Disciplining Your Thoughts
Updated: Feb 25, 2020
I saw this quote once that said, “did you have a bad day, or did you have 10-20 minutes where your thoughts ran undisciplined which led to a bad vibe that carried you away?”. It got me thinking, do I really have discipline when it comes to my thoughts and how they determine the rest of my day? The answer is nope! I often told myself and others, I can’t control how I feel, but that’s not true. I recognized that training my mind to be disciplined can have a positive effect on what I feel. Just like when we want to change our bodies, we have to develop a “workout” plan for our minds. Let’s get started.
1. You are what you eat
If you’ve ever worked with a personal trainer, they tell you that exercise is 20% of the battle and dieting is 80% when it comes to losing weight. If you eat nothing but junk food, you’re essentially polluting your body no matter how hard you work out. Example: I am a glutton for pastries. Cinnabons, cookie cakes, cakes, smoothies, bread of any variety, I was on it. After indulging in my guilty pleasures, I would look in the mirror at my love handles and be super disappointed.
The same thing is happening in our minds. We’re filling our minds with junk and not enough nutrients and our minds are polluted. We’re spending too much time on social media (which can be informative on a good day, but if we’re keeping it a buck, most days it’s not lol). We’re watching ratchet reality tv shows like Love and Hip Hop and if you’re like me, watching old episodes of Bad Girls Club. No matter how much we say we try to “exercise” discipline and more positive thinking, that junk food we fed our brain outweighs our “exercise”.
The same way your body eliminates waste so does your mind. It may not play out as obviously as taking a poop, but it can manifest in ways that affect your words and behaviors. It’s like you’ve been binge-watching Bad Girls Club recently and you’ve been irritated with someone (deserving or undeserving). Next thing you know, you lash out at them which is completely out of your character. That behavior is the “junk food” you’ve deposited making its way out.
You have to think of your mind as fertile ground and you are the farmer. If you don’t plant any seeds, then you won’t reap a harvest. If you plant weeds, then you reap weeds. If you plant goodness, you’ll reap goodness. Now those who are agriculturally advanced know that some weeds sprouting in a good harvest are inevitable because that’s life. But you have to be disciplined enough to tend to your garden every day.
Now I’m not saying you can’t indulge every now and then in the ratchet things, but I am saying most of your food for your brain needs to come from a positive source. Read the Bible, listen to some positive affirmations, watch a Ted Talk, listen to a business podcast, etc. Do something that will enrich your mind. Feed your mind a salad and put down the funnel cake.
2. Redirect your train of thought
With any diet or a new workout, the results take time. In the meantime, you can practice disciplining your thoughts by redirecting negative thinking to positive. When you feel yourself sliding down the slope of negative thoughts, balance it out with something positive. Think of this process as eating a warhead candy. It starts off incredibly sour, but once you get past the sour, you have a sweet piece of candy. Give your thoughts a sweet ending to a sour beginning.
Let’s practice. When I get paid, the very first thing I do is pay all of my bills. All of them. Then, with what’s left, I drop a percentage of that in my savings account and the rest is mine. After all of this, essentially, I am broke lol. So my stinking thinking tells me “Ugh, I am broke. I don’t have money to do anything.” That’s dramatic and also not correct. Here’s how I redirect that negative thought. “Well, I’m not broke. I still have money to do things. Maybe not as much as I would like to have, but it’s better than nothing.” Cup half empty turns to a cup half full.
You may not like your job, but at least you have a job. You may not like some of the habits your friend/significant other has, but at least they are trying to correct it. You may not like your clothes, but at least you have some. In most cases, there’s something good in something bad and even if it’s all bad, eventually it’ll all work for your good.
3. Use the SOS method
Lastly, if all else fails, tip number 3 is to use the S.O.S. method: stop, observe, and shift.
Stop- Mentally tell yourself to “stop!” Give yourself the opportunity to address the thought and interrupt the cycle of negative thoughts. Observe- Observe what you are thinking and how it is making you feel. Shift- Shift your cognitive, emotional or behavioral response by using positive coping skills and techniques.
Decide that today is the day you begin your journey to disciplined thinking. Make no mistake. Disciplining your thoughts will be a process. For some of us, it’ll come to us quickly. For others, it may take longer. It’s not about who finishes first. It’s about making a commitment to the process. There will be times when you slip back into old habits because it’s innate to you and you are human. Take it day by day. Set small goals for yourself. Get an accountability partner. You only fail when you get stuck there.