Have you ever done something you once thought you couldn’t do? When I was younger, I believed I couldn’t run a marathon. I thought: “Only ‘real’ runners do marathons.”, or “My knees can’t handle it.”, or a million other limiting beliefs repeated in my head. On my 30-year anniversary of running, I realized I am a real runner, and that if I want to run a marathon, I just have this one life to do it, and I’m not getting any younger. My beliefs had limited what I thought I could do, which kept me from taking certain actions. Then actions and results I’d taken over time (i.e., a long history of running) shifted my beliefs and thoughts about what’s possible, leading to different actions and results – I successfully ran that marathon.
“It is better to believe than to disbelieve;
in so doing you are bringing everything
to the realm of possibility.”
– Albert Einstein
Our beliefs and thoughts determine our actions and the results we achieve. In turn, the results we get affect our beliefs. There’s a powerful interplay between what happens mentally (what we believe and think) and what happens physically (the actions we take and results we achieve). What we think – the words and tone we use, the stories we tell ourselves – has a direct impact on how we behave. We can move from the impossible to the possible with a shift in our thoughts and beliefs.
“We become what we think about all day long.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
How do we shift our beliefs and thoughts? We pay attention what’s happening in our minds. What we say in our heads all day provides a kind of feedback that we can use to make adjustments in our behavior. And, we employ practices to help us move in the direction we want to go. For example, we can reframe our thoughts and focus our attention. And do it in a way that builds a habit by consistently applying the practices.
When we notice unproductive or negative self-talk, we can REFRAME our thinking, adjusting the words and tone to be of greater service to ourselves. Reframing involves changing the ‘frame’ through which we view an experience, while leaving the facts of the situation alone. Reframing can help us be more confident or inspired, for example.
“Your own words are the bricks and mortar
of the dreams you want to realize.
Behind every one word flows energy.”
– Sonia Choquette
I’m on a mission to remove the word “overwhelm” from my vocabulary. I’ve noticed myself saying “I am overwhelmed” when I have a lot to do. When I feel like I have more tasks to complete than I possibly can in the available time, I am taking a deep breath, with an especially long relaxing outbreath and inviting a new perspective in my self-talk: “Yes, right now there’s a of opportunity to do stuff that makes a difference. What’s the most important thing for me to complete right now? Let’s start there and then revisit to determine what’s next…” I am using the word ‘overwhelm’ as a trigger to take a deep breath, and then the deep breath as a reminder to invite a new perspective. By doing this each time I notice, I’m creating a habit that shapes a mindset in service of positive action and results.
“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
When we notice that our thoughts are scattered, we can FOCUS and direct our thoughts, which can lead to outcomes such as greater productivity and better decision making. When I notice I am multi-tasking to get as many items off my to-do list as possible by the end of the day, I invite myself to be intentional about what I’m doing by shifting my body into what I call an ‘awake posture’ (learn more here). Shifting the experience in my body invites me to set my mind by clearing my head and consciously refocusing my attention.
“Powerful people decide where, how and what
they are going to use their precious energy for.
Whatever you’re giving your attention becomes your intention.”
– Therese Kienast
Question to contemplate:
- What beliefs do I hold that may limit what’s possible?
- What thoughts consistently run through my mind? What stories do I repeatedly tell myself?
- What words and tone do I use in my self-talk?
- What one small action might I try to tune in more to my thoughts and beliefs?
- How might I grow awareness of my breath? Of my body? Of the interplay of my physical and mental being?
- How might reframing or focusing practices support my success?
- Where do I place my attention? What does that say about my intentions?
* I took the photo in Baltimore Bay in County Cork Ireland.