The First Step To Changing Your Negative Thoughts

'You can do anything you put your mind to.'

We hear it so much growing up that it is now cliche, but it is so true. Our minds are powerful in their ability to form our reality, and the sooner we learn and believe this the sooner we get to realizing our true potential and living a fuller life. I am a testament to the truth behind this cliche phrase.

Let me tell you a few examples of this phrase proving itself in my life:

Story #1 - I suffered from Bulimia for 5 years and I remember at my lowest point, after binging and purging for hours, I was Googling if I was going to die from this disease. I finally decided a few years later that recovery was my only option to live a full life. The game changer between wanting to recover and actually recovering was believing that recovery was a real possibility for me. Once my mind and heart was set on recovering I did everything it took to get there. Fast forward a few years later to today and I am fully recovered and have a healthy and normal relationship with food. 

Story #2 - For my 26th Birthday I decided to sign up for my first marathon. I set the goal to qualify for Boston and my mind was set on making it happen. Sure enough I crossed the finish line with a qualifying time of 3:30 that qualified me for the Boston Marathon.

Story #3 - In 2016 I was in between jobs and my Dad mentioned wanting to start a business in my hometown. After some reflection and time to think we decided to go for it. Not once did I consider the possibility of failure, I was dead set on making this business successful at all costs (the most significant cost being my own free time). Fast forward to today and we have a thriving indoor cycling studio with hundreds of amazing members and our doors have been open for over a year.

Story #4 - I completed the Boston Marathon in 2018 and braved the worst conditions seen in 30 years. It was 45 degrees fahrenheit, raining, windy, my hands were frozen, my feet were soaking wet the whole time. Despite these conditions and my second guessing myself at the starting line I committed to making it happen and I crossed the finish line with my arms stretched overhead in victory.

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In all of these experiences I find one key factor: I believed that I could do it.

After these experiences and tons more I have learned the art of training your brain to get you to where you want to go.

In all 4 experiences I needed to start with reflection. Why did I think I was not capable of achieving this goal? What negative thoughts were holding me back? 

Addressing these thoughts and acknowledging them was the first step to changing them.

Once I acknowledged my negative thoughts I could start changing the narrative in my mind.

With Bulimia the negative thoughts were so strong and I doubted in the beginning if I could achieve full recovery. I actively tried to rewire the negative thoughts to instead say 'You are worth more than your weight or appearance. Take a small step in the right direction everyday. One day you will get there.'

With my first marathon I hit a HUGE wall at mile 20 and thought I couldn't keep going. Instead of letting those thoughts rule my actions, I used a mantra to keep moving (the mantra was 'Don't f***ing stop, Telford). I literally was sayig those words out loud to myself as I continued on to mile 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and finally crossed that finish line.

With the Boston Marathon I was doubtful I could run a marathon in that weather

considering that I hadn't trained at all in the cold. I could have easily decided at mile 5 that I was done, but I decided that if I could get through those 5 miles I could get through a few more. I continued on until finally crossing the finish line.

Needless to say all of these experiences taught me to become very strategic with my thoughts when the going is getting tough. I believe at the bottom of my heart that achieving these goals would not have been possible if I let myself drown in negativity, self doubt, or fear of the unknown. I chose to ignore those pesky voices and focus on the positive, or flip my perspective to make myself believe that a few more steps were possible. I never let myself say or believe that 'I can't do this'. 

However in order to block out the negativity I had to first recognize it and acknowledge it as a part of my thoughts and emotions.

Which brings me to the first step to changing your negative thoughts: you have to lose judgement of them and just explore how you are truly thinking and feeling. Only then can you change the narrative in your mind to something more positive.

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So now let's do a little reflection together...

I have a very important questions for YOU to answer to get you started on your path to chasing your goals with the power of positive thinking... are you ready? Here it is:

 

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

For some people this answer jumps to them immediately. There is a goal in mind that you have been avoiding, ignoring, or fearing and it just popped up into your head.

Give yourself time to ponder if the answer didn't jump at you.

Write this goal down. But instead of using language that still gives you room to avoid the goal, use language that assumes you WILL accomplish it no matter what. So rather than saying 'I am going to try to do xyz' be more sure of yourself by saying 'I am going to do xyz'.

Now that you have your goal written down and concretely placed in your future, write down how it makes you feel that this goal will happen.

I can only speak for myself that when I do this exercise, my emotional response is usually doubt and disbelief. But yours could be different, you could feel joy, excitement, anticipation, nervousness, fear, or just plain discomfort.

Take a look at your emotional response and circle all emotions that could be negative or holding you back from believing that you are capable of this goal.

The real fun begins when you start to explore why you feel these negative emotions. Take time to reflect and write down where the emotion might be coming from and all potential theories as to why they exist.

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IMPORTANT: There is no wrong answer or wrong theory, you are just exploring and observing your own mind.

Don't be afraid to get deep with yourself in exploring where this negativity comes from. The sooner you dive deep and get to the root of your feelings, the sooner you will be able to grasp what might be preventing you from going after your dreams with the BELIEF that you will achieve them.

Feel free to print out the below graphic to help you finish this exercise.

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This is a simple and helpful reflection exercise to get you on the path to understanding what emotions could be holding you back from believing that you can accomplish your goals. Remember, awareness of our thoughts is the first step to changing them, so use this as an opportunity to recognize them and begin changing them.

AND FINALLY, the secret to this entire exercise is recognizing that these negative emotions are not reality, they are just limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs are thoughts we have about ourselves that we perceive to be reality, when these thoughts actually limit us and hold us back from reaching our full potential. They are the tiny voices in our heads that convince us we cannot do, be, or have something.

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For example when training for my first marathon one of the limiting beliefs I needed to address and override was the belief that my body was too worn down from years of an eating disorder to actually be capable of running a marathon. It was hard to rewire this thought but the first step was recognizing that it was there and that it was only my perception. The reality was my body was healthy and recovered and was absolutely capable of running a full marathon, and it proved it a few months later. However if I had ignored my limiting belief and negative thoughts about my health I might have allowed these thoughts to prevent me from crossing the finish line and accomplishing my goal.

Our limiting beliefs are the toughest thoughts to grasp because our perceptions can seem so real. I come back to this exercise often to explore my mind when a new goal pops up to see where my perceptions of myself might be limiting my own potential.

So now I have to ask, what is one of your big goals in life and what negative emotions came up for you when this goal was re-written as a reality? Did you discover any limiting beliefs about yourself through this reflection?

Comment below or take a picture of your worksheet and tag @britelford_fitness and let's crush our limiting beliefs together!