“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford
Whether you notice or not, you’re always thinking.
A thought bubble accompanies you from the moment you wake-up until your head hits the pillow.
Sometimes our thoughts are helpful, but other times not so much.
We can easily get in our own way through over-thinking and complicating even the most basic decision.
One way we stunt our own success, is through what life-coach and podcast host Brooke Castillo calls “thinking loops”
Thinking loops are the negative tapes we keep rewinding and playing in our mind. It’s the obsessions we get stuck on that get in the way of achieving our goals and being at our best.
After getting stuck in a loop about how much I’m stuck in loops, I realized how often I can get stuck in obsessing over my future vision.
As a dream chaser I have a big vision for my life.
With big dreams can come a feeling that I’m never doing enough or I’m not living up to my potential – a ceaseless fixation and obsession with closing the gap between my dreams and current reality.
Clearly, this can lead to getting trapped in unhealthy thinking patterns.
For me this comes through an inner-discourse that I’m not doing enough. That I’m not making enough progress, or it’s not happening fast enough.
All with a tinge of insecure self-doubt, and suspicious that I just might be crazy to believe my dreams are even possible.
A desire to manifest a passionate and spectacular life will strain anyone’s patience.
So, learning to acknowledge and manage our thoughts is a prerequisite for embarking on our hero’s journey.
“How we think shows through in how we act. Attitudes are mirrors of the mind. They reflect thinking.” – David Joseph Schwartz
Confront the negativity bias
First, it’s important to note that negative thinking loops are totally normal.
We are hardwired to notice problems and give more attention to situations that elicit anxiety, fear, or distress. Experiences accompanied by strong negative emotions get seared in our memory.
And our brains are always scanning for danger and threats from this perspective. Any unusual or uncomfortable experience and our brain quickly reminds us of what could go wrong or what terrible experience happened before.
We have what psychologists call a negativity bias. It what helped our species survive for much of our evolution.
But when it comes to making big changes, even changes we really really want to make, this negativity bias isn’t so helpful.
Unless we develop the ability to manage your thinking, our mind will keep us in a loop of gloom, doom, and perpetual resistance to doing what we need to do.
Instead of focusing on what we want to create we’ll stay vigilantly aware of what could go wrong or why we should just play it safe instead.
We can’t banish the negativity-bias from existence, but we can practice breaking out of our negative loops when they happen.
Break free from these 5 thinking traps to manifest your dream life.
Are you falling into these thinking T.R.A.P.S.?
Problems can be consuming if we’re not careful. I’m sure you have a list of problems you could fixate on if you decided to. When we get tunnel vision on a problem our perspective narrows. When we’re unable to see the bigger picture we feel helpless and stuck in our current problems.
This is another word for dwelling on the negative. Those times where we can’t stop focusing on a senseless and regretful decision we made. Getting stuck in this loop just leads to self-blame and mentally beating ourselves.
Are you someone that immediately goes to the worst-case scenario? When you’re struggling to perform on the job or don’t get the results you want in your business, where does your mind go? Do you start to imagine yourself jobless, broke, and homeless? This is awfulizing, and when we imagine situations to be as bad as they can be it leaves us paralyzed with fear.
This is that rigid, all-or-nothing, type of thinking where when things are “just right” we view them as bad or a failure. Perfectionism is very debilitating because if things don’t go exactly as we want we can be more likely to give-up.
Shoulding (aka being a “should head”)
Have you ever payed attention to how often you say “should?” “I should be better than this.” “I should be making more progress.” “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” This loop leads to judgmental thinking. If something “should be” a certain way, and isn’t we end up perceiving it as wrong, which leaves us stressed out and blaming the world.
How to break out of thinking traps
First, you need to practice mindfulness, or in other words, non-judgmentally noticing your thoughts and detaching from them.
You need to catch these thoughts when they happen so you can do something about them.
Here’s a simple way to practice mindfulness.
1. Take a few deep breaths and try to put your attention on your breathing.
2. As you do this, notice when distracting thoughts arise.
3. Witness the thought and label it. (Name the thinking TRAP)
4. Release it by allowing it to pass, and return your attention to the breath.
Letting go of troubling thoughts is easier said than done, so include these steps for optimal effect.
1. Write down your thoughts and immediately take action
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” – Bruce Lee
A great way to deal with unpleasant thinking is to write down our thoughts. This helps us to emotionally separate so we can think more clearly.
After writing down your thoughts, immediately do something to break the pattern of thinking. Move your body in order to break out of the thinking trap. This could be jumping up and down or going for a short walk.
2. Make a gratitude list
After you write down your thoughts and take action, note 3 things you’re grateful for today.
You may not have your dream life, but what do you appreciate about today.
Get grateful for the opportunities you do have and what’s going well.
Remember, the negativity bias narrows our thinking, so getting positive will help you broaden and build your thinking.
3. Ask “What can I do about it?”
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
Finally, get in problem solving mood. A remedy for sitting and dwelling in obsessive thinking is to consider what you can actually do that would make a difference.
What’s in your control to solve the problem you’re focusing on?
Better yet, what steps can you take to make progress on the goal or desire your worrying about?
Use your emotional energy to get creative and take action.
Start to notice when you’re getting stuck in these thinking TRAPS and practice these tips to break free.
Photo credit: astrangelyisolatedplace