD of the constant negative reinforcements that you fight against daily.

Do you have a different method to interrupting ANTs? Have you tried any of the above methods? Share your experience in the comments below!

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