At some point last week, the above quote popped up in my Instagram feed and stopped me in my tracks. (Don’t you just love when something great grabs hold of you and won’t let go?) That’s how I felt about this quote because, really, it’s just the truest of true. The stories that we tell ourselves…looping in our brains for years or even decades. And I’m here today to call it like it is. Many of the stories? Are outright lies.
Yet we listen to the stories. We ruminate over them…kneading them into 100 different editions in our minds. We pay such rapt attention to the thoughts that often keep us from meeting our full potential.
I can’t do that. I’m not smart enough. I don’t have enough time. I’m not doing enough for my family/clients/friends. I’ll be stuck in this crappy job forever. I’ll never find a mate. I’m never going to get well. I should have accomplished more by now. No one understands me. People don’t find me interesting. I’m not creative enough. My art is shit. I can’t lose the weight. My writing is horrible. I’ll never be as good as him/her. If I make them angry, they will leave me.
I think one or more of these thoughts have crossed most of our minds at some point. Unfortunately, these kind of thoughts can start to dictate lives. Isn’t the human experience such a blast sometimes?
I attended a meditation workshop this weekend as a part of my yoga teacher training, and while discussing working with our own thoughts, my instructor brought up the work of Byron Katie. Many of you might know of her – in a nutshell, her system (or “The Work,” as she calls it) is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the anger, fear, depression, addiction, and violence in the world.
What I love about Katie’s work is that it’s incredibly straight-forward. Four (seemingly) simple questions can create profound shifts in one’s thinking rapidly. So, what are the questions?
First off, think of a thought that troubles you or stresses you out or makes you feel like crap. Then apply these questions to that thought.
The Four Questions:
1) Is it true?
2) Can you absolutely know it’s true?
3) How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought? Who you you become?
4) Who would you be without the thought?
After answering those questions, turn that thought around to make it positive. Then keep reminding yourself. Again and again.
For example, a thought I’ve had too many times to count over the past couple of years is that I will never feel completely well again. So, let’s take a look at the questions.
I will never feel completely well again.
1. Is it true? I don’t know.
2. Can I absolutely know it’s true? No.
3. Who do I become when I have that thought? Fearful, worried, stressed, and unable to enjoy myself.
4. Who would I be without that thought? Happier, less worried, and, well, carefree.
Turnaround statement: I feel pretty good now, and will continue to improve.
The questions are where the truth really lies for me – the answers are right there, staring me in the face. The turnaround statement is the way to keep me from ruminating on the negative thought. The minute I start telling myself that familiar story, I immediately replace with the turnaround.
I watched several peers work through some of their most stress-inducing thoughts with these questions this weekend and come out feeling completely empowered. Seeing things in a different light, so to speak. I watched eyes light up when they discovered their “turnaround” statement and said it out loud.
I hope you try it out when you feel trapped by one of your “stories.” Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we didn’t possess the ability to engage these thoughts? Which would you prefer—life with or without your bullshit story? Without? Then let’s get cracking on eliminating it for good.