Text from the podcast: Align Your Mind Episode 1
The most rudimentary skill of thought/mindset work is to be the observer of your own thoughts. What I mean by this is, when you think a sentence in your mind, you just observe that you thought that sentence.
Thoughts are just sentences in our minds. Observe them or notice them as if they were being spoken aloud by someone else (not to you, but just said). Or if you want to write it down, you can physically observe it. Without judgment.
The without judgment part is extremely important. The first step is to observe your thoughts without judgment, be the observer of your own mind. If you think this is a little meta, you would be 100% correct. Most people don’t even know that humans have this ability. We can actually separate ourselves from our mind, and inquire about what it is we are thinking, why we are thinking those thoughts, and exactly what result we’ll get if we keep thinking that way.
Now, why are we doing this? It is great and all to discover just how meta humans can be but why do it?
Because when we separate ourselves even for just a moment with identifying solely with all of our thoughts we create space. A little bit of wiggle room. And with creating space, we create agency for ourselves to decide whether we want to keep the thought or choose to think differently. Without that space, this decision cannot occur.
Let’s think about this… If we never separate ourselves from our mind and believe EVERYTHING our mind throws at us…. Well, this is what children do. They have no context of the bigger picture, so not being able to eat a cookie is the most tragic event of all time in the mind of a four-year-old. But when the child is kicking and screaming thinking they deserve a cookie, not understanding the injustice in the world - this is a true tragedy to them. As a parent or an adult, do you get on the floor and scream and cry with the child? Of course, you don’t! You’re not buying into their thought that it’s the end of the world, so you can look at the situation from a broader perspective.
So, the next time you start throwing a mental tantrum, be the adult in the situation. These are just thoughts. Of course, the tricky thing about your own thoughts is they create emotions. And when we feel emotions, especially negative ones, it can be hard to know what to do or how to deal with them, but that’s for a later podcast.
Now, why is this useful?
If you want to change into a person that is self-confident, self-loving, and super successful, that new confident version of you is going to have a different mindset from the current version of you. They’re going to have different thoughts and beliefs if they get different results in their life.
So, for example, if you have the thought: There’s no way I’ll ever be able to do that.
Does that thought align with your goal to do that thing? Of course not. Because I want you to think of a time you have doubted yourself or your ability to reach a goal and maybe even said this exact sentence in your mind: I’ll never be able to do that. How does that thought feel? In other words, does it feel good emotionally to think that thought? Who would you be if you couldn’t think that thought?
When we can observe our own thought patterns, we can change our lives. Because we can change these patterns.
Our mindsets, our processes, our way of thinking is a system. It is the filter through which we experience the world. If we change the system, we change the outcome. If we try to change the outcome without changing the system, well isn’t that the definition of insanity?
Much like any other skill that is learned, our thoughts become automatic. Our automatic thoughts are called beliefs. Some of these beliefs can be so practiced that they don’t associate with words in our mind, we just think that “that’s how it is.”
Sometimes we have beliefs we don’t even know are there. Without inquiring into our minds and trying to understand the system we’ve built for ourselves, we can’t truly know HOW our mindset is operating.
So, how do you know if you believe a thought or hold a belief? You have a physical reaction.
I was reading a book about a year ago on mindset of course, and there was a part about limiting beliefs. The book gave an example of how many people think they’re not good enough. This a book about overeating and our relationship with food. It was exploring how we use food for comfort, and that’s something I definitely used to do.
As soon as I said the words to myself: I’m not good enough
I felt a strong desire to eat, and then I broke down crying. I was using food to cope with my unearthed opinion of myself that I wasn’t good enough. I can’t tell you how powerful that moment was for me. I believe it was January 21st of 2020. At that moment, something clicked, I knew that I wasn’t eating to cope with other people’s criticism, the pressures of the industry I was in, or anything else external. I was overeating for comfort because I was telling MYSELF I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t cope with my own beliefs, and I didn’t even know that one was there until that moment.
This is POWERFUL STUFF… That moment has forever changed my life. I began to realize just how impactful my opinion of myself was.
Our thoughts are POWERFUL and most of us go around all day on autopilot just believing whatever our brain throws our way. If we don’t inquire, we don’t change.
You don’t have to identify with your thoughts, and you don’t have to believe them.
Don’t believe everything you think. Do you want to believe that little voice in the back of your head doubting yourself at every turn? Probably not.
Now you must be thinking, well is there an off button because I’m stuck with that voice most of the time and it is DRAINING.
No, there’s no OFF button, but remember that space I talked about earlier that you create when you observe your thoughts or observe that voice? Without judgment?
When your mind throws you a cool: “Are you serious? There’s no way you can do that”
Now you get to think: My mind just had the thought: “are you serious, there’s no way you can do that.”
Now decide if you want to take it seriously. Do you want to believe that self-doubt in the back of your mind?
I have been reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and the very first chapter is called You Are Not Your Mind. Your brain, like every other organ, is just part of you. It functions to keep you alive. It functions to keep you in the cave so the bears won't eat you. Anything it can throw at you to get you to be too scared to go outside of your comfort zone, it will do. You are not your mind, however, so much of the time we Identify ourselves so deeply with our thoughts, and believe all of them that come our way.
But if we think about our mind serving a function and we create space to decipher whether that thought will serve us and question whether we want to keep thinking it or believing it, that’s how you change your life.
As a flute teacher, I always ask myself, what one thing will make the most change in this student’s playing. What one concept can I introduce that will undoubtedly affect multiple aspects of this person’s experience?
I asked the same question about thought work, and this is it: be the observer.
When we get into a cycle of believing all our thoughts we usually feel stuck in our life. The system (or your mindset) is a well-worn neural pathway that will perpetuate itself until you take on the role of the observer.
The observer creates space for you to decide what you WANT to believe.
Notice, I’m not saying “omg what a terrible thing to say to myself!! I can’t believe I would think I wasn’t good enough!”
Because then we are shaming ourselves for our mind just trying to do its job. Our brain is an organ like any other. It has evolved to protect us from large wild animals and to make sure we don’t get exiled from the pack. Your brain’s job is to produce thoughts. You don’t have to believe all of them, and you probably shouldn’t.
This happened as recent for me as this morning before I started recording: my mind is saying, okay but nobody really wants to hear this, its never going to work, you’re microphone isn’t good enough, you should probably get a better one before you start, everyone has a podcast now, yours will just be white noise.
BUT I’m choosing not to believe those thoughts. If I believed them, I wouldn’t be recording this right now. I let them flow through my mind, I’m observing my own tantrum.
I recommend writing down your thoughts on paper. Why not, it is another step of removal from the brain, it honestly helps me think much more clearly. Write down your thoughts, and reflect on them as if they were someone else’s thoughts that were left on a piece of paper on the sidewalk and you just picked it up.
How do you think this person feels?
How do they speak about themselves or to themselves?
What can you infer about this person from the paragraph of thoughts they wrote?
I do this whenever I am headed into a mental tailspin of negativity. You can use this exercise at any time though, it definitely doesn’t need to be reserved for a negative occasion.
Writing our thoughts down separates us from their validity. Now, they are just words on paper.
You don’t believe everything you read do you?
As the observer of your own mind, you are able to understand the mindset you already have, the system that is currently in place. Without awareness, we are blind to our limitations.
As you go about your day, try to identify when you’re having thoughts. And just observe them. It’s a fun game I like to play.
Say: I’m having the thought: and then fill in the blank.
Gain awareness of your mind, and you are then able to choose what you want to think, and what you want to believe.