How-to: 3 Surefire Ways to Change Your Negative Thinking Right Now and Have the Life You Want
When I was nearly killing myself, bottoming out on a steady diet of cocaine, cigarettes, handfuls of Ambien and bottles of Amstel Light, with the occasional vodka shot to round the medley out, I was convinced I needed those things in order to survive.
I didn’t think I could ever change.
It was only when I started thinking about suicide that I was willing to consider changing.
What I discovered, once I entered rehab and then a recovery program, was mind-blowing: turns out I it wasn’t just my convictions about chemicals I could change but my thinking about, in short, anything.
Talk about a high.
So how did I get there and how can you?
Step 1: Examine the labels that you were saddled with
Our formative years leave lasting bruises, in particular the things our parents say to us. My father told me over and over again—every single time I expressed a feeling, which was often—that I was a monster.
As an adult, I understand that he didn’t know how to handle my feelings.
As a child, I believed him.
Every time I cried and he told me I was a monster, I took it in.
In therapy, I was first able to uncover the fact that his label still ruled me and through years of untangling, I’ve separated myself from it.
Undoing this belief has taken years and frankly it rears its, er, monstrous head whenever I have a fight with someone. That’s when I have to talk myself down, to stop the “you’re a monster” thought with a quick “No, you’re expressing your feelings.”
This isn’t a snap-your-fingers-and-it’s-done process so much as a lifelong one.
Step 2: Look at your life from another perspective
For years, I was convinced that I wasn’t capable of having a healthy romantic relationship. The men I dated all seemed to be the same type…completely unstable actors or writers. They pushed and they pulled, telling me I was the love of their life one day and going emotionally or literally MIA the next.
Entire country albums could have been devoted to my love life.
I didn’t see what they did as a reflection of who they were. I saw their inconsistent and often cruel behavior as something that was caused by what I did. If I hadn’t been so needy. If I hadn’t expected so much. If I hadn’t called then. The “If I”’s piled up.
Once I was willing, after enough pain, to examine these relationships from another perspective, I saw that what they were doing had nothing to do with me (aside from the fact that I was choosing to engage with them). Once I realized that, this stopped being my “type.”
You can’t resent a zebra for having stripes. And you certainly shouldn’t blame yourself for painting those stripes on when you weren’t holding a paintbrush and you can’t paint on animals anyway.
It took stepping outside of my limited perspective to see that.
Step 3: Do the so-called cheesy visualization stuff
I, like many people, went through vision board phases after The Secret came out. I even hosted a vision board making group.
But I did it in a very half-assed way, cutting out ads from magazines and pictures of houses with charming porches until I’d filled a poster board with expressions like “Just Do It” and “Be All You Can Be” sandwiched between images of country houses I would never live in.
Sure, it was nice to look at but it didn’t change my life at all.
Then someone I knew told me that he made a vision board where he wrote a check to himself for the amount of money he wanted to make that year, dated it the last day of the year, stuck it on a vision board and stared at it every day of that year.
He made exactly that much money.
Once I heard that, I upped my vision board game significantly.
I’ve made vision boards on note cards that I’ve kept in the car so that I could pull them out at red lights when I might otherwise be tempted to look at my phone.
I’ve created different vision boards for career and personal life.
I’ve experimented with doing jumping jacks while staring at a vision board to see if feeling my blood pumping through my veins made me able to feel the impact of my desires more.
My current career one is somewhere between a to do list for the year and a collage; it contains images of all the projects I’m working on, with the months they’ll happen next to them and the numbers I want to hit for each project.
According to a Dominican University study, we’re 42% more likely to achieve our goals if we write them down. Can you imagine how much more likely we are if we make the goals and plans into something of an art piece and look at it every day?
Call me woo-woo if you want. Tell me I’ve lived in LA too long. Both may be true. But here’s another truth: since I started doing this, there’s nothing I haven’t been able to do.
The same can be true for you, too.