It was quite a relief to learn that I’m not the only one with a little voice in my head that never seems to run out of things it thinks I need to hear. Most of the time it isn’t just one voice – it’s a chorus – a choir – a committee that seems to be on a mission to destroy my self-confidence. But where do these voices come from and more importantly – how do I turn them off?
Well, first let’s take a look at where they were born. We all come to adult-hood with a boatload of personal history; past experiences, cultural norms, family background, etc. that combine together to make up our mental programming. We, often unconsciously, allow these inputs to condition us into a way of being that, in turn, forms our personal bias, views and preconceptions. In a nutshell, this is our view of the world, the good, the bad and the ugly.
This platform gives birth to thoughts (or the voice in the head) which feeds into our feelings. The voice in the head says, “You never finish anything” and, left unchecked, you feel like a failure. You can mentally review every unfinished project, commitment, promise you’ve ever made throughout the course of your entire life. The more you review, the more the feeling is reinforced and the more real the narrative becomes.
And then what? Our feelings drive the actions we take – or don’t take. If it’s true that I never finish anything, I’m not likely to act on that new idea I have – after all, it will become yet another thing I tried and gave up on. And I’ll end up feeling even worse about myself. What’s the end result? Since I know I never finish anything, I’m afraid to try something new, so I stay stuck right where I am. And it all started with a voice telling me “You. Never. Finish. Anything.”
Thoughts become feelings.
Feelings drive actions.
Actions produce results.
Results are at the end of that chain. They are the visible symptoms of the root cause. If you want a different result you have to travel back up that ladder – you have to take different actions. Too often that’s where we focus – we tell ourselves we’re going to stop doing those things that create the results we don’t like! But you can’t stop doing what you’re doing without challenging the thought that gave birth to the feeling that drove the action in the first place.
It’s hard to change. If it was easy the self-help market wouldn’t exist. One way to change the thought – the voice in the head – is to refuse to give it a voice. When we speak them out we are agreeing with them and validating the story. The less we give voice to the thought, the less power it has. When we refrain from repeating the lie or, better yet, challenge it with a more realistic, positive version, we take control of the narrative. That’s how the change begins and the more intentional we are about breaking the cycle, the more powerful we become.
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