Imagine a Year Without “Stinkin’ Thinkin’”

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Could you have thinking patterns that get in the way of your success? With the New Year upon us, it’s an ideal time to do a thinking audit to detect what a dear friend of mine refers to as stinkin’ thinkin’. We’re all familiar with this type of thinking. It’s the result of our mental filters, self-talk and beliefs interacting with a paradoxical purpose…to actually protect us!

That’s right, our stinkin’ thinkin’ is often born from a self-protection mechanism gone a little haywire. To explain this point, I have to pull out some scripts from psychology. You see, we all have a survival instinct that is programmed into us. We all know this to be true when it comes to physical threats, but what about the emotional threats of rejection, humiliation, degradation, indignity and the like? This self-protective mechanism gets activated by these fears and immediately sets out to protect us from getting hurt. This stress response is very helpful in a fight-or-flight response to physical threats, but these emotional threats are often fabricated in our minds.

We’ve been programmed to go into a stress response when we fear getting emotionally hurt, as opposed to being threatened by physical harm. You might be reacting to a false belief that says, “I can’t handle emotional pain.” Consequently, you may find yourself fleeing a work or relationship situation or engaging in some other self-protective and self-sabotaging behavior. This is often a cause of procrastination or lack of focus. The mental pathways or “tapes” are playing the filters and responses over and over again. Rather than being a real physical threat, in reality the threat is coming from your false beliefs.

As we stand at the door of a new year, we must audit for these limiting beliefs, which are holding us back from reaching our personal and business potential for success. Once we are aware of these thinking patterns, we can begin to interrupt them through some reframing exercises. Simply flipping around statements we make about ourselves, others and our circumstances can tame the emotional warrior dead set on protecting you from self-fabricated emotional threats as though they were physical.

We all have those “tapes” playing in our heads, based on our past experiences. When we encounter a stimulus, we attach meaning to it, and based on that meaning, we respond accordingly. These thought patterns are like muscle memory, which serves us well in “normal” life by allowing us to do things like type, speak, tie our shoes or brush our teeth without thought.

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, “Recent research shows that we have between 45,000 and 65,000 thoughts per day and that 95% of the thinking patterns are the same as the day before.” To say we’re creatures of patterned thought would be an understatement. So what patterns do you have, and how do you change them?

It may help to illustrate this in terms of thinking cycles. We all go through thought cycles that lead to behaviors. Essentially, this pattern looks like this…

Trigger, Filters/Beliefs, Thinking/Meaing, Attitudes/Emotions, Actions/Behaviors, Results

So, just what are Limiting Beliefs Systems, affectionately labeled “BS”? Simply stated, they are the mental filters through which we see the world and ourselves. These filters are based on years of experience and interpretations we’ve placed on them. Take, for example, two brothers of an alcoholic and abusive parent. One turns out wonderful and the other is in jail. When asked how they ended up where they were, both respond by saying, “With a father like that, how could I end up any different?” Same self-talk but different meaning. The brother in jail may have had a “survivor” instinct to be just like his father to avoid the fears of being anything different or unfamiliar. The successful brother’s survival instinct was likely to run from the fear of being seen as his father. Both fears were legitimate, but without awareness of these fears, both men adapted the best they knew how.

My goal is to empower you to use this natural thinking cycle to your benefit by becoming more aware of how it works for or against you. Start by taking inventory of your results. Identify those you don’t particularly like and move up the cycle to see where reframing is needed. First, look at the positive results in your work and life. Move up the process to identify the behaviors driving success, the attitudes and emotions motivating the behaviors, and finally the beliefs and meanings you’re attaching to what you’re experiencing around it. These examples become positive examples of where you’ve been effective managing your thinking. Then look at the undesirable results. Again, start with the result and move your way up the stream of thought to see where you may need to consider a new way of seeing or attaching meaning to your experiences to create a healthier, happier and more successful outcome. Make 2014 your best year ever by training your brain for success!

Todd Mauney is founder and president of ROI Coaching Solutions, a boutique coaching consultancy offering tailored coaching solutions to privately held business owners in the financial and professional services industries. Prior to starting his own coaching firm, Todd co-founded ProAdvisor Coach and served as President until April of 2012.

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