Have you ever had a time when you felt the need to ‘take inventory’ of your life? These times may be prompted by an emotional reaction to a change in a relationship or health or however you generate income – whatever. Times like this will leave you feeling devastated, confused and out of control. Whatever prompts it, though – a typical response is to wallow in self-pity, blame circumstances or other people, or do something to take control of the situation. Amazingly enough, both the cause and the solution is between your own ears.
Most people avoid taking control of the one thing that can save them from such an outcome – their thoughts. Ironically, it is more comfortable for most people to avoid thinking about what they’re thinking. It is either too emotionally draining or they are afraid of what they might discover about themselves. Excuses abound. When things seem as bad as they can get, a simple change of attitude is the one thing you have control over. It can turn your life around.
So, how can you start to take control of your thinking?
First of all, especially if this is a new concept, you need to be kind to yourself – it’s OK to give yourself some time. Start with a small effort. Make a decision to keep track of the thoughts that are crossing your mind as often as you can. It may seem hokey, but make every possible opportunity to record your thoughts for a few days. However you can – either on a portable recorder or in writing – just keep track of the ideas that pass through your mind. Be honest with yourself. You’re the only one who is going to know. Only record or write down your actual thoughts. Try not to judge them or analyze them – just get them captured. Just this small activity will make you feel more in control.
After you’ve done that for a few days, find some time to review what you have recorded in a quiet place by yourself. If you notice the thoughts you have captured are frequently about the past, it is a sure sign that you are stuck in the ‘feeling sorry for yourself’ mode. One way to get past that is to write down everything about the situation someplace where it’s available for review, modification and addition whenever ideas strike. After it’s all down on paper (or in a computer, or small recorder) it can free your mind to think about other – more constructive things for a change.
Realize that you have complete control over your own thought process. It really is a simple and obvious concept. Just think about that. Be aware of your thoughts as much as possible. Think about what you are thinking about. Recognize when you start thinking about the stressful things in your life. Whenever you catch yourself, just think about something else – like the things in your life right now for which you are grateful. You won’t remember to catch yourself every time, but the more often you can think of the positive things in your life, the more quickly you will start to see a change.
Remember that the past is over. Accept any part you played in bringing the stress into your life. Even though it can be helpful to learn from your past mistakes, when you constantly dwell on the events of the past, or continue to beat yourself up, you are not making progress. You become stuck.
Progress will come through the effort to be aware of your thoughts. Your basic outlook on life will change and can actually cause opportunities to find their way to you. Time is truly the great healer – if you use it constructively.