Have you ever noticed how much time can be spent thinking about what’s in the way (and why it shouldn’t be) before you take action? Sometimes, of course, the thoughts are subtle and hard to pin down, but that doesn’t stop us from having unsettling or distressing feelings that freeze us in our tracks. We’re all prone to it, but there are characteristics of this kind of thinking that, once we notice them, will help us to stop paying attention to them and focus on what we really want for ourselves
I was speaking with a client recently about how our mental chatter gets in the way if we’re feeling even slightly uncertain. A zen saying came to mind which I shared with her and seems to be a great first step in getting out of our own way:
"Leave your front door and your back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea."
So many of us have become accustomed to not only serving our thoughts tea but providing them an all-you-can-eat, 24-hour-a-day buffet and encouraging them to stick around.
This was definitely true of me. Whenever I paid too much attention to the thoughts that pointed to a reason why I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, I ended up just being distracted and unable to think clearly or to act decisively. Until not too long ago, my most frequently entertained thoughts went something like this (if I was blaming myself):
I’m not good enough
I should know better
I don’t have the resources
I’ll get into trouble
No one will like it.
But if I was blaming others for my lack of taking action, then I’d hear these opinions in my head: They should know better
This is going to be more trouble than it’s worth This shouldn’t be happening to me.
Where did we get the idea that paying attention to repetitive, negative thinking is going to help us? It’s endemic in our world, and a throwback to a time when negative incentive was considered an effective means of forcing action. But as most of us know, that kind of “incentive” keeps us out of any sense of flow or inspiration and keeps us locked into a continuous feedback loop of negative recrimination. And really, who needs that?
A second way to get out of our own way is to realize that the mental chatter that can seem so obsessive and so debilitating is actually only as flimsy as the smoke and mirrors the Wizard of Oz cranked out behind the curtain. You don’t have to take them so seriously. Or at all.
Thirdly, as Dorothy and her companions discovered, we all possess innate intelligence, creativity and courage that automatically rise to the surface when we’re no longer bullied by the thoughts that have kept us small and afraid. That built-in facility for responding to life is available regardless of the challenge, whether mundane or extraordinary.
What could you accomplish if you saw through the smoke and mirrors of your old, unhelpful thinking?