Much of our suffering is created by our thoughts about a situation rather than the actual situation. We can have a hard time seeing that we are creating a lot of our own suffering. As women we tend to over-think which can lead to sleepless nights and anxiety. So if you are struggling with something, is it possible to think less? Is it possible to remain present, grateful and filled with joy in spite of a painful season, or a problem you are experiencing?
It is if you learn how to think differently. As you look back on your childhood or early adult years it is likely that you learned a lot of skills and knowledge. Far less likely is that someone taught you how to think, create a mindset that supports joy and peace, or manage triggers or tough seasons in life. You need a new strategy that will support you through life’s inevitable challenges.
I wish I had a magical way to just end the incessant thinking. You have probably tried hard to stop them and feel powerless in doing so. Often we don’t even know why our thoughts or emotions are coming, or where they are coming from. Although initially it seems impossible, I have found overtime, through dedication and discipline, you may achieve a state of not over-thinking. My Thought Management Strategy or TMS is a practice designed to teach you how to manage your thoughts and emotions so that they don’t affect how you feel.
No matter what your over-thinking is centered on, a pending divorce or breakup, your kids, your finances, your health or what is going on with others, we know all this energy spent on thinking about something won’t serve us. It will only steal our joy and leave us fatigued. Imagine a world where you can maintain your joy and not allow over-thinking to sabotage you. Follow this strategy and that world can become your reality.
First and foremost, you must begin with accepting you are not your thoughts or emotions. You are separate and distant from them. You have the power to not let any negative ones pull you down. Your authentic self or Big Voice is powerful, optimistic, faithful, hopeful, and patient. It knows that hypothesizing or getting trapped in over-thinking only leads to more suffering. Your Little Voice or ego is the exact opposite. It is pessimistic, negative, self-doubting, and filled with fear, shame and guilt.
With this basic understanding of your Big Voice and Little Voice you can start to sort your thoughts and emotions. It is not as easy as choosing your best thoughts though and trying to ignore the rest. You must honor your Little Voice for trying to protect you. You must accept your brain is lazy. It’s hard work to create new thoughts. It prefers to just produce the same types of thoughts it did in similar situations. I use my Little Voice thoughts to help build my growth plan for the year. For example, if my Little Voice produces a body image thought that is trying to make me compare myself to others, I might focus more on building self-love and acceptance that week.
The ultimate goal is to create a fierce mindset that minimizes your Little Voice and quickly acknowledges that those thoughts are not coming from your true authentic self.
To begin, as thoughts and emotions come at you, simply allow for space before you react or respond. See them as floating above you where you can pull them closer or let them go. It is almost like you are sorting and qualifying them. I divide them into 3 categories: My Big Voice thoughts, Curious thoughts, and Little Voice thoughts.
Big Voice thoughts I hold onto or respond to. They might be new ideas, growth opportunities, ways I can love myself or others more, work strategies, health ideas, etc. They never blame, project negativity onto others, have self-doubt, or feel they have to solve every problem. They remain faithful that everything always works out if we are kind, open, and loving. Big Voice thoughts don’t seek to understand or solve everything. They accept life’s good and bad situations as an opportunity to trust in God or the Universe more. They help you progress toward your passion, purpose and goals. They accept uncertainty and know surrender is the way to freedom.
My Little Voice thoughts try and make me believe I need to control everything and things are worse than they are. They want me to believe I have made mistakes and should feel shame or guilt for past decisions. They are focused on the past or future but never contain gratitude for the present moment. They contain a lot of “if only” or “not enough” thoughts. I know that my Little Voice is my ego trying to protect me from pain, rejection or disappointment. Yet its efforts create the complete opposite. I know if I react to these thoughts it feeds more of them coming. I describe my Little Voice as circus monkeys that show up and try to distract me from living an extraordinary life. They will wreak havoc if I try to quiet them. As these thoughts or emotions show up I simply thank them for trying to protect me but let them know that I am fantastic. I don’t get angry at myself because I know I am not responsible for these thoughts or emotions appearing. I realize the more I try to fight them the worse they behave. Breathing through them and praying for the strength to resist reacting to them will always help.
In between these thoughts are Curious thoughts. You aren’t quite sure if these thoughts are instincts (Little Voice) or new ideas (Big Voice). Once you get clear on your goals, purpose and mindset you might still have thoughts that aren’t in alignment that you won’t know what to do with. They usually come in the form of a question or an unsettled emotion. I don’t react or respond but journal on them so that I can allow the universe or God to help it unfold. I know I cannot force this to happen so I don’t allow it to distract me. We all have preferred methods of self-sabotage so sometimes curious thoughts end up being distractions and never progress. For example, say your goals included a commitment to your employer or job but then out of the blue you started having thoughts that made you wonder if your purpose was being fully achieved. It might be you stopped putting effort in and the results showed so your Little Voice is trying to protect you. Or it could be everything is going great but God is guiding you someplace else. Figuring this out doesn’t happen on your time, it happens in its own time. All you have to do is be patient, trust in God, and allow these curious thoughts to take shape or form.
Awareness is the key to using the Thought Management Strategy. You must accept you are not your thoughts and emotions. You must stop reacting to them and believing you would create your own self-loathing or shame. Rising above your ego and allowing your Big Voice to guide you will set you free from self-induced suffering so you can become more present and grateful. Make a commitment today to pay closer attention to your thoughts and emotions. Do not allow them to steal your joy.
Download my Thought Management Strategy Worksheet.