Episode 20: 6 Things You Might Not Know about Thought Work

Sep 19, 2019

When we learn that our thoughts are creating our feelings and giving us all the results in our lives, we sometimes use this new awareness against ourselves.

While thought work is awesome and powerful and life-changing, there are several things to keep in mind when you do the work to change your thoughts and create what you want in your life:

1. Thought work is not there to stop us from having thoughts.

2. Thought work is not there to use against yourself.

3. Thought work is not always comfortable.

4. Thought work is not there so we can feel happy all the time.

5. Thought work is not for other people—it's just for us.

6. Thought work will not make you a better person.

The greatest gift we have been given is the chance to create anything we want in our life by choosing our thoughts…and that, my friends, is 100% awesome.




Hello podcast universe. Welcome to Episode 20 of the 100% Awesome Podcast and a very special welcome to all my new listeners out there. I am so happy to have you here sharing this space with m. I know that this is an investment of time and attention which are your two most valuable resources and so I am so grateful for your generosity and enthusiasm for the podcast. It really is 100% awesome to be here with you.

So on Friday night, at the end of the week, David and I go out for pizza. And we eat pizza and catch up on each other's lives and spend a little time together and it is easily my favorite hour of the whole week. So anyway last Friday we were sitting there over our pizza and I asked him about work and he started to tell me about all the things that were going on in his world.

And about every other sentence, he interrupted himself by saying, "I know that's just a thought" and then he'd go on and he'd say something else and then he'd say, "I know that's just a thought" and it was like so painful to watch and so painful to listen to. And I finally said, "Yeah I know they're all thoughts. Everything in our head is a thought. I already know that what you're telling me is your thoughts and that's why I'm here eating pizza with you. I want to know your thoughts about your life. I'm interested in your thoughts, not to judge them or to change them or criticize them but just to know what's going on for you."

Anyway this experience made me think that I need to do a podcast episode and set a few things straight about thought work. So today we're going to talk about what thought work is not. And hopefully this can deepen your understanding of why we do that work in the first place, where it can help us, and also how not to use this knowledge and awareness as a club to then beat ourselves up with. So that's where we're going today. Let's talk about what thought work is not.

The first thing I want you to understand is that thought work is not there to stop us from having thoughts. So I hope this is obvious, but I want to talk about it anyway. When we figure out that the source of all our feelings is our thoughts, we kind of have this idea that if we could just monitor and control those thoughts then we could be happy and avoid all the problems in our lives. But this is not the case.

Remember that we are human beings with human brains and these brains produce at least sixty thousand thoughts every day. These thoughts are a response to outside stimuli. In other words, our life is happening; we're seeing things, we're hearing things, we're experiencing things, and then our brain processes that information in the form of thoughts.

And the point is not to control every one of those thoughts or to purposely create every feeling we ever have. Thought work is there to simply give us the power to examine our thoughts when we want to or whenever we want a different result in our lives. It allows us to see if the thoughts we're choosing are really serving us. So I think the problem comes because when we start to get some awareness about our thoughts we have a tendency to judge those thoughts. We think, "Okay, well since I'm choosing these thoughts, then these thoughts always need to be good or positive or productive thoughts."

And this is not the case. So like on Friday night, David was talking about a situation with one of his colleagues and as he told me his thoughts, he started to judge his own thoughts and think "I shouldn't be thinking this about them. I should have better thoughts." And what I want you to know is that you are not your thoughts. You are not a bad person for having whatever thought you have. Your brain has offered you the thought for a good reason. Remember it's working from the model of protection. It offers thoughts when it notices dangers and problems and because of this, the thoughts are negative.

This does not mean you are a negative person. It does not mean you are a bad person. The point of thought work is not to stop the natural human brain from doing its job. It will have negative thoughts. It's inherently programmed to do that for as long as you are alive. Thought work isn't to negate that fact or change the way human brains work in nature. Thought work is there so that you don't have to be at the effect of any thought that you don't want to be and it gives you the power to create different results if and when you want to. But it doesn't make you not human.

You will always be a human with a human brain. And there's nothing wrong with that. So another way to look at this is this:

When I first found out work I thought, "Okay, this is awesome. I'll just clean up all my thoughts and then I can start showing up in my life the way I want to and everything will be perfect. And I thought artwork was like Invisalign. Right? So like my teeth were crooked. So right now I'm going through Invisalign and I'm slowly straightening them and moving them around and putting them in the right place and lining them all up. And then when I get to the very last tray, all my teeth are gonna be in a beautiful straight row and they'll look perfect.

And I thought this same thing about thought work. "I'll do it I'll find all these problem thoughts and I'll figure out what to replace them with and I'll get all my thoughts in line and I'll straighten out the misguided ones and I'll get everything sorted and then I'll finally be able to be the person and the wife and the mother that I've always wanted to be and everything will be perfect."

Okay but our thoughts are not like teeth. Thoughts are unlimited. Thought work doesn't work like Invisalign. Thought work works like one of those revolving sushi bars, right? Have you seen these things? Where there's there's like this conveyor belt, and the sushi is constantly coming out of the kitchen. Right?

And it's like nonstop on this little mini conveyor belt and it sends out different plates— shrimp tempura, and sashimi, and California rolls and sometimes you get pudding. And every morning you wake up and the conveyor belt just starts going and you're like Sashimi, sashimi, sashimi. Why is it sashimi again every Monday morning? Every Monday morning I'm having anxiety and overwhelm. I thought I told the kitchen no more sashimi I want pudding on Monday Morning.

So your mind will just be constantly offering you thoughts and thought work allows you to decide which sushi dish you're going to eat. It doesn't stop the conveyor belt. It just allows you to choose which one you're going to put in front of you and which ones are the thoughts that you just want to pass on. It doesn't stop the belt and it doesn't just give you thoughts that you like. It just allows you to choose the ones you want, take responsibility for that choice, and let all the other ones go back to the kitchen. Okay, I hope that helps.

So number two: Thought work is not there to use against yourself. And this idea goes along nicely with the last idea in that we kind of had this idea that if we know better we should do better. If we know our thoughts are creating our problems, we should do better at preventing them altogether. And again this is not how it works. We're never going to arrive at a place where we have it all figured out and we automatically overcome that very human programming to look for danger and problems.

So this week I talked to a client who was struggling with her son and she said "I know I need to get to love but I find myself getting frustrated with him. And that is so frustrating." The truth is she was more frustrated with her own humanness and her own thoughts than her son. And she thought that she had by now learned enough to know better, but instead of moving into love this thought that "she should know this and she should be better" was just spilling over onto her son and made her think, "Well if he could just be different then it would be easier to think better thoughts."

She was using what she had learned about thought work to beat herself up and wish that she was different. And this is just what we do as humans. Remember our brains are looking for problems. (I know I got it problems!). But sometimes when we finally understand that we are the creators of those problems, we start to look at ourselves as the problem. We blame ourselves for not thinking better. And the point of thought work is not to blame ourselves for our problems. The point is to allow us to take responsibility for our thoughts which is very different than blame.

Blame says, "There's something wrong with me. I should be different." When we take responsibility responsibility says, "There's something unproductive or unhelpful in the way I'm thinking. I'm responsible for the way I'm thinking and I can change it when I want to." So hating ourselves for not thinking right will never make us think better thoughts. In fact judging ourselves only increases the judgment we have for others and creates more pain in the long run. So thought work is not there so that you can use it against yourself.

I like to apply this by reminding myself, "I have a good reason for thinking this." When I have a thought that I don't really like I just tell myself, "I have a good reason for thinking this. My brain has a good reason for thinking this. It thinks it's protecting me in some way. I wonder why my brain thinks that?" And curiosity is just so much more useful to get you to a place where you could look at your thoughts without judgment and evaluate them objectively—and see if this really creating the result I want.

Again I just want to re-emphasize that you are not your thoughts. You shouldn't be better at this already. Your brain has a good reason for thinking the way it does. Then you can just step back and say, "Do I want to keep thinking this way or am I ready to consider something else?"And the more compassion you can have for you and your own thoughts, the more compassion you will have for the other people in your life.

Okay, number three: Thought work is not comfortable. Okay, so when I first started applying these ideas in my life, it seriously felt like a miracle to me. Like, I got immediate relief in certain areas of my life and I was like, "Holy cow, this is amazing!" And I just like dove all in. With the more awareness I got that it was my own brain creating problems and making me feel so bad. I got a little bit overwhelmed.

And in fact when I started applying this work, I kept having this dream. I had this recurring dream and in this dream we had bought this house and it had been abandoned by somebody and they left their stuff in it. So it had these rooms that needed to be cleaned out. So I in the dream I would go and I would clean up his rooms, and I'd get a room cleaned out and then I would find another door. And the door would lead to another room that needed to be cleaned out, and I'd get that one done and then there was another door. And this house just went on and on and on forever, like room after room after room, filled with junk.

And I had this dream a lot. And it's because like the more awareness I got over my thoughts the more mess I could see. My coach likens this to turning on the light in a room or a storage closet that you haven't been in for a while. And you first you think, "Okay, I'll just clean this up." And then after a while you just want to turn off the light and close the door pretend you never saw it. And what I mean by all this is that awareness is not always comfortable.

Sometimes we don't want to know that we were creating it. And in a way even though the thought is causing pain for us, it's also really comfortable to blame everyone else and everything else, rather than realizing that you are the creator.

And in fact one time I was really distraught over one of my clients who was struggling and my coach, Kris Plachy said, "Your clients will feel worse before they feel better." I know that really makes you want to sign up for coaching! I don't say that to scare you away but awareness is not always comfortable. However awareness does bring relief and it is the way to get the power back in your life.

So I have a little story that I hope will illustrate this. When my oldest son went to get his driver's license they had him take an eye test before he could go out and do the road test. And so they have this machine and you put your eyes in the machine and read the lines, right? So he put his eyes on the machine and the lady said, "Okay, read the second line." And he looked in the machine and then he came back out and he looked at me with this blank expression on his face. And I was like,"She wants you to read the second line."

So he put his head back in the machine and then he brought it out again with this confused look and I said, "Read the second line." (I'm like so helpful.) So he puts his hand back in the machine and he reads the line.

So then the lady turns to me and she says,"Are you his mother?"

And I said "Yeah."

And she said, "He can't see." And I said, "Yes, he can."

And she said, "No, ma'am, he's reading numbers and letters and stuff and there's no numbers in there."

And I was like, "Listen. I'm his mom. He can see."

And she said, "No, he can't."

And I was like, "What the heck?" This is unbelievable, right? I live with this boy. He goes to school every day. He does homework every day. He can see. I would know if he couldn't see. Right? So I took him to the eye doctor and it turns out he can't see. Like a lot.

And so we got him some glasses and a few days later we're driving in the car together and he says, "Mom I think these glasses are making my eyes worse." And I was like, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Well now when I take them off I can't see anything. It's like so blurry."

And that's how he had been walking around in his life! Seeing the world as a blur and not knowing that it should be any different! And I'm telling you this is what thought work is like. At first we're like, "I can see. I can see my life and the people and the problems it perfectly. I know the truth. I know what's wrong and I know why." Right?

Then we learn these thoughts and concepts and then we're like so shocked at how blind we've been and how skewed our perspective is and how our thoughts have been deceiving us. And for a moment we even think like maybe this thought work is making it worse because now suddenly we see how blind we've been in every area. We didn't know we were walking around with a completely blurry interpretation of the world. So I just want you to know, that if awareness is uncomfortable at the beginning, it's supposed to be. It's because you didn't know you were blind, because you didn't know you were walking around with this skewed perspective. And it takes a minute to get comfortable with this new way of seeing the world.

Okay number four: Thought work is not there so that we can feel happy all of the time. So the other idea that can trip us up is the idea that once we've found these principles and finally see things as they really are, then our life is going to become easier.

Since we create our feelings with our thoughts, it seems to follow that we could just generate positive thoughts and feelings nonstop and remove all the negative feelings from our life altogether. But this isn't the goal. What I want you to remember is that life was always designed to be 50/50. That is not supposed to go away. We are not using thought work to become robots. We aren't even using thought work to become happy. What we're doing is we're using thought work to learn to choose the better part and what I want you to know is that sometimes that choice involves a negative emotion.

Remember we came to earth to learn and grow and we do that by exercising our agency by choosing our thoughts. And we didn't come to always choose happy thoughts and get it right the first time.

So again when I first started doing thought work and I started understanding that I was creating my feelings and that I didn't have to choose to be miserable, of course my husband, who had been living with this miserable life thought that this was really amazing. And I'd say, "Hey I want to go and learn more about this." He's like, "Yes totally. I'm all over that." Right? "Where's the checkbook? I'm all for having a wife who's less miserable." And so then I said "Oh hey, I think I want to going to coach training." And he's like "Yes totally. The more the world the better." Right? And he thought and I thought that this was the way that I would get happy and then stay happy.

And the truth be told, my life did get so much happier in so many ways. I was able to give up anger and worry and fear and the need to control everything in my life. But, and this is the part I want you to understand, is it did not completely remove negative emotion from my life. Now instead of anger and fear I feel a lot of anxiety and self-doubt and shame.

Do you see? It's still 50/50. It's just a different 50/50 and sometimes in our life together when I am seized by self-doubt or shame David gets a little panicky and he reminds me "Hey just need to do you thought work." Right? What he's trying to say is like, "Just be happy please." Right?

But what I know now is that there is always going to be 50/50. That part of the equation is not going away. And the point of thought work isn't to remove 100% of the negative emotions from our life and be happy all the time because that would change the whole nature of our Earth life experience. And the point is not to change the nature of the experience the way that God designed it. But the point is to change us in that experience.

So let me give you a little metaphor that I hope will help you see this a little better. So just like Earth is a 50/50 experience, earth also has gravity right? It's a natural law. And like so every day I go and I lift weights to get stronger against the pull of gravity and I pull more weight against the law of gravity and then it makes me stronger. But exercising, no matter how strong I get, never helps me negate the love of gravity altogether. I'm never gonna get so strong that I no longer feel gravity. I'll never have so many muscles that gravity no longer has an effect on me. Gravity is always going to be there. That's the law. I'm just getting stronger in it. I'm gaining more ability to move heavy things in gravity. I have more capacity for endurance in gravity but there's still gravity.

So in the same way, life is 50/50 and learning the skills of thought work doesn't negate that law. It doesn't make the negative disappear. I just get to evolve in my capacity to feel and experience negative emotion. And when I do that I get to do so many more things in my life—things that were scary, things that were outside my comfort zone, things that I never thought I could do before, suddenly become available.

Because it's not the negative emotion that's the problem. It's thinking that you're powerless against this negative emotion. It's not a feeling of anxiety that's the problem it's thinking that you have no control over it and that you're simply at the random effect of it. And when you understand that your own brain created the anxiety—it chose anxiety— then you see the power of your agency in creating your life.

So I can either make gravity work for me or I can just be at the effective it, right? I can use gravity to get stronger or I can use gravity to keep me stationary and keep me stuck. And it's the same with our negative emotions. In the 50/50 experience I can make the experience of negative emotions work for me and allow me to grow a coaching business and put myself out there and push myself outside my comfort zone—expand and grow and evolve—or I can simply feel negative emotions and let them keep me stuck and stationary.

So the other day I was feeling some of this self-doubt and anxiety and shame as I do. And I thought, "This is so dumb. This is all optional. Why am I doing this? Why am I building a coaching practice? It's totally optional." But then I remind myself, "Okay, choosing to be a coach might be totally optional but feeling negative emotion is not. I'm going to feel negative emotion. Either way it's still going to be 50/50. That part is not optional. It is 50/50. So given that, then how do I want to grow and live my life?"

Exercising is totally optional but feeling gravity is not. I'm going to feel gravity either way. That is not going away. It's a natural law. Gravity isn't optional. So given that, how do I want to grow in my life? Do I want it to be hard to walk across the room and fight against gravity or do I want to be strong enough I can carry heavy things across the room? Thought work isn't there to eliminate negative emotion. Thought work is there so that I can use the negative emotion to create what I want in my life.

Thought work is there so that I can manage my brain to be able to do my work in the world anyway right? It's there so that I can manage my mind enough to leave the cave and do brave things and put my work out there and become a braver, higher, more capable, version of myself and I can't do that if I'm just in a hurry to feel better or feel happy all the time. By being willing to feel those negative emotions,I then get to see my part in their creation and I see my choice so clearly. And then I learn experience by experience to choose another way.

This is learning that I think that you can get in no other way than through the full human experience of all emotions, not just the happy ones. The point of thought work isn't to just experience positive happy emotions The point is to learn to recognize the point of choice and our part in the creation of our Earth life experience.

Okay, number five: Thought work is not for other people— it's for you. It's for your awareness only. So I hear from a lot of people who after they learn about thought work they think, "Oh my gosh this person in my life really needs this or this could help her so much," right?

And this comes from very, very well-intentioned, loving place, but the most amazing thing about our is that when you do the work personally it has a ripple effect on every relationship in your life. You are the only one who has to do it in order to change your world.

So last night we were talking on the phone to my daughter and she was telling us some of the struggles that she was having and my husband said helpfully, "That's just a thought." Let me just say that for anyone that is having a thought, when you are not their coach and you point out that "that is just a thought," it is not going to be well- received. That's a pro tip for you, there. And she said, "Dad," in a warning voice and then she went on with their story and then he said again, "That's just a thought." And she said, "I'm hanging up now." Right?

So let's look at this from the perspective of the idea that thought work is just for you and only you. So if my husband knew that he would understand that the only reason he wants my daughter to change her thoughts is that it's making him sad that she's sad. And so his helpful human brain thinks, "Well if she can be happy, then I can be happy. I'll just point out that this is her thought and then she can be happy and then I can be happy."

However if he knows that work is just for him then he will know that he just has to manage his own thoughts about her unhappiness. She doesn't have to be happy. She can be stressed and he doesn't have to be stressed about that. He can think, "I'm just here to love her." In this moment, his job is simply to manage his own thoughts about our daughter rather than trying to get her to change her own thoughts.

And if I apply this same thing to me—that thought work is just for me and only me—then when I see my husband wanting our daughter not to be sad and telling her helpfully "It's just the thought"— instead of wanting him to be different or parent our daughter differently I simply have to manage my own thoughts about him. Is it okay that he wants to change her in this way? Is it okay that he doesn't want her to be stressed? Is it okay that he can parent her in the exact way that he is?

My brain thinks it's dangerous and that he shouldn't you use thought work against our daughter, but what if I'm wrong about that? What if I could just love that he wants to help her? What if I could just love that he doesn't want her to struggle and have a hard time? I can understand that, right?

So do you see? That's my work to do. So I know we think it will be so good if other people get on board and examine their thoughts, right? But we each have enough work to do on our own with getting anybody else's business. They are doing it exactly right. And you have enough work to do for yourself. You have a lifetime of thoughts to manage, in fact

Okay, finally I just want to offer you one more thing to help you as you do this work: Thought work is not there to make you a better or more acceptable version of yourself. So I kind of alluded to this in the first one that we talked about right with Invisalign. I thought if I could clean up my thoughts then I could finally be the person that I wanted to be. And I only wanted to be this person so that I could finally stop hating myself and be acceptable and worthy and good.

Gaining awareness of your thoughts and the results are creating in your life is a skill. It's a practice and getting better at anything whether it's baking a cake or doing calculus or learning how to be patient and or how to love, they are all skills. And in acquiring these skills, we don't become better people. We become people who are good at that thing.

So if you want to be good at love, I cannot think of anything more fun. But not because it will make you better or more acceptable or more worthy of love yourself. Only because it will create a completely different life experience for you. And this is why I love thought work! Because it allowed me and gave me a way to practice those skills that I wanted most in my life.

And when I finally understood that I was already good, and thought work just gave me a method and a way to act and show up in a way that I wanted, that then shifted everything for me. I didn't have to do it. I was privileged to have the agency to do it. I didn't have to be perfect at it because it was a practice. And it didn't make me any better. It just gave me more possibilities.

So I want you to remember that as you apply this work in your own life. Remember that thought work is not about completely stopping our thoughts. Thought work is not there to beat yourself up with. Thought work is not going to be comfortable and it's not there so that you can be happy all the time. Thought work isn't for other people—it's just for you. And thought work will never make you a better person.

The greatest gift we've been given is the chance to create anything we want in our life by choosing our thoughts. And that my friends is 100% awesome. I love you for listening. I'll see you next week.


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