My coaching sessions this week had a theme. Painful thoughts. No one complained, saying, “hey, this thought hurts,” but they stated what they thought was true. Something like: “I didn’t get as much done as I should have.” (Now, if you’re my client, and you’re reading this, and you think I’m talking about you, you’re right. But it was also others – several others with the same view of their own problem.)
Is the problem that you you didn’t get enough done? Or is the problem how you think about it?
If you dwell on the fact that you could have done more last week, it doesn’t change last week, but it slows your roll this week. But how do you dismiss that thought? And if you do chase away that thought, aren’t you chasing away all hope for discipline, too?
I’m going to ask you to consider something… does “discipline” work for you? If you are tough on yourself, can you use that toughness to talk yourself into 1) writing and, 2) writing creative/wonderful stuff? I submit that if discipline worked for you, it would already be working, and you’d be Steven King. King is famous for shaming less-disciplined writers by flaunting his own impeccable writing habits – every morning, including Christmas, till he met his writing goal. I understand he has retired from this level of rigor, since his auto accident in 1999. But, hey, he’s worth $400 million, he can ease up, if he wants, right?
So, King proves discipline works. But does it work for you? And if discipline isn’t the answer, what is? As any writer or coach will tell you, you have to write. You have to show up at a keyboard and make words become sentences become scenes. And that takes a measure of discipline.
But those judgmental thoughts cause us pain and delay. We think: “What’s wrong with me?” or “If Steven King can do it every day for decades, why can’t I give it the 6 hours I intended this week?”
There is a very simple tool called a Thought Turnaround, pioneered by Byron Katie, in the book, “Loving What Is.” This tool has helped me immeasurably, and I share it here.
It is important to understand that thoughts can be examined and dismissed, if we don’t believe those thoughts. This is where I believe discipline is well-applied. Disciplined thinking is an approach that asks you to be aware of your thoughts and disciplined about determining if those thoughts are true or not – BEFORE WE LET THEM RUIN OUR DAYS, HOURS, MINUTES.
The power thoughts have over us, is that we believe the thought. Pain. If you believe the thought that you should have done more last week, and the quickly following thought, “I’ll never finish this book,” or “I never stick to my intentions,” or “I’m a weak, bad person,” how does that make you feel? Literally. Stop for a minute and think those thoughts. How do you feel in your body? Where do you feel it? What behavior is this feeling likely to bring out in you? Are you in the mood to write that funny scene? Do you feel confident you can bang out that essay? Feelings come from unpoliced thoughts, and they matter. Especially to someone who hopes to write.
To turn around that thought, you’d have to believe its opposite – “I did enough.” That’s not hard to believe is it? I mean, it’s what you did, so there had to be reasons why that was all you could do. And was it enough? Define enough. See the value in what you did. Prove to yourself that the opposite statement might be just as true or truer.
- I did just enough.
- I did the perfect amount.
- I let flow what was there, and I’m making myself open to more flow every day.
And then just choose to believe the – true – statement that feels better and empowers you. In order to believe the new statement, you have to find at least three proofs of the new statement. How do you know you did enough? Find your three, real proofs. (Really. Do this right now.)
I hope this helps. Bec you may not think your frustration, anger, angst and confusion are coming from your thoughts. You think you have to change your actions to feel better. I believe when you change your thoughts, your actions will change.
This tool can give you significant breathing room. There’s a link to a Byron Katie worksheet on this subject, here. When I first learned this tool, I carried a notebook, and with great discipline, I noticed my thoughts that were causing me to feel bad, and I wrote them the heck down. I would either turn them around immediately, or later that evening. It became second nature, and as I was doing this, I noticed something really important. I had far fewer self-bashing thoughts, and when I did, I found them easier to disbelieve. (And now, I’m Steven King. Don’t tell anyone. I don’t want them to feel bad.)