What do we know about the power our thoughts have to impact the quality of our life? Simple. “As a person thinks, so shall they be.” (Proverbs 23:7)
We can ride the positive power of our thoughts like a surfer rides a wave. When we do that consciously, we can use that power to get to where we want to go.
“Surfing” the waves of our negative thoughts, on the other hand, will usually get us pounded by the surf at best, or completely under the waves at worst. And negative thoughts often come upon us like a powerful wave does at the beach; before we realize it’s on us!
We can spend a lot of time thinking about what’s wrong in our life; what we don’t have, can’t find, don’t deserve, and will never know.
And what is the impact of all of our negative thinking? Sadly, it’s once again simple. Negative consequences, unhappiness, and feeling defeated by life are the predictable result.
That’s the bad news. The good news is positive thoughts have exactly the opposite effect.
Studies indicate that people with positive attitudes live 10 years longer on average than their more negative contemporaries.
More importantly, an analysis of all the studies done of positive thinking and its impact, involving more than 275,000 people, showed that positive thinking not only reflected success in life but helped produce it as well!
So, to help you ride the surf, here are 5 tips to catching the waves of your thoughts and harnessing your power of positivity.
1. Know when you’re going negative.
As we say in the martial arts “awareness precedes control.” To change something you have to first be aware you are doing it. Monitor your self talk. Pay attention to what you say, both out loud and in your head, and how you say it. Harness your power to choose what you focus on and use it to imagine solutions and positive changes you can make.
2. See it, but don’t judge it.
Observe negative thinking but don’t judge yourself for it. It’s not about perfectly succeeding or never failing; it’s about knowing what you do and how you do it.
Develop a neutral, unemotional and nonjudgmental curiosity about your negative thoughts. Rather than get upset when you realize a negative thought has cropped up, what if your response was “Isn’t that interesting? I wonder where that came from and why it’s here now.”
Stay in the present. Observe your thoughts. Choose how you want to deal with the situation and then do so.
Energy spent in “judging” is not promoting “learning.”
3. Know “negative” when you see it!
There are certain ways of going negative and we all use one or more of them. I won’t go into great detail here, but a quick run through the top 10 will suffice:
- All or nothing negativity: It’s “always” bad, because it’s “never” good.
- Overgeneralization: One problem is actually a million just waiting to get me.
- Mental filter: Why see anything good when there is so much bad to look at?
- Disqualifying the positive: Good things are just a fluke, the true nature of the universe is bad things happening!
- Jumping to conclusions: Why wait for the evidence, go negative early and often!
- Catastrophising: It is and always will be the worst it can possibly be!
- Emotional reasoning: Why do I need facts or context, I feel a certain way so that is obviously the “TRUTH”!
- “Should” statements: Things, people, and places should be a certain way, whether that makes sense or not.
- Labeling/Mislabeling: People and events are labeled as being all one way.
- Personalizing: It’s entirely your fault, it’s entirely my fault, but no matter what, someone is always totally to blame!
4. Bring your surf board to the beach!
Negative thinking is a learned behavior. To replace it with a better habit takes conscious focused practice over time. Trying to positively think, however, when you’re in the throes of a negative meltdown is like trying to find a board after the big wave hits you.
In short, good luck!
Try this as a way to prepare for the wave before it hits. Take a half hour of quiet time during the day and take a sheet of paper and on the left write out one or more of your most frequent negative thoughts. This can be hard, but be patient and really try to not only think about but feel how that negative belief affects your body.
An example of a negative thought might be, “I’m really stupid and I can’t figure anything out.”
Now write an equally powerful positive response next to it on the right hand side. Make sure it’s one you truly believe and have an emotional connection to, or at least find plausible. If you get stuck, sometimes talking to someone you know and can trust can help you come up with a more positive response, especially if the negativity is about some unhelpful thing you say about yourself.
So a positive response to the above negative thought might be, “If I take my time and practice, I can figure a lot of things out.”
Now you have your response. Keep it with you at all times, and continue to write it down daily if you need it. Repeat it to your self every day. Shoot for 60 times a day for 21 days. That could be 5 times of 12, 2 times of 30, 4 times of 15, or whatever works for you.
Most importantly, when the negative thought next hits, replace it with the positive one and then focus on what happens when you do.
Be patient. Change will take time, but remember that progress is always the result of staying focused on the process of doing anything.
Studies show that for most of us, if we do something 60 times a day for 21 days we create change in our behavior.
5. Better Surfing = Practice + Patience
Waves are elemental, powerful, and have a force all there own. So do negative thoughts. To master anything, we need to be patient and know that repetitive focused effort always yields result.
Trust the process. You have the power to ride with life’s challenges and not be buried under them. It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past. All the matters is what you do in the present moment.
Focus on that with all your energy, and you’ll be amazed the size of the waves you can ride.