If you’ve ever been on any type of social media that circulates cute, quotable graphics, then you’ve probably read or heard the phrase, “change your thinking, change your life.” (This may also sound familiar if you’ve read the book Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by Brian Tracy. I have not personally read this book, but if you’re curious, the link will take you to it. From what I’ve been able to gather, he coined the phrase. I’d hate for him to not get proper credit from me.)
The idea that you can change your life just by changing your thinking is powerful.
Let’s consider a different quote for the moment. A quote by Maya Angelou:
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
So how can a change in your thinking and your attitude effectively change your life?
It certainly isn’t going to make you a million dollars overnight or solve all of your stressors or problems. It’s not going to keep your in-laws at bay or make your boss easier to work for. I’m not here to make any false promises or profound, unbacked claims.
I want to talk to you about why I believe these are both such powerful statements, based on my own experiences and what I understand about our self-concept.
Self-concept is precisely what it sounds like. It’s your self-image. According to the professor of psychology, Mark Leary, “You filter the cues that you get from others through your self-concept.” (Flora, 2005)
In other words, each and every one of us sees the world through a prism of sorts. The view that you have is based on your individual experiences and your beliefs about the world around you. It’s also based on the beliefs you have about yourself. This includes beliefs about who you are.
It’s challenging to see the world through someone else’s prism. For example, someone else’s rough day, which may have left them a complete trainwreck, may look like a stroll through the park from your perspective. You’ve seen worse. You’ve been through worse. What do they have to cry about? Maybe the guy in the cubical next to you at the office comes off as a total jerk. They’re continually offending you, and you avoid talking to them at all costs. That individual genuinely may not realize that they’re a jerk. Or maybe you don’t know you’re just overly sensitive. I encourage you not to overthink this too much. Your reality is as valid as anyone else’s, and you don’t owe me or anyone else an explanation about why you are who you are. What I’m getting at here is that the way we view ourselves can be biased, especially if we don’t have good self-awareness.
We tend to find what we’re looking for, and sometimes we self-sabotage without even realizing it because we can’t get out of our own heads. Like brilliant actors, we live up to the expectations we have of and for ourselves. We attract people and things and events into our lives that align with the prism through which we see our world. Our self-concept is everything.
Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life
To change your thinking, you have to be willing to have an honest conversation with yourself. I do this by journaling for twenty to thirty minutes every morning. If that’s not for you, you can do it in your head or on your computer. Whatever works.
Start by writing down (or considering) the beliefs you have about yourself. Get brutal.
Smart. Charming. Ugly. Useless. Worthless. Fat. Loved. Poor. Trapped. Incompetent. Capable. Incapable. Christian. Wiccan. Buddhist. Atheist. Smarter than most people. Stupid…
What do you believe about yourself? Which of those beliefs is yours? Which of those beliefs are beliefs that someone else gave to you, maliciously or not?
Whether you realize it or not, you are shaping your life around your beliefs about who you are and what you can (or can’t) achieve.
You have to plant the seeds for the life you want. Then you have to water those seeds. If you persevere, one day you’ll wake up in awe of the beautiful garden outside your window. Don’t water the seeds that other people planted. Pull them b*tches out and cultivate the garden you want to have.
If you have a lot of negative going on inside of you. If you’re holding on to negative experiences and allowing them to fester inside of you. If you believe that you are undeserving or not enough or that what you have is all you’ll ever have or deserve. Those are the obstacles you’re going to keep running into. Those are the anchors that are pinning you to the bottom of the sea you are drowning in, and you have no hope of coming up for air until you’re ready to try.
One small thought. One small change. Watch your world shift.
I do not promise you magic, but I’m gonna be real with you, it’s kind of like magic.
This day and age, there’s a lot of talk about manifesting the life of your dreams. It’s made its way into the mainstream. I read somewhere once that the idea of manifesting the life of your dreams is planting the seed. If you’re embracing the vision (and allowing yourself to have the vision in the first place), if you’re putting the work in, if you’re making an effort to change your inner story, then you are planting the seed to build the life of your dreams. Once you’ve planted the seed, once you really start to believe what you’re selling yourself, you’re more likely to consciously align your actions with the life that you want.
That’s when you start seeing results. And it feels like magic. But it’s all you.
You did this.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
While you’re learning to change your thinking (because it’s not going to happen overnight – you have to put the work in), take a minute to check your attitude.
There are a lot of things in this world and in our lives that we have absolutely zero control over. If you are stressing and agonizing and complaining about something that either isn’t going to change or that it isn’t in your power to change, then let. It. GO. If it’s something that you do have the ability to change or contribute to change, but you’re too busy complaining about it to make or help make a change, is it worth the energy your spending complaining about it?
If you are wildly unhappy with a situation in your life, or the people in your life, or whatever it may be in your life that you have identified as a thief of your joy, sit down and have one of those serious conversations with yourself: how can I change this? What will make me happy? What kind of people do I want in my life? What kind of person do I want the world to believe I am? What will help me sleep peacefully at night?
I think one of the best nonextreme examples of this, and one that people I know (and myself, for a while) have struggled with, is working a soul-sucking job.
I like this example because quitting your job comes with obstacles. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have the luxury of quitting just because they don’t find their job fulfilling.
If you hate your job, if it’s sucking the life out of you, ask yourself, if I could do anything in the whole wide world, what would I do?
Once you’ve said it out loud, or written it down, don’t waste any time thinking about why it’s not possible. That’s probably what’ll go through your head first if you have bills to pay or a family to take care of, or you’re already struggling so much financially that you’re not even sure where your next meal is coming from.
Make a list, or at the very least, just consider all of the ways that you can start taking small steps towards doing what you love while still juggling your day job and all of your other responsibilities. If it excites you, if you’re passionate about it, find a way to fit it into your day – even if all you have is five minutes here and there, or thirty minutes before you go to bed, or whatever it is. You don’t have to make big changes all at once. You don’t have to quit your day job. Give yourself something to work towards. Make a goal for yourself. “In five years, I want the income from this side project to completely replace the income of my current job, and this is what I want my life to look like once I’ve achieved that success.” You still have your income, because, you know, basic needs like food and shelter are essential too. But you get to go to bed at night knowing that you’re doing something to change your situation. You’re investing in you.
Don’t be a victim of the mentality, “if I can’t do it all right now, then I can’t do it.” If you’re miserable and you have the power to change your situation, exercise. That. Power.
You are the artist of your own life. You get to write your story. Don’t let anyone else write it for you.
So often, when we think we don’t have a choice, we absolutely do. You just have to get it into your head that change is possible.
The hardest thing you may ever do is step outside of your own prism, your own comfort zone. Facing down your demons. Accepting and embracing your faults. Admitting to yourself all of the horrible things you believe to be true about yourself that I want you to know are. Not. True. Learning how to change your internal narrative and how to love yourself.
There are going to be people out there who don’t believe you can do it. I’ll tell you a secret: it’s because they’re trapped in the cage that is their own mind. Don’t let that detract you from what you know is true: that you can change your life and live the life you’ve always dreamed of.
Your reality is in your hands.
So…what’re you gonna do next?
- Flora, C. (2005, May 01). Metaperceptions: How Do You See Yourself? Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200505/metaperceptions-how-do-you-see-yourself