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Distorted Thinking Leads to Distress and Lost Opportunities

You’ve heard it said, “as a man thinketh, so is he.”

Henry Ford also gave us the quote, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t- you’re right.”

What do these quotes actually mean and what is the implication and relevance to our lives?

As a certified brain health coach, I know firsthand that our thinking largely determines the quality of our life, health, relationships and business success.

People often underestimate the power of their thinking. Furthermore, they may be shocked to realize that it’s the roughly three pounds of tofu like matter that determines how they will steer their ship in big and small ways.

Most of us were not taught how to think, how to question our thoughts for accuracy, and what to do with the thoughts that steer us in the wrong direction.

Did you have a class in Jr High, High School or College that was called “How to think properly?”

Did you have one called “Cognitive Distortions will ruin your life if you don’t recognize them and intervene?” I know I didn’t and I majored in psychology and social work.

In fairness, we know a lot more about the brain, how we think, and cognitive distortions now then we did back then.

So what are cognitive distortions? In short, they are inaccurate thoughts that evoke strong emotions about something that may or may not be true, or even partially true. Because they are often thought of in very black and white terms, and because most of us have not been training how to think or question our thoughts, we tend to believe them even when they are wildly inaccurate. In other words, many of us believe a thought simply because we think it.

Think of the implication of “not thinking” or believing every thought you have not only for your own life, but how it affects and impacts bias, or prejudice toward people you don’t even know.

Say for example that you believe that you are not worthy or capable because growing up you had a sister that was super bright, got straight A’s and seemed to excel at nearly everything. This sibling was showered with accolades by your parents and every teacher that had her in class.

Then you, the younger sib shows up. Your parents may have overlooked your inherent smarts, wisdom or creativity because perhaps you were a lousy test taker, had to study more to get good grades etc. You were not an academic stand out. You and your immediate family and sphere of influence praised your sister but overlooked your unique attributes and talents.

You may likely have inaccurately assessed your talents and gifts and consistently formed a habit or pattern of thinking of yourself as “coming up short” every time you (or others) compared you to your sister.

If you never questioned that inaccurate conclusion, it is likely that the subsequent feelings that went along with your thoughts may have kept you small, not taking risks, and feeling like you just don’t “measure up.”

That is the power of our thoughts. That is the power of never questioning our thoughts for accuracy.

How many jobs have we passed on, good relationships we missed, or risks we didn’t take because of one faulty assessment of our value and worth based on others inaccurate and sometimes unthoughtful response to us?

How many times have you thought of someone else with negative, judgmental or erroneous thoughts about someone you did not even know because of your first thought, or because someone else’s first comment was negative or unkind?

When we don’t question our thoughts, when we don’t check them for accuracy, we may end up acting on a whole lot of untruths, born out of someone else’s bias, prejudice, woundedness, or ignorance.

Today, step back. Start tuning inwardly. Hear your thoughts. Become aware of them. Interrogate them as you would scrutinize an important letter or topic of interest. Ask yourself, where have I believed a lie fed to me by someone else’s careless thinking?

Do some daily journaling and record your thoughts both at home and at work especially around your business and workplace.

Question both internally and externally. Have I told myself a story about my employees, my sales, my profitability?

Have I locked myself into a self made box by believing a story that may or may not be true, and therefore I stopped looking for possibilities?

Today, start noticing your thoughts, and make time several times in your day to determine which thoughts are true, accurate and beneficial? Which thoughts cause you to feel heavy, anxious, or stuck? Which thoughts will you choose?

Increase your awareness. Then learn more tools to intervene.

Let’s continue the conversation. Your thoughts matter to you and everyone else around you.

When you practice taking your thoughts captive, and when you begin to think you can… You will be on the right side of Henry Fords’ infamous quote.


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