When I used to walk down the street in New York City, I styled people. In my mind, I’d cut their hair, help them lose weight, disapprove of their color choices, and just retool them overall. My mind was so busy, judgmental, and arrogant. Except one day, I noticed it. I stopped and questioned my behavior. And, at that moment, I could hear it. I realized how incredibly embarrassing, let alone shallow, it was of me. It woke me up to how much was going on in my mind that I wasn’t conducting.
At that moment, I decided that I was never going to allow my mind to run amok like that again. Instead, if my mind needed something to do on that walk, I would give it something better to do. From then on, whenever I walked the streets of New York, I let myself only think about my business, my clients, new ideas, and where and what I wanted to teach. I used my time and mind for value and fun, period.
When you start to figure out what you’re doing with that mind of yours or, better yet, what it is doing with you, you can have control over what you actually want to do with it, hopefully something more useful and inspiring than what we’re doing with it now.
Sure, this notion of just giving your mind something better to think about may sound a bit trite to your dubious doubter, but stopping yourself long enough to hear yourself, to figure out how to tell yourself to (in the nicest of ways) shut up, and to replace those very thoughts with whatever you want to be thinking about is truly life-altering.
Here are five basic steps to reclaim your mind. Don’t knock it until you try it, but do try it until you master it.
1. Observe it.
The first thing you are going to do is start paying attention to your thoughts. You’re going to start to use a thought log and write down what you’re thinking in the language in which you are actually speaking to yourself. Let’s say one of the areas you are working on is your relationship with your body. You are now going to make sure when you hear yourself talking to yourself about your body, particularly when you’re looking in a mirror, when you’re getting dressed, when you’re shopping or avoiding shopping. When you are looking at a menu, what do you say to yourself? Listen and write it down.
2. Name it.
Decide which thought patterns you want to eliminate. You’ll start to see that you are constantly talking to yourself about one particular thing, and it’s negative, and it makes you feel bad. Find your negative thought patterns that are not aligned with your dreams, and name that thought pattern. Make sure you figure out the right name for that negative thought train you get on and the pattern so that you can hear it the minute it leaves the station.
3. Stop it.
The minute you hear that particular thought pattern, you’re going to roll up your sleeves and deal with stopping it. You’re going to figure out that you can, trite as it may seem, actually tell yourself to think about something else. Because you have let your inner dialogue run wild in certain areas of your life, you have no idea that if all of a sudden you no longer tolerated its tantrum, you could put your foot down and change it. You can stop its rant, decide the game of chicken is over, and call the shots. It’s that simple. I dare you to do it. Your dream implores you. The best ways to stop your negative thoughts are to either confess them to someone out loud or make a consequence for yourself for engaging in those thoughts.
4. Replace it.
Decide which thoughts you actually want to cultivate instead of your current ones, making sure they align with your dreams. As simple as this, too, may sound, I promise it works. You are in charge of what you want to be thinking about; you just haven’t been. You sublet your mind to your brat, chicken, and weather reporter. The worst tenants ever. And just as it takes time and patience to kick bad tenants out, this, too, is going to take some time. The three squatters have been living there for years, so hire your dreams a good attorney (your higher self)!
5. Implement it.
Direct your new thought patterns, ensuring that you are thinking—hello!—about what you want to be thinking about. So let’s say your dream is to fall madly in love and find your soul mate. Instead of entertaining negative thoughts in your mind about how “dry” your city is or how unlucky you are or how you missed the (nonexistent) boat, start instead imagining your trip together to Bali, his or her hand in yours, the ring on your finger, etc. Start getting your mind to quiet down and do what youwant it to, replacing the bratty, cowardly, and self-sabotaging old thoughts with new, bold, and dreamy ones. If you follow the five steps above, you will take back your mind.