In my last post, I talked about several ways of thinking that are highly unhelpful and inconvenient. I wanted to follow up with some ideas for how to start shifting these patterns so you can move towards a more streamlined and manageable way of thinking and responding.
To recap, the fastest way to feel stuck is to measure your world using these ideas:
What or who is right/wrong?
Is this good/bad?
Thinking of how things should/shouldn’t be.
If something is fair or not.
Assigning value based on how long things last.
Believing that any negative evaluation of self is dangerous.
The massive problem with evaluating experiences using these concepts is that it is fundamentally difficult to even know! You will get a different answer depending on who and when you ask. What’s worse is that EVEN if you can attribute a value to an action, it rarely makes anyone feel better in the long run.
To break free from these unproductive ways of thinking, I teach my therapy clients to use one simple question to shift into action.
“Is it helpful?”
Short. Simple. To the point. In order for something to be considered helpful, it must be possible AND move you towards something that is in your best interest.
This question is powerful because it can disrupt circular reasoning and rationalizations that cause so much emotional distress and pain. Asking yourself this question positions you to have a choice! Instead of finding yourself stuck as you ask yourself questions you cannot answer, you now have an ability to shift gears.
I encourage you to simplify your problem solving by using the following questions to redirect your thoughts. (Notice that these questions do not encourage too much introspection, self-analysis, or thinking about what things mean.)
- Is the current way of thinking/action helpful?
- Am I making an assumption right now?
- What can I do or say to gain clarity or more information that would help me make a more informed choice?
- Is there a useful or helpful course of action to take in this moment? If not, would it be OK to set this situation/feeling aside for now?
- Is what I’m feeling truly urgent and unsafe or just uncomfortable?
- What is the very next thing to be done?
- In this moment, what is one thing I can choose to do/think/say to bring me comfort/peace/pride or resolution?
Always remember, It’s OK to have your thoughts but don’t let your thoughts have you.