In my previous post, I talked about the importance of choosing your thoughts in order to create the life and the success you want. The theory is deceptively simple: only think about the things you want for yourself and for others, and you will eventually create just that.
But I have yet to come across the first person who is able to think only thoughts of abundance, joy, and kindness. And so often, I see that this is where women who try to implement mindset work fail, despite being highly motivated and knowledgeable.
So why is it so hard to think only positive thoughts?
You are convinced that mindset is an important component of leading a happy and successful life. You have read books on the subject, did guided meditations, followed a course… And you are diligent about monitoring your thoughts and replacing negative thoughts with positive instead.
But if you are completely honest, you have to admit that it’s a lot of work! And it doesn’t necessarily get easier with time…
And sometimes you wonder: what’s wrong with me? Why am I so eager to focus on the things that are going wrong? So judgmental?
It’s not you boo, it’s your brain.
At least I wondered about that! After being completely won over by the idea that my mindset was the key to making some necessary changes in my life, I couldn’t wait to get started. But monitoring my thoughts turned out to be a rather unpleasant process. Until I realized that our brain is actually wired to focus on the negative and the lack:
- Your brain’s primary task is keeping you safe. And it does that by making snap judgements all day long, and focusing on the negative.
- Your ego doesn’t like change.
- You have subconscious beliefs that feed conscious negative thoughts.
So, don’t beat yourself up if you are one of those people who has not yet reached the enlightened stage of no more negative thoughts or judgement.
Your brain keeps you safe by making snap judgements all day long.
When our senses receive any type of input (sound, things we see, smell, etc.), a signal travels to a part of our brain called the thalamus. The thalamus then makes a quick decision about this input, primarily focused on a single question: is it dangerous? If the thalamus believes that maybe it’s dangerous, it will send a signal to your stress system, meant to evoke a fight, flight or freeze reaction. On a subconscious level, our stress system gets briefly activated on a regular basis, and of course this also affects the conscious mind. So, your tendency to judge and focus on the negative is partly caused by the system that is supposed to keep you safe physically.
Your ego doesn’t like change.
According to Erik Erikson’s widely embraced psychosocial theory, your brain also has a mechanism to keep you safe emotionally: the ego. And according to Erikson, the ego has a very simple motto: ‘change is bad’.
Do you believe with all your heart that changing the way you think will make you happier and more successful?
The ego doesn’t care.
It will try to boycott everything you do that is different from what you are used to doing. And it even expects a thank you for it.
You have subconscious beliefs that feed your negative thoughts.
Did you know that only 12% of your thoughts and beliefs happen on a conscious level? Leaving a whopping 88% not readily accessible?
Our subconscious mind stores all kinds of information. The oldest part of that information was stored there between the ages of 2 and 8. This is the time in which we develop a sense of the outside world (Erikson’s developmental theory). And especially about the rules we need to play by in order to be loved, seen, and heard.
If you developed negative beliefs about yourself in that time, for example because your parents couldn’t always give you the attention you needed, you can still carry those with you on a subconscious level. And since most of us aren’t naturally practiced to access information from our subconscious, it can stay there and influence your thoughts without you even realizing.
These three parts of your brain, each in their own way, try to protect you.
So, it’s important to realize that they mean well! We often tend to ignore our negative thoughts and judgement, or get angry with ourselves for having those thoughts. But as I just explained, these thoughts come from more immature parts of our brain. So, we should treat them like kids instead.
And what happens when you ignore a kid who wants your attention?
Just imagine any 5-year old you have ever come across who wants a sweet while grocery shopping. Ignore the kid long enough and it will very likely throw a spectacular temper tantrum. Fall down to the ground, scream and kick.
Your brain is the same. You want to instead listen to that part of your brain and thank it, for being concerned for your wellbeing.
Only then can you tell it: “I’ve got this, no need to worry. This is what I want to think instead: <insert the thought that corresponds with the reality you are looking to create>.”