Every day, you bring a set of assumptions to each to your life and apply those thoughts to your situation and environment. We do this to save our thinking resources and generally time. For example, you may believe that you need to spend time on your phone or checking emails even before you get out of bed. I get that you want to fix any emergencies that have come up over the night, but spending more than a few minutes on your phone may hold you back from a healthy morning routine, like preparing a nutritious breakfast before starting work.
Negative self-talk is perhaps the most challenging habit to break. We are not always aware of our thought process because it has become so habituated. Humans don’t like change, making it harder to make “out of the box” choices because it’s easier to stay in our comfort zone.
To become more attuned when these pesky thoughts arise, check in with your body. When tension arises, it can be found most commonly in the belly or shoulders This warning sign lets you know that something negative is happening in the mind. This is why some people look contracted and hunched over because their negative thoughts have beaten down their natural self-confidence, which can be seen in their body language.
The Preference Test
A tool that you can use to understand your preconceptions is the like/dislike test. If you find yourself reacting to something with a like or dislike, then you have a predisposition towards your preference. When did these feelings start? Have they been there since childhood? Pay attention especially to dislikes, as they can give you information on limiting your ability to try new things.
Be Accountable for Your Perceptions
There can be a subtle line between reality and perceptions. Reality is based on facts outside of yourself. Perceptions are feeling and thoughts that are generated on the inside and can have a “triggering” feel to them. Reality is something that you see, hear or read in front of you in the moment and is unbiased. Perceptions can be steeped in criticism or judgement, towards oneself or others.
To get out your box, practice understanding the difference between the two. For example, a reality statement might come from a partner and sound like “Susan wants me to take out the garbage now.” A perception statement might sound like “Why can’t Susan take out the garbage? She always makes me do it. And besides, I’m busy right now.”
One is stating fact, the other brings on some level of emotional turmoil. Which of these do you think will keep you stuck in your old, patterned perceptions? Susan was simply making a request. Take responsibility for bringing your own emotional baggage to the conversation.
Instead of turning to your emotions that may cause anger or frustration, don’t attach anything to Susan’s statement. Simply hear her words and respond accordingly – expressing your views neutrally or following through with the request.
Stop with the “Should’s”
Many of us believe that words such as “should”, “could” and “better” are normal part of everyday speech, but if we look closer at their meaning, they tend to be judgmental. They also limit the ability to take action in the moment. These words also have a negative connotation and can make one feel like they haven’t lived up to their intention. Yet, they get used over and over again as a way to put a place-holder in our lives.
For example, let’s look at exercise. How many times have you heard people say that “I should exercise regularly?” This becomes a null statement or at best a tepid wish to someday exercise regularly. What I’ve seen with my coaching clients is that perhaps if they say it enough times, they’ll find the motivation to do it. This is the preconception of wishing. If you really want it and repeat it to yourself, maybe it will magically appear.
If they stop using these words and ask “what do I have to do daily to exercise regularly?”, then they start getting information for their next step, namely mapping out a set of actions that will help them with follow-through.
Challenging your preconceptions can allow you to reframe your thoughts, actions, and intentions. It can also open up some exciting possibilities to take risks and to elevate your life in new ways that you haven’t considered before.
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