Don’t believe everything you think

Do you believe your thoughts? If you’re anything like me, you probably do — especially the ones you think and obsess about most (i.e. the negative, critical ones). However, what if our thoughts aren’t true? In many cases, they’re not — they’re just stories we’ve made up over time and continue to perpetuate with our thinking, speaking and acting.

This past weekend, my wife Michelle and I went to a day long workshop with teacher and author Byron Katie. The workshop blew us both away. Katie (as she goes by) created a simple, but profound inquiry process more than 20 years ago called “The Work,” which consists of four questions and a turnaround.

To utilize “The Work” you identify a specific negative thought (a complaint, a judgment of another person or situation, or something you criticize about yourself) and then ask these four questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?

After you have investigated your statement with the four questions, you’re ready to turn around the concept you’re questioning. Each turnaround is an opportunity to experience the opposite of your original statement and see what you and the person, situation or characteristic you’ve judged actually have in common.

A statement can be turned around to the opposite, to the other and/or to the self. You then find a minimum of three genuine, specific examples of how each turnaround is true in your life.

For example, let’s say you have an issue with your friend Joe. Your statement might be, “My friend Joe is too critical of me.” If you turn this around, it could be: “My friend Joe is accepting of me,” or “I am too critical of Joe,” or “I am too critical in general.” Then you’d look for multiple examples of where each of these turnarounds are true in your life.

The idea with this process isn’t to make yourself wrong or to live in fantasy land, it is to consciously question reality. Most of what we deem to be real (especially when it causes us to suffer) is made up of negative ideas, beliefs, judgments and thoughts that we’ve come up with as a defense or justification. By questioning our truths, we expand our thinking and begin to see new possibilities. In other words, by not believing everything we think, we take back the power we often give away to our mind.

As I sat in the workshop and listened to Katie work with people one-on-one about some very intense circumstances and situations (grief, abuse, mistrust, guilt, conflict and more), I was amazed by the freedom they were able to experience by simply inquiring into their negative thoughts and questioning them with an open mind.

It made me realize how many of my own judgments, complaints and self criticisms go unchallenged and how I let my mind simply take over and run the show in certain areas of my life (especially the most stressful ones).

Not everything we think is true, thank goodness! The more willing we are to challenge our own thoughts and beliefs, the more peace and freedom we can create and experience in our work, our relationships and our lives.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach and the bestselling author of “Focus on the Good Stuff” (Wiley) and “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken” (Wiley). More info www.Mike-Robbins.com

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3 Responses to “Don’t believe everything you think”

  1. this4life Says:

    I agree with this, once upon a time after my parents were divorced I was put on antidepressants. My father, who has the same self critical abilities as me, had the same problems and followed after me with therapy and pills. I hated taking them, not because they made me feel any worse or any better, but because i wanted to be me on my own. I flushed them. My dad still takes them to this day. He claims genetic depression. I claim genetic self loathing, and with some help and a lot of stubbornness I found the tools necessary to help myself out of the emotional holes. I feel stronger for it.

    • organicmel Says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. It’s something I’m teaching myself at the moment is to only encourage positive thoughts. I really do believe that our childhoods can damage us, but we choose to continue the abuse to ourselves. If we are to change it is up to us.
      Well done for avoiding medication and empowering yourself.
      Blessings
      Mel 🙂

  2. ram0singhal Says:

    divine……there is no way to tell absolute truth or untruth…but one can feel…as one becomes more sensitive…….the analytic thinking power increases…..the balance of mind increases….we may not get challenged outside….self analysis is a process always continue with better understanding…..so nobody absolutely believe one is correct….always open to corrections……that is human quality…

    love all…


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