Choosing Intentional Thoughts
There really are only two kinds of thoughts: the thoughts you intentionally create, and those that are unconscious and automatic. When you notice an automatic negative thought and replace it with an intentional thought, you are potentially changing your life for the good.
If you don’t wake up to your unconscious automatic thoughts, they will run your life without you realizing the power they have over you. These kinds of thoughts are usually focused on what you don’t like and don’t want because your nervous system has a built-in negativity bias that is extra sensitive to what can go wrong. As a result, a mind dominated by unconscious thoughts will run faster and faster on a very scary internal treadmill.
One tip to become more aware of your automatic thoughts is to ask yourself what you think before you act. An example would be to notice your thinking prior to entering a virtual work meeting. If you are tired of your Zoom meetings and they regularly trigger reactive thoughts, you might notice yourself saying: “Here we go again, another boring Zoom meeting. There’s nothing for me to learn in these meetings, so I am going to check out and turn off my camera.”
As you become aware of your automatic thoughts, you can now access the second type of thoughts—the ones you intentionally create. In the case of the boring Zoom meeting, you can choose to think, “This is an opportunity for me to relax and release my need to look smart. I could let go and practice watching my breath, calm down, and enjoy this time.”
With intentional thoughts, you are not fighting with your mind and pushing away your judgments of the Zoom call. You are simply replacing them with ones you choose to think. Instead of unconscious automatic thoughts, you are intentionally creating your thinking.
Intentionally creating your thoughts is different than forcing yourself to be positive no matter what. Often called toxic positivity, forcing yourself to always look and be happy minimalizes and invalidates your feelings. Intentionally creating your thoughts are valuable for two reasons. First, you are becoming more observant of your unconscious automatic thoughts. Second, you are intentionally creating a new thought that builds upon what you choose to create in the moment.
With practice, choosing intentional thoughts will become your primary focus and the more negative automatic thoughts recede into the background of your mind. This will gradually develop a lighter energy pattern throughout your body and certainly a kinder and nicer environment in which to live and interact with others. This approach to thinking doesn’t ignore the difficult times in life or even your heavier emotions. You are simply balancing and neutralizing the effects of the negativity bias that runs much of the human nervous system.
Automatic thoughts are almost always based upon a mindset rooted in the Victim Orientation and sets you up for relating within the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.
It is no surprise that choosing intentional thoughts are foundational to living your life as a Creator and integrating TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® roles of Creator, Challenger, and Coach. Intentionally choosing a thought also prevents your inner Persecutor from judging yourself for having negative thoughts.
When you embrace the practice of simply replacing your automatic thoughts with intentional thoughts, you stop needing to fix and change yourself. You are simply choosing an intentional new thought and avoiding getting into a boxing match with yourself. You are giving yourself a more powerful chance to understand your thinking and how your thoughts influence your life. What could be better than that?!