Did you know that our subconscious mind is an equal opportunity holding tank? Positive thoughts and negative thoughts are offered equal accommodations and treatment. Napoleon Hill, the 20th century pioneer of positive thinking, once observed that, “The subconscious mind makes no distinction between constructive and destructive thought impulses; (it) will translate into reality a thought driven by fear, just as readily as it will translate into reality a thought driven by courage or faith.” That’s why it is up to us to discern the difference between positive and negative thoughts
This is good to know because anytime we make a conscious decision about pursuing a change – big or small - our success is dependent on not only our conscious actions, but how our subconscious processes the potential impacts of the change.
Welcome to the world of the status quo bias. We are neurologically wired to favor the default solution, the easiest or most familiar solution, even if it brings suboptimal results. As the complexity of our desired change increases and we need to make decisions and choices, our tendency to stick with the answers we know increases as well. Because both negative and positive thoughts are processed in the same way in our subconscious mind, we need to be mindful of the thoughts we are having.
Our lives are not meant to be lived in status quo state. We each have unique gifts and talents and I believe we should utilize these to our best ability to make the world a better place. Maybe you have a true sense of purpose in your life and you have plans to accomplish things you have envisioned. Maybe you have never thought about purpose but you have plans and goals for yourself. Maybe you are just working on getting by day to day. No matter where you are, it is really important to be aware of how the subconscious mind can affect everything we do or are attempting to do.
Here are some common thought processes that may crop up when attempting anything other than the status quo. Falling prey to these can be a bit like walking into quicksand…… you might not even realize you are being pulled in unto you are in waist deep making it harder and harder to pull yourself out. I am going to practice some vulnerability here and share how I have experienced each of these on my journey to deciding to publish this site and put my thoughts out there.
All or None. Also referred to as Black and White Thinking is a tendency to see things as just that – ALL or NOTHING. This is usually pretty unhelpful because it rules out the ability to look at things in an unbiased way – the way maybe an outsider would see it. In my life this has been a stumbling block at times. I admit I have some perfectionistic tendencies and this project has been drawn out due to the indecision (read – self-imposed perfectionism) about things like what pictures to use and exactly what to say. The worry that if it is not perceived as “perfect or even to my standards, I should just cut bait and forget it. I need to remember, life and our efforts are not black and white – let’s build the capacity to be okay with all the in-betweens.
It’s the End of the World As We know it. Also known as “this is catastrophe!!!” … this is when we decide that something is a lot worse than it actually is. Blowing circumstances out of proportion is a waste of breathe. Instead maybe we should take a breathe, close our eyes for a moment and try to look at the situation a different way. If we have already decided there is no hope, we will just continue to sink in the sand.
Get out the pogo stick. Also known as jumping to conclusions is where we tend to make irrational assumptions about people and circumstances. This one is a favorite in my brain and I have had to do a lot of work to stop this way of thinking. When we jump to conclusions we are writing the end of a story that may not have even started. Here are two ways this might play out are assuming something will happen in the future and predictive thinking (mind reading) – assuming we know what someone else is thinking. I have caught myself time and time again assuming my friends will find all this silly, or I will be judged. I really have no idea what others will think, so I need to release the time and energy consumed with these kinds of thoughts. Action (or inaction) based on assumptions can be dangerous. As soon as we take action based on a belief that something will or won’t happen, we are derailing the truth and opportunities at hand.
Useless weight lifting. There is an incredible burden we place on ourselves when we have a habit of letting Shoulding and Musting into our thoughts. Whether it is “I should” or “You should,” these statements place undue pressure on ourselves and others. Letting these statements creep in tends to set us up for feelings of failure and frustration as we expect outcomes that in most cases will fall short of standards and expectations. When I was younger I was super good at this. In almost any situation – work scenarios, date nights, kids cleaning their rooms, I would have a predetermined outcome and when anything fell short I was frustrated, and in turn everyone around me as well – not good.
EVERYTHING is awful. When we let emotional reasoning creep in we tend to let whatever our current emotional state is drive our feelings toward everything going on in our lives. It might look like this – I am feeling like a goal I have set is falling short, or not falling into place as planned, so now EVERYTHING related to EVERYTHING is going to be a failure. We need to keep a pulse on our emotions. When I am tired or stressed it seems easier to fall into this thought pattern. Usually after a good night’s rest, or a chat with a friend, I can look at the situation with a fresh perspective and the situation takes a new light.Our moods come and go and we do not want to put up unnecessary roadblocks to progress.
Woe is me. Have you ever started to take note of someone and what they are doing and quickly slip into comparison mode? Somehow everything about that person and what they are doing is waaaay better than your accomplishments. You are in no way accomplishing all that they are and never will. I hope you can see where this one is headed. When we let our thoughts and energy go toward embellishing someone else, we start to minimize ourselves. We let our own self esteem swirl down the drain while putting someone else on a pedestal. It is wonderful to be humble, but don’t let your self-worth be managed by irrational thoughts. My desire to share these thoughts in this format have suffered quite a bit from this one. What I need to do is take a step back, reconnect with what I feel is my authentic self and act from there. Remember, there is no one like you. No one has your thoughts and experiences and can share insights and experiences as you can. Honor that.
If you have fallen prey to any of these thought patterns the good news is now you can think about how they might appear in your thinking. You will be more likely to catch yourself and turn your thoughts around so you can hop out of the quagmire before it leads to quicksand.
Armed with this knowledge we can give ourselves the heads-up and establish strategies to keep us moving on our path.
Michelle is the owner of a curious mind, she is loving life's journey and takes every opportunity to learn about how people can create the space they need to live life to the fullest.
The Gift of Breathing