If you live in the United States, you’re probably sick right about now. No, not because of the cold weather, but because we’re a week away from a general election and the number of political ads on television, radio and the Internet is at an all-time high. No matter where you turn, you’re likely to see or hear an ad promoting (or bashing) a political candidate, referendum or party. It’s enough to make anyone a little queasy.
It’s no surprise then that a lot of people have learned to modify their own behavior during the last few weeks before the election. Many friends tell me they watch television with the remote control in hand, ready to change the channel at every break to avoid seeing the ads. Some friends have told me they are no longer answering the phone with the barrage of “robocalls” going out to registered voters. People have had enough and many are realizing they have a choice.
That choice is the conscious decision to tune out specific incoming—and annoying—data. It’s a choice to turn your attention to other things. This choice, however, doesn’t need to start and end with the election. We can apply the concept of choice to our own limiting thoughts and destructive fantasies; it just takes some time and practice.
Not just for politicians
We all have some limiting thoughts that vie for our attention (and for some people, more than a few). And like the early stages of an election, we tend to listen to and entertain those thoughts on a consistent basis. Those thoughts are usually born from fear, uncertainty, self-doubt, powerlessness or panic and they can be effective…if we let them. Sometimes the thoughts don’t even appear to be negative at all yet they can be limiting nonetheless. The same holds true with daydreams and fantasies: they can quickly turn to negative attacks on our wellbeing and growth.
The ego approves of this message
When we aren’t vigilant about our own thoughts and fantasies, we’re at the mercy of a negative advertising campaign sponsored by the ego. And like any good political campaign, the ego will pull out all the stops to get you to see things its way. The ego uses scare tactics, inflexible attitudes and harsh imagery to get your attention. And like a political candidate, the ego only wants what’s best for you. The ego means well—it really does. It simply isn’t used to looking at the world through any other window but its own.
The path to self-development starts with awareness, specifically of your own repetitive thoughts, emotions and mental imagery. It means taking note of those times when you are unhappy or that you are complaining or when you try to put too much physical or mental effort into a situation that simply won’t budge. It often takes time to realize these kinds of limiting thoughts but with a little investigation, you can see them plain as day.
Quite unknowingly, these types of limiting thoughts start to mimic political advertising. Before you know it, the thoughts are everywhere. The mental movies play in your head while you’re driving to work. Negative self-talk is whispering in your ear while you read a book. Sometimes the ego even enlists the invisible help of your friends and family when you suddenly hear a familiar voice spouting talking points in your brain over dinner.
So what next?
Once you’ve become aware of thoughts you don’t want, it’s time to start exercising your right to vote for something different. This is the right to change your mind by changing your focus and it requires as much diligence as changing the channel every time a political ad appears on TV.
Changing your focus can be accomplished several ways. For starters, acknowledge where you are. For example, when you catch yourself saying, “I’ll never be able to lose this extra weight,” first admit what you’re doing. Tell yourself, “That’s a limiting thought and it’s simply a statement based on my own thinking. I have a choice in the way I approach this weight loss challenge.” Okay, so maybe you won’t be so formal with yourself, but acknowledging that you are having a limiting thought is the best way to turn it around in your favor.
From there, you can try substituting the limiting thought with a positive one. Keeping with our example, “I am making healthy choices when I eat lunch and that’s a good first start to losing this weight.” In a similar fashion, stating the exact opposite is sometimes effective, too: “I am losing this extra weight.” That statement may not be true in this moment, so tell yourself that for right now, you will accept the statement as fact and a starting point for a new pattern.
Time for change (even small change)
For many of us (myself included), this is sometimes an incremental process with very slight adjustments that will add up to measureable success. As Esther Hicks and Abraham are fond of telling us, “sometimes it’s just a matter of reaching for a better feeling thought.” That’s excellent advice and one that I turn to frequently. That better feeling thought may be only a small shift (such as realizing your big toe feels good when the rest of your body is in pain) but it’s important to start the process.
Changing fantasies and mental imagery is also important when shifting to a new thought pattern. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else and frequently must reconstruct my drama-dreams into constructive-dreams. Too often I find myself acting out a negative or limiting thought pattern in my head with all the vividness of a Hollywood blockbuster. When I “wake up” and catch myself, I stop and consciously choose a new (happier) ending for that same movie.
What else is on?
When all else fails, one of the best techniques to utilize in thought-movement is simply to distract yourself with something else. Like changing the channel on the TV, look for other things to give your attention. Take a walk, read a book, or listen to some music. Engross yourself in housework or head to the grocery store—anything that gets your mind off of the limiting thought or situation can help calm your ego and give it something else to work on. A small warming, however: if you decide to call a friend, don’t let yourself get wrapped up in the thought or idea you’re trying to change. You have the choice to think a new thought and try a different approach. Use that new approach now.
Changing repetitive and limiting thoughts is a tough thing to do. It requires stepping out of your comfort zone and shedding the familiar thoughts you’ve come to know and accept (note I didn’t say “know and love”). Like those annoying political ads you keep hearing, you will eventually reach a saturation point with your limiting thoughts and know it’s time to take action. Turn the channel on your own thoughts and look for things that make you happy.
Elect to put new and better thoughts into your current awareness. It’s your choice…vote now. ;-p