Way back in 1902, the author James Allen, one of the very first motivational authors wrote:
“As masters of our own thoughts we are makers of ourselves, shapers and authors of our environment.”
Did you ever wake up just a little down, and as you are preparing for an outing you start to have one negative thought after another? If it continues for long, you might even decide to skip that fall picnic you have been planning to go to for weeks. You think about last week and feel sad about things that happened—you find yourself suddenly pessimistic and anxious about what tomorrow will bring—and in a flash you realize that today, you just don’t like anything. Well, here’s a good-news flash, it’s not you that’s the problem!
The problem in all likelihood, is the filter you are seeing the world through at that moment. Your filters, as I teach my life coaching clients, color what you see—your world—and when you feel that way, the only color filter available is grey. The grey filter you are using is called Automatic Negative Thoughts or ANTs. ANTs are distrustful, melancholy, peevish little things that just seem to keep coming at you all by themselves. The problems ANTs cause are as real as any and according to Dr. Daniel Amen, MD., there are nine species of ANT‘s that can ruin your plans for the picnic:
- Always/Never thinking: Thinking with words like always, never, no one, everyone, every time, and everything.
- Focusing on the negative: Seeing only the bad in life, never the good.
- Fortune telling: Predicting the most terrible outcome to a situation or plan.
- Mind reading: Thinking you know what someone else is thinking, when they have not told you.
- Thinking with your feelings: Believing your negative feelings, without questioning them.
- Guilt beating: Guilt beatings happen when you think with words like should, must, ought, or have to.
- Labeling: When you attach a negative label to yourself or to someone else, stopping your ability to take a clear look at the situation.
- Personalizing: This occurs when you give innocuous events personal meaning.
- Blaming: (the most poisonous ant of all) Blaming someone or something else for problems in our lives. It makes you a passive victim of circumstance.
The distress you feel suffering from ANTs makes you live in ways that alienate your friends leaving you feeling even more alone. What goes on in your head all day changes how you act, making what could be a good day, not so good. Positive thoughts and attitudes help you feel a sense of being connected with people and things important to you. Negative ones give you just the opposite feelings, and if left unchallenged become believable. There are time when even your body reacts to them…how’s that tummy?
Changing your thinking is just like changing your habits (remember that blog?)—It requires changing your moment-to-moment thoughts and patterns. Too bad no one teaches us how to think about our thoughts—to be aware of them—to challenge them. What you can do for a start, is whenever you feel an ANT crawling across your mind, practice noticing it and write it down. When you write down Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) and talk back to them, you start to take away their power and regain control your feelings. Teaching yourself to control, manage, and direct your own thoughts in a positive way is one of the easiest ways to make it to the picnic and keep the ANTs away.
So, as the master of your thoughts and maker of yourself, shaper and author of your environment, remember,
your thoughts really do matter.
Frank Hopkins is a certified Professional Coach (CPC) and certified by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). He is a certified Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) of the iPEC proprietary assessment tool, the Energy Leadership Index and offers seminars on Energy Leadership. He maintains memberships in the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Institute of Coaching (ICPA). You can see more about Frank at www.frankhopkinslifecoach.com