Luckily, life is not a Game of Thrones. We’re not fighting for our lives with every waking breath. We are not usually surrounded by enemies with evil designs to wreck our good fortunes and dreams. It is closer to reality to suggest that our experience is are far more likely to be shaped by our own thoughts, beliefs and actions than by the nefarious back-channel plotting of individual actors beyond our control.
I agree with Maria Nemeth’s assumption expressed on her 2007 book, Mastering Life’s Energies. Life is meant to be lived with clarity, focus, ease and grace. And it is within your power to produce a life like that.
If that doesn’t describe your experience, start here.
Give yourself time and opportunity to choose and construct some new habits of thought.
To get to the doing it part, there are some pre-do-it requirements. The most important of the pre-do-it requirements is so obvious that most people miss it.
What are we supposed to do with the critical thoughts invading our consciousness?
- Just stop it.
- Stop before you think it.
- Stop after you think it.
- Stop before you do it.
- Stop in the middle of doing it.
- Stop after you’ve done it.
- Just stop it.
- Do not excuse it when you do it.
- Unthink it.
- Root it out from explanation of your actions and circumstances.
Self-criticism offers a silent or verbal caveat to any claim we can make on competency. It is the original and ultimate self-sabotage.
If a dolphin constantly criticized itself for its inability to climb a tree, it would become so defeated that before long it probably wouldn’t even bother to try to swim either.
If you don’t stop all self-criticism, all other attempts at change will prove unfruitful.
You can no longer afford the luxury of a negative thought. Belief is an important component of accomplishment. Self-criticism undermines belief. So, stop all criticism, okay?
A related, yet seperate required pre-do-it is to
Tune out all criticism of others directed toward you.
- They might call it “constructive” to get you to think they could help. It might be offered “for your own good” or as some sort of reality check. If the words do not build you up, you are hereby authorized to courteously reject them.
- Tune it out. Hearing it will not help you. In fact, it could slow you down for days or weeks.
- If you hear it, change the station.
- If you think you will hear it, change your location.
- If someones’s (like a parent, spouse or authority figure) criticism is in your head, reject it, evict it and soothe yourself with comforting and affirming statements.
- Do not engage criticism as true in any way. Critical comments are really only a version of that other person’s perception and not factual at all. They offer it to make themselves feel good by making you feel bad. It seeks to make you accountable to their worldview, which isn’t going to help you in any way.
Pedro the Lion, a punk band, popularized a song in the first part of this century called Criticism as Inspiration
which ,ironically, makes clear there is no inspiration in criticism. You can listen to the song on You Tube or read on for the relevant part of the lyrics included below.
It makes me feel so good
To always tell you when you’re wrong
The big man that I am
To always have to put you down
It makes me feel so good
To always put you in your place
I can write it in a song
But never say it to your face, to your face
DAVID SHANNON BAZAN
LYRICS © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC
Create and hold space for new people and experiences.
Different thoughts are likely to make room for additional, perhaps different, people and experiences in your life.
I heard of a coach who helped his clients achieve fantastic outcomes by offering ways for them to make room in their lives for different thoughts and different results. Yet by his own testimony was unable to do this for himself. The reason, it was pointed out to him, was that he had a very well practiced version of his own story and was completely unable to change it, because he was not aware of it. He could see this in others and help them change because he was not heavily invested in their stories. But he was heavily invested in his own.
(Soapbox moment. This is why almost everyone who wants different results faster can benefit from hiring a coach. Part of a coach’s job is to create that space and hold it until you fill it with thoughts and actions that actually improve your life.)
In a Harvard Business Review article
from January 22, 2015, Greg McKeown suggests that 99% of networking is a waste of time. Yet he realizes that relationships are the key to success. He quotes Rich Strombeck, venture capitalist and entrepreneur.
Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They are attached to people.
Get to know new people. Build some focused strategies that do not waste your time. If you are an authentic contributor to the wellbeing and happiness of others, chances are the favor will be returned over and over.
Explore your strengths.
You have strengths. Now that you’ve stopped beating yourself up with criticism, learn what your strengths are and start building the habit of leveraging them in your work and relationships. If you want to know more about living from your strengths, here are a couple of resources you can dig into.
Reframe, Rehearse, Reinforce a new story.
My family of origin labeled me with the nickname “brainless.”(It wasn’t intended as cruel. It was just a normal expression of familial dysfunction. We’ve all been there, right?) But I was pretty young when it happened and darned if that didn’t become part of my story, despite significant counter-evidence along the way. In my thirties I finally put my foot down about it when a sibling used that moniker with me. I mention this as an example of telling a well rehearsed story that does not serve you, all the while living in perpetual panic that it might well be true.
Yes, I am conscious of the fact that I am still talking about it, so there is still more clearing work for me to do. See how important Step 1 above is?
Here are some techniques you can apply to work on this. I call them The Three Rs.
Reframe: Change the story you tell yourself.
If I trace it back to its origin, I realize the nickname was merely a feckless and lazy way for someone to say they felt disappointment over something. Now I know that I am not obligated to burden myself with the memory of that nickname, just because someone insensitively directed it toward me.
Rehearse: Change your response to the original story.
Holding hand to heart, say, “When I feel myself being critical of my intellect, I remember that I can stand confidently in my intellectual abilities.”
Pointing to your right temple, say, “I am completely whole and able to apply my thinking in productive and prosperous ways.”
Reinforce: Offer a completely new vibration.
Here’s a good one from Neal Donald Walsh. “I accept as my truth the highest ideas about myself. I have called forth these ideas and do not reject them as too good to be true.”
I slightly paraphrased his original tweet.
You do need to be intentional with this 3R process. It can’t happen by accident. Train your brain to be strong in a new conception of your reality. The stronger your intention and focus, the sooner it can happen.
Be kind to yourself today and try on these thoughts.