“I’m stressed out of my mind thinking about how I’m going to pull together this major life event two weeks after I get home. There’s just no way!” His response: “You know you don’t have to believe every thought that crosses your mind!”
At that moment, sitting on a stool beside Tony Robbins at his resort in Fiji , he didn’t seem like a “gentle giant.” I thought: “How could he be so insensitive? Can’t he see I’m dying here?”
Yet the comment stayed with me. I knew it had deep meaning, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
Now that I know what it means, and know that it is TRUTH, I want to share that same thing with you.
Let’s first look at the definitions of thoughts and beliefs:
Thoughts: “Mental representations of things occurring internally or externally.” We know we have about 100 billion nerve cells in our brains, and they take in stimuli and make connections with one another, ultimately creating a thought. Glial cells connect the nerve cells like glue.
Beliefs: “Thoughts that have been repeated and reinforced so many times that they have made strong connections between various nerve cells, making deep grooves; and become stronger each time they are repeated or reinforced! The more glial cells that connect thoughts, the stronger the belief becomes.”
To oversimplify the brain processes, the more often we are exposed to stimuli or thoughts, the more connections are made between nerve cells. The stronger they become, the deeper the beliefs are ingrained.
There is a plethora of research indicating that our thoughts and beliefs are installed early, perhaps as early as infants in the womb. Certainly they are installed and operating fully by age 8. Of course, they are installed by parents, coaches, teachers, and other people we have consistent exposure to.
We are not doomed to what was installed. We can reevaluate, and we can make appropriate changes.
In my journey of examining this, I found many amazing thoughts processes and beliefs, but also many that needed editing or deleting!
Unfortunately, we rarely take opportunity to access and assess what was installed. Unless there is reason or motivation to do so, we accept them as “normal” and begin to add additional power to those thought and belief processes.
Looking back, I can see a belief that was installed in me long before I was in first grade. “Men make things harder than they need to be.”
My grandfather was an alcoholic who squandered the family income in bars by the time sun went down on payday. As the stories go, my grandmother would try to intercept him at local bars before the money was gone. All of my aunts would tell stories of how hard he made their lives unnecessarily (because they worked jobs to support the family).
My mother emerged with that belief: “Men make things harder than they need to be.” She made sure that we were model kids growing up. Never making noise when my dad was watching TV (to avoid blows ups); avoiding telling him about any challenges (to avoid ongoing shaming and yelling).
By the time I arrived on the scene, there were generations of the belief that “Men make things harder than they need to be.”
In graduate school, I began accessing and assessing beliefs installed on the hard drive of my brain long before I was aware. I was totally unaware of that belief, until I encountered it in a funny moment.
My sister and I were on a trip, and stopped for the night at a hotel. Shortly after checking in, we realized our toilet was stopped up. My sister picked up the phone and called the front desk. She said, “Our toilet is stopped up and I’d like to get a plunger sent up … without a man attached to it! I can take care of it myself.”
I burst into laughter, but it reminded me of my exercise I was in the midst of, accessing and assessing beliefs. I asked her, “Why on earth did you say that?” She said, “Because everyone knows men make things harder when they get involved.”
It was just the cue I needed to access a whole set of thoughts and beliefs.
After accessing and examing that, I decided that it’s simply not true that “men make things harder than they need to be.” Do some men do that some of the time? Of course. But do some women do that some of the time too? Absolutely.
I realized that one belief had made me hyper independent, when I wanted to interdependent (not needy, but able to request help when I truly need it!) So I ousted the belief that “men make things harder than they need to be.” I replaced it with one of my favorite Tina Turner songs: “It takes two baby, it takes two baby, me and you!”
How many of those sorts of thoughts and beliefs do you have that are programmed in? And that you are unaware of?
Research indicates that our brains are so magnificently created that we have the ability to control every thought. The real question is, are we harnessing the power of our brains … Or allowing media, other people, or daily life … to determine who we become, and the quality of our lives.
In my journey, I found many amazing thoughts processes and beliefs, but also many that needed editing or deleting! I now monitor my thoughts and beliefs daily!
You don’t have to believe everything you think!
I remember a time when I was in a relationship, and it had gone on for years, with no expressions of love, no real commitment. I was considering ending the “dead end” relationship.
I guess they guy sensed it, because he sent me a YouTube video of a song by the title: “Don’t Believe Everything You Think!” The lyrics are:
I know you’re thinking that you got me all figured out
A music man like me ain’t ever going to settle down
And you’re just waiting around for the day
That you’re convinced ain’t ever gonna come
And just the thought of wedding bells would make me want to run away
Well all I can say is …
Don’t believe everything you think
Baby, I might just have a ring in my pocket right now
So settle on down girl; reel that wild imagination in
Baby, come on back to me again. Yeah, oh the mind’s a funny thing
Don’t believe everything you think!
The song reminded me that we don’t have to believe everything we think!
I’m here to challenge you to take charge of your thoughts, your beliefs, your destiny!
There are some old proverbs that I adopted to help me on this journey:
- As a person thinks, so he becomes
- Take every thought captive
These were powerful revelations to me, because at the time I was struggling with depression. I realized that the majority of my thoughts were about how bad things were, and how few options I had to make it any different. I saw myself becoming exactly that.
I actually thought I had no control over the thoughts. But I discovered that although I may not initiate the thought that popped into my head, I didn’t have to keep rehearsing it. And I didn’t have to accept it as truth.
Here are the steps that were transformative to my life experience:
- Pay attention to your thought processes daily. Previously, I considered them like music played on the radio station. I had little or no control on what the playlist was. Then it occurred to me that just as I change the channel on the radio if I don’t like the song being played, I had the power to do the same thing with what was playing in my mind. I was appalled when I paused long enough to take note of what was going on in my head. It was dark. It was hopeless. It was taking me nowhere but down. I could do nothing about it until I paid attention to what was playing on my brain’s jukebox of thoughts.
- Capture your thoughts and put them in your pocket. I began to take snapshots of what was going on in my head, and created an image of putting the snapshots in my pocket before deciding whether or not to change the channel. How did I do that? I asked myself three questions about what was going on in my head:
Is it true? If so, I allowed it in, and decided if it would create a spiral up (to becoming the best version of me, and supported me in living my purpose). If it passed all of that criteria, I began processing it. If not, I moved on to Step 2.
Is it untrue? If so, I imagined throwing it to the ground and stomping on it. And trust me, unless I’m in the middle of a wedding (or something else that prohibits it), I jump up and start stomping it literally, as if my life depended on it!
Am I unsure? If so, I first determine if it worth my time to further evaluate it. If it is not worthy of the time and energy, I stomp it. If it is worth further consideration, I put it “in my pocket” to think about it at a later time.
3. Evaluate if the thoughts fit the criteria of worthiness by asking a series of questions:
Is it honorable?
Is it right?
Is it lovely?
Is it something I can be thankful for?
Is it beautiful?
Since I am aware that I become what I think, I ask questions that identify whether or not is supporting what I want to become. Those are the qualities I want in my life, and thoughts that lead in another direction are simply not allowed!
4. Find replacement thoughts. It’s not always easy just to stop the thoughts that pop up. Even when we know they are not taking us down a path we would like to go down. Research says trying to resist a thought can actually increase its intensity. Instead, I find a similar, or very different thought that meets my criteria.
Just recently, I found myself running a reel in my head about how badly a person I had considered a friend had hurt me. That thought process certainly did not fit my critieria. But the more I resisted it, the louder the scenes I was rehearsing became. So I began asking myself what thought I could use to replace the downward spiraling thought process.
I was able to quickly turn it to a new decision about how I would treat others to avoid doing what was done to me. I created a new thought process in the form of a prayer: “God help me to speak words of life to others, meet their needs when I can, and to leave their lives richer after every interaction.” I loved that. I began thinking about, and processing that prayer. Quickly, the spiral turned upward, and the darker reel was replaced with an upward spiral toward greatness.
5. Take critical moments daily to ask if thoughts and inner monologues are pointing you toward your purpose. If so, I take a moment of gratitude for those thoughts. If not, I create a moment of gratitude for those things that will propel me into my life’s purpose. Gratitude literally alters our neurons, and turns them toward peace, fulfillment, and determination.
Don’t believe everything you think. Take thoughts that do not serve you captive. Replace them with thoughts that propel you to your purpose and the greatness in you. Intentionally repeat thoughts that fit that criteria so they will become beliefs.
You can create the life of your dreams, but it all starts with your thoughts. I teach a whole experiential workshop on how it all starts with your thoughts.
Be mindful of your thoughts for they become your emotions
Be mindful of your emotions for they become your actions
Be mindful of your actions for they become your habits
Be mindful of your habits for they determine your character
Be mindful of your character for it determines your destiny.
But it all starts with your thoughts, which when rehearsed, become your beliefs.
Sitting on that stool next to Tony Robbins in Fiji, I had a life altering moment. I indeed did not have to believe every thought that crossed my mind. He led me through a process that ousted the thought that there was no way I could pull off the major event I was facing two weeks after I returned home. Instead, I decided to believe it would be a magical event. And it was! All because I chose not to believe everything I thought.
You can create magical moments too. You can create a life with an amazing destiny. Start today with this simple step: Don’t believe everything you think!