Tame your intrusive thoughts

“The stream of thinking has enormous momentum that can easily drag you along with it. Every thought pretends that it matters so much. It wants to draw your attention in completely.” – E.Tolle

Thoughts are those subjective pictures, sounds and words — and the beliefs, associations, interpretations, opinions and meanings that pass through our mind or hold our attention. Thoughts arise of their own accord and everyday we experience thousands of thoughts and they are the background noise of our inner mental landscape. Whether positive or negative these thoughts clutter your minds, just like your house gets cluttered when you have too many possessions. Unfortunately clearing your mental clutter isn’t as simple as eliminating a possession. You cant throw away a thought. Your thoughts have a way of popping back up as you turn them down especially the disturbing ones.

When unwanted thoughts get your conscious attention, they manifest as moods, emotions, desires, impulses and influence your behaviour. Most of them are unhelpful that are intrusive, involuntary and negative in nature. Such random and problematic intrusive thoughts interfere with your clear thinking, distort your reality, control your moods or limit your potential self.

Being controlled by unpleasant or intrusive thoughts which pop into your mind can result in thought disturbances that are hard to manage. According to a research, most people are mind wavering 47% of their day. Mind wavering can be largely attributed to thought disturbances. However, struggling with, arguing with, trying to drown out or push away such unhelpful thoughts only amplifies them and you may find it difficult to get past such thoughts.

Why are some thoughts intrusive?

Some of our thoughts take the form of fear of the future, or negative memories of the past, or inappropriate that are unhelpful and unpleasant. They seem to appear out of almost no where and cause a great deal of anxiety. Intrusive thoughts are reinforced when you get entangled with them creating doubts about your decisions or your identity or safety. If not managed well, they can cause much distress and they may even lead to certain obsessive behaviours and can negatively impact your well-being.

Are intrusive thoughts normal?

You cannot will yourself not to think any such thoughts or to keep them out of your mind. Eventually thoughts like that drift back into your mind and rise to the surface. Having such thoughts is absolutely normal and many experience unwanted thoughts on a daily basis, but fixating or believing in them or getting controlled by them leads to problems and may cause unhealthy or dysfunctional behaviours. Because of the content of such thoughts is mostly alien or unacceptable and is at odds with who you are, they make you anxious. One of the common myth is that having such thoughts mean that you unconsciously want to do the things that come into your mind. This is not true and in fact trying to fight or avoiding them only ends up in reinforcing them. Knowing how to deal with invasive thoughts can be the key to prevent them from negatively impacting your normal functioning.

How to tame your intrusive thoughts…

Do you ever worry with your thoughts of such intrusive or obsessive nature? You would have noticed that the harder you try to suppress or to distract or substitute such thoughts, the more you tend to get caught up in them. Learning to deal with them effectively can reduce your fearful and negative reaction towards them but also reduces your over sensitivity towards such thoughts. Here is how you can tame your intrusive thoughts.

Accept your intrusive thoughts

Many of us avoid them because we are afraid of negative, fearful, unpleasant, disgusting thoughts; afraid of mental impulses. We tend to avoid intrusive thoughts because we don’t know how to deal with them. An emotional reaction to how you think just keeps them alive. This means that they will appear over and over until you do actually deal with them. Treating them real or avoiding them or trying to change your behaviour based on such thoughts only leads to a compulsive behaviour. You should learn the fact that sometimes the content of such thoughts is meaningless and irrelevant.

Instead of reacting to them as though they are real, Accept them and tell yourself the truth that they have no intrinsic reality and you aren’t purposefully thinking the thought and it doesn’t represent you. Accepting them stops you to react negatively to intrusive thoughts.

Practice ‘cognitive diffusion’

You have a choice in how you choose to respond to intrusive thoughts. This is possible when you are able to identify intrusive thought patterns that end up creating negative emotions or feelings. Here are certain patterns to help you recognise your unhelpful thoughts.

• Thoughts of imagined future or expecting bad things lead you to what-if scenarios causing fear, anxiety and worry.

• Focusing on your weaknesses or perceived flaws results in thoughts of not being good enough. Such patterns often increase your negative self-talk and self-criticism.

• Dwelling on your bad choices and wrong actions leads to thoughts of worthlessness and ruminating over your past mistakes creates thoughts of shame and guilt.

• Habit of lamenting in your sorrows and problems makes you fixate in thoughts based on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. This leads to frustration and wishing things were different.

Stepping back from your repetitive and unhelpful intrusive thoughts, by recognising and identifying them is the process of cognitive diffusion. When you are fused with your thoughts, you tend to believe and take them seriously as you buy into them, obey them and play them out. But by learning to see the thoughts simply as they are — as thoughts and not reality, you can step back into cognitive diffusion. You can hold on to them lightly and do not take your thoughts seriously. You only listen to them if you find them helpful or valuable. Being aware of unhelpful thought patterns when they arise will help you to not to get entangled in and they lose their power to generate unpleasant emotions.

Label your intrusive thoughts

In order not to get stuck in some of your negative thought patterns, it is important to name your thought. When an unhelpful thought pattern arises, simply labelling it mentally can reduce your reaction.

Intrusive thoughts are mostly repetitive and involve certain story lines. When an unhelpful thought comes up with a story line, try to label and let it go without giving much attention to it. It’s just a thought and not reality. Try and open your awareness to yourself and world around. As soon as you name your thought, you step back from being caught up in it and you stop being drawn into the negativity it creates. When you are mentally labelling your thoughts as ‘anxious’ or ‘fearful’ or ‘worrisome’, make sure you do so with compassion and not with aggression or frustration. This helps you to reflect on them with a positive perspective and respond to them peacefully.

Develop present moment awareness

Another effective way to deal with your intrusive thoughts is to bring back your awareness to the present moment. Paying attention to your present moment can get you out of your excessive unhelpful thinking and can ease you out of the internal noise so created. Bringing all your attention to your senses can calm your mind and grounds you in the present moment. In this way, little to no room is left in your attention for all that unwanted and unhelpful thoughts that are intrusive in nature. Being mindful of the present moment brings you back from mind wandering when you get lost in your old habits, beliefs, and negative reaction patterns. Through mindfulness, you build your capacity to change the contents of your thoughts to ‘present’ rather than about a remembered past or anticipated future.

Question your intrusive thoughts

As human beings, we have an inherent negativity bias, with our mental chatter being skewed more towards the negative rather than positive. So despite everything, certain intrusive thoughts can continue to have grip on you. In such cases, you can test reality of your thoughts by asking some helpful questions like ‘Am I creating negative interpretations?’ ‘Is my thought helpful?’ ‘What is the evidence for and against my thinking?’ ‘What is the best part of this situation or person?’ ‘Am I filtering out the positive and dwelling on the negative?’ This way, you can focus on constructive thoughts or actions and can try and find a positive. Doing a goal-directed thinking can also help you see things in a different perspective.

Conclusion

We cannot consistently think only positive thoughts because you cannot control your thoughts but only your response to them. In fact, despite all the efforts, intrusive thoughts float through your mind and rise to the surface. It is absolutely normal for you to experience unhelpful, or unpleasant thoughts from time to time. Even though they make you anxious and uncomfortable, there is no quick fix method to control or quite your thoughts in any lasting way. But by practicing above mentioned strategies, you can, however, tame them and redirect your attention towards positive by not letting them control or giving into them. With a little practice and persistence, you can untangle yourself from unhelpful intrusive thought patterns and can change your focus to more meaningful.

“You don’t have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop letting them control you.”

Develop a positive self-perception

“A strong positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success” – Dr. Joyce brothers

No matter how intelligent, attractive, or talented you may be — to the degree you doubt your worthiness you tend to sabotage your efforts in achieving your goals. Your sense of self-worth is related to your perception of yourself. Your self-perception depends on knowing who you are, what you are like, and what you are capable of. Self-perception goes beyond positive self-esteem, and also involves your shortcomings, problem areas and shapes your life by creating tendencies. Like for instance, If you feel worthy and deserving, you tend to make productive choices and if you feel unworthy and undeserving, you tend to make destructive or limiting choices. When you do your self-assessment with your perceived worth, you have self-perception problems because your emotions or misconceptions lead you to false choices and sometimes to wrong conclusions. Adjusting your self-perception can improve your circumstances by changing the choices you make and the actions you take.

Self-perception problems takes many forms, such as engaging in self discriminating behaviour or undermining your health, success, or lowering your self-esteem. The moment we recognise the degree to which our problems are self-imposed, we begin to solve these problems by taking responsibility for the choices and actions that caused it. One of the most important measure you can take is to become aware of how your self-perception or self-image has shaped your existence and how you can transcend it. We each have the ability to achieve greatness. But sometimes this requires reframing your self-messaging to recognise your potential.

“You must have a positive self perception in order to transcend anything.” – Steve Maraboli

What is self-perception?

Self-perception is the personal view, or mental picture that we have of ourselves. It describes the characteristics of self, including how we think and feel, based on our physical appearance, intelligence, talents and performance. These characteristics form an internal dictionary of our strengths and weaknesses. Based on these, we tend to assign labels to our personal self and form conclusions about our image like for instance, I am intelligent…therefore I am…, or I am a failure.. therefore I believe I cannot…It is through these conclusions, our self-perception becomes either positive or negative.

How is self-perception developed?

Self-perception is mostly a product of our experiences. Factors like religion,culture, environment, friends and peers have a major influence on our self-perception. Our experience with others and world around add to our perception. Relationships and family influence what we think and feel about ourselves. The perception of our self may be a real or distorted view of who we really are. Based on this view, we develop either positive or negative self-perception. We continually take into and evaluate ourselves based on our appearance, relationship, and performance.

We all begin our life with a complete, natural sense of worth, but as we grow, we serve as our own judge, or get heavily influenced by others’ opinions and start to validate or negate how we perceive ourselves. As a result, we constantly strive to live up to societal expectations and compare ourselves to others. When we fail to measure up, we give rise to doubt, pessimism thereby eventually discouraging ourselves and end up in self-sabotaging our own efforts and talents. If your self-perception depends on external factors, it results in negative self-worth.

On the other hand, if your self-perception is based on your personal perspective, and not on societal expectations, you will have a more positive self-perception.

Importance of self-perception

Self-perception is important because how we perceive ourselves affects how we feel and think about ourselves and how we interact with others and the world around us. A positive self-perception boosts our physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. On the other hand, having wrong self-perception leads to low self-worth and you end up focusing more on your faults, weaknesses, failure and imperfections. This results in constant self-criticism and your imperfections blown out of proportion. With a positive perception, you recognise your strengths and full potential while being realistic about your limitations.

How can you develop an accurate perception of yourself

Self-perception is not permanent and keeps changing according to our experiences. Our perceptions of ourselves will never be that perfect. However many times, we fail to perceive ourselves accurately and as a result we fail at reaching our full potential and decreases our satisfaction and ability to function in certain areas of our life. If you don’t think you can go after your dreams, passions, or you’re worried you can’t change your negative behaviour, or simply you lack confidence, the problem might not be your situation, but just your perception of yourself. You can learn to develop a more positive and accurate view of yourself by challenging the distortions of your thinking. Here is how you can develop a more positive perception of yourself.

Rely on your self-awareness

First step in fixing your perception of yourself is to identify how you see yourself. Develop an awareness of who you are and your strengths and weaknesses. Answering certain questions like what defines your true self and how you see yourself will reveal a realistic perspective and you can get to know your strengths and also gives you an opportunity to work on your weaknesses. Acceptance of your weaknesses or flaws is an important step to work on them over time. Relying on your own awareness and not being influenced by others’ opinion not only gives you a greater sense of control over yourself but also a realistic view of your abilities.

Confront your thinking distortions

Your perception of yourself is primarily based on your personal feelings, emotions, and perspectives. To get an understanding of your thinking distortion’s, notice your critical voice, unhelpful thoughts and limiting beliefs. Notice your inner dialogue. Are your thoughts mostly critical or encouraging?Are your thoughts helpful or unhelpful when things go wrong? How do your thoughts tends to distort your reality? How do you label yourself? Are your labels helpful or unhelpful in achieving your goals? Are your thoughts rational? What assumptions do you tend to make about yourself? Working through these will help you confront your unhelpful, distorted thoughts, beliefs and incorrect assumptions. If you notice that you are overly critical of yourself and your thoughts are unhelpful and negative, then it’s important to work through these areas in order to overcome your negative self-perception.

Focus on positive attitudes

You don’t need to be perfect, in fact if you can learn from your mistakes and failures, and view them as learning experience, you can shift your perception from negative to positive. If you can stop judging your mistakes so harshly, you can stop yourself from falling into self-defeating cycles and from negatively engaging in negative behaviours. By focusing on your strengths, you can review your mistakes and embrace challenges to perceive yourself as more able and competent.

Don’t Rely on external validation

Allowing others to define you will allow others to shape your attitudes, perception and opinions. If you depend on external validation, you are always comparing and trying to live up to expectations of others. You alone can change your self-perception to positive based on your own representation of yourself and not on others definition of you. This can happen by accepting who you are and taking responsibility of your thoughts and choices. This enables you to have an optimistic outlook and more confidence in yourself and in your own ability.

Stop self-criticism

The desire to be perfect creates anxiety and sometimes leads to self-criticism. When you indulge in self-criticism, your inner-critic takes over thereby creating a negative perception of yourself. However constructive criticism can be helpful providing optimism and motivation. But if your self-talk is making you feel helpless and hurting your confidence, then instead of criticising yourself, choose to give yourself a honest feedback that will provide you an opportunity to improve and will help you build a positive self-image.

Follow your passions

Finally, define your personal goals and objectives. What are your strengths? What goals are you passionate about achieving? How can you live with more meaning and purpose? Following your passions and purpose will replace the negative beliefs you carry about yourself. You can add all the positive layers to form a definite and a positive image of yourself. Take credit for your accomplishments and strengthen your worthiness despite others opinion.

Conclusion

By perceiving yourself valuable, you can create your own definition of who you are. A positive self-perception is all about how you see yourself without external influences and embracing your true self. Overcoming negative self-perception requires conscious effort and consistency. Follow the above mentioned suggestions to develop a positive and a more accurate view of yourself. Acknowledge your strengths and live with innate self-worth.

What we perceive about ourselves is greatly a reflection of how we will end up living our lives.” – Stephen Richards

Related Links

https://sscascades.org/2018/08/10/harness-the-power-of-what-is/

https://sscascades.org/2018/05/23/practice-self-appreciation/

Access your inner guidance

“The really valuable thing is intuition. The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.”

– Albert Einstein

The routines of everyday life—the same rituals in the home or work place—don’t make big demands on our decision-making capacities. But when making decisions under pressure, or choosing between solutions, or while making important choices about a career direction, many of us feel ill equipped to make the right choice. This is because most of us developed logic and reasoning skills through education and learned only to think rather than feel our way through life. So we navigate through life using only our logical left brains as a compass thereby undervaluing the intuitive capacities of our right brain. Most often our intuition capacities remain unappreciated and are largely left unused.

Many of us are hesitant about going with our gut instincts because we believe that they are uncertain. We fail to recognise that intuition serves as a means of self-expression. Whenever you experienced the feeling that something in a situation wasn’t right, then you’ve experienced intuition. Same way, if you ever experienced a situation where everything did seem to come together or right, that is also your intuition.

Why is ‘intuition’ important?

Learning to access your intuitive intelligence is important because of the expanse of information that is available with countless data, opinions, and endless expert advice telling you what you should do. With information coming from all directions, it becomes even more important to rely on your inner guidance system to make good choices and decisions that will guide you towards your best interests.

Research shows that accessing your intuitive capacities is one way to unleash your creativity. Learning to trust your intuition not only helps you in making better decisions but also boosts your creativity, guidance, clarity and confidence. You cannot always consciously rationalise every choice you make. Sometimes you have to go with your instincts, especially when you feel strongly about something. When faced with making tough choices, trusting your instincts can steer you in the right direction and can be a reliable guide in your decision-making process and you will be able to make well-informed decisions. By accessing your intuitional capacities, you will be able to find solutions more easily and be able to develop a complete and a broader perspective of issues outside of yourself.

Understanding ‘intuition’..

Intuition is not what most people think it is; it is not what we think. It comes from a different side of the brain from that of logic and is defined as the ability to understand something instinctively without the need for conscious reasoning. The ability to understand something, without having to consciously process it, or to rationalise to make sense of it. It is a deep down or subconscious understanding to what we mostly refer to as gut feeling. It is an instinctive response to something that you immediately know, identify, or recognise with.

You probably use or access your intuition on a regular basis without being fully aware of it like for instance,

• when you have to make a decision or a choice and weigh the pros and cons, and are still confused or uncertain, and are at crossroads of your decision-making process.

• when there is too much information to digest consciously in a situation, you tend to go with an option that fits with your intuition rather than the guidance of others.

• When you don’t have enough time to rationalise a probability thoroughly, you resort to an instinctive action.

The intuitive process differs from person to person influenced by factors like their personality, attitude, their environment, culture, and other situations. Your intuitiveness tends to be more aligned with your subconscious of which your reasoning mind is unaware as your intuition depends on the collection of all your subconscious experiences.

So, what impedes your intuitiveness?

We all can access our intuitive capacities. But it depends on how you develop your intuitiveness and stay in tune with it and make it to work. Some factors can impede your ability to access your inner guidance during your decision-making and may let the logical mind control your thoughts and actions. Here are some such factors:

• Your intuitive capacities are fully intact but often hidden behind screen of logic and reasoning. Logic interferes with intuition.

Lack of focus Often, intuitive messages are drowned by all the noise and activities that are going on in and around you. With distractions you cannot access your true feelings, thoughts and words.

Lack of awareness of your surroundings and insight prevents you to get in touch with your intuitiveness. Your inner sense impressions most often come to you through one of your five senses. And the lack of awareness of your mental filters and learning to perceive reality objectively makes your intuition distorted.

• You will not be able to access your inner guidance by being fast-paced. The subtle messages go unnoticed and aren’t available to those who has the free attention to notice them.

• You can’t live Intuitively if you have an unhealthy emotional state. If you constantly compare yourself to others, or worry, or stressed, or exhausted, your will end up interpreting your intuition wrongly.

How to improve your intuitiveness?

“Intuition does not come to an unprepared mind.”- Albert Einstein

While making important decisions, we often face difficulty as we rely on only on our conscious mind and get lost weighing many options and variables. The left brain has knowledge, but without the intuitive wisdom of the right brain every decision comes out half-baked. By establishing a cooperative relationship between your conscious and subconscious, you can tune into your intuitiveness to make better decisions. Here are certain ways to access your inner guidance and to improve your intuitive capabilities.

Let go of logic

In order to begin accessing and trusting your intuitive powers, you need to stop being so reasonable and let go of logic sometimes. Logical mind dominates and devalues the intuitive messages and logical thinking distances you from using what you already intuitively know to navigate through certain situations. Use both logic and intuition, but not at the same time.

Trust your intuitive messages

If you have some idea you believe in, don’t listen to the croaking chorus. Listen only to what your own inner voice tells you.” – Daniel Carnegie

Believing in your ability to access and understand the messages can help you make better decisions. Trusting your intuition is a way of listening to your basic self through your physical senses and emotions. The better you can see, feel, or hear the inner guidance, the better equipped you will be in accessing your intuitiveness. Have the willingness to trust your instincts, when you feel uncertain or doubtful.

Make time to reflect and relax

You must be receptive, passive and open to notice subtle things that pop up. The more relaxed you are, the more your usually dominant, logical left brain steps back and your intuitive capacities come forward. To access your inner guidance, you have to make time to reflect on your experiences. Reflecting on the past experiences can give you a more objective view of things and makes you more aware of your negative emotions that might be preventing you from picking up intuitiveness of your subconscious.

Apply intuitive perspective

You may sometimes lack sufficient perspective to make a clear decision. How can you know the consequences of a decision ten years from now? you cannot know. But you can gain an intuitive perspective by using your imagination into the future. This enables you to apply intuitive wisdom to a decision by anticipating the future consequences of that decision rather than looking only from view-point of present. Asking questions that are aligned with your goals and seeking answers to them can raise your intuitive perspective.

Believe in your higher self

Intuition must ultimately rely on faith, because your inner guidance does not necessarily lead to risk-free decisions. Sometimes your intuition guides you onto a difficult path. But this doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision. Believing in your higher self can teach you to deal with difficulties and evolve in the process.

Finally, Intuitiveness can’t flourish in a busy environment. To access your inner guidance, you have to build in time in your schedule to meditate. In a meditative state, you can gain awareness and let go of your negative thoughts attuning you to clarity. This will make room for your inner voice and can lead to decisions that result in better outcomes.

“ When we consciously breathe, we connect to the present moment. This is when we are most in alignment with our intuition.”

Conclusion

Intuition is not about certainty. It is about trusting and having the courage to treat everything that happens as exactly what you need for your highest good and learning. With the inner guidance you will be able to navigate any situation with a sense of joy and ease. It may not tell you what you want to hear, but it will tell you what you need to do, can be a reliable guide and can be something that is worth following in your everyday lives.

“Follow your instinct. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” – Oprah Winfrey

Are you distracted by ‘busyness’?

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants, the question is, what are we busy about?” —Henry David Thoreau

Time is the greatest opportunity in our life among all. Those who utilise it well are the successful ones. Almost everyone these days have too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done. Most of us do lot of things which make you seem busy in a public manner like answering mails at all hours, or scheduling and attending meetings constantly, or instant messaging when someone poses a new question and so on. For many, there’s a comfort in such artificial ‘busyness’ of fast e-mail messaging and social media posturing, while actual work demands that you leave much of that behind. In such cases, your ‘busyness’ becomes proxy to your efforts in doing productive work. Such unproductive busyness leaves you discontent as there are always certain aspects that could be done better thereby forcing you to confront the possibility that your best is not that good.

Being ‘busy’ is not same thing as being ‘productive’

We find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. While many might be logging in long hours at work, or at home, but the same might not always end up in doing quality work. Because of this we often feel that we spending a lot of time on something, but don’t feel like been productive enough. One main reason for this could be the most important tasks are usually a bit more difficult and require more of our attention, time and focus. But most of the time, we get so caught up in the day-to-day distractions or ‘busyness’ of life and give either more or less attention to things than they deserve and lose the sense of being in control. We often cite the reason of being busy for postponing some of our important tasks. This habit of putting off important tasks on the back burner can rob you of your hours of achievement and success.

Think about the last time you felt highly productive. In productive state, you remain highly focused on what you are doing and make a noticeable progress towards a meaningful outcome. Whereas with ‘busyness’, you start to feel out of control, unfocused, confused and stressed out. The inability to manage your time properly leads to additional stress related issues and burnouts very early on. In the absence of clear goals, the visible busyness becomes self-preserving, and developing a belief that if a behaviour relates to being busy, then it’s good-regardless of its impact on our ability to produce valuable things. All of the social, digital, and societal trends only add to one’s busyness and do not directly add to the value of quality work one produces. With unmindful busyness,

• You waste time on doing unimportant tasks that could be used productively.

• It creates unnecessary anxiety as you put off the important tasks to later.

• It impedes your clarity and focus.

• By leaving little time for the important task, the final output is usually short of what you are really capable of.

• You cannot adopt to changing situations as busyness impacts your perspective of what’s really going on.

• You cannot plan on sticking to your deadlines for your projects.

• Leads to flawed thinking and distracted behaviours.

“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.” –John C.Maxwell

How to overcome ‘busyness’ to become more productive

But if you’re willing to sidestep these comforts and fears, and instead deploy your attention to its fullest capacity to things that matter, then you’ll discover that you can create a life rich with productivity and meaning. To overcome ‘busyness’, one has to manage his/her time effectively to work on priorities. Making optimal use of time helps you in curbing the stress and burnouts. If you spend significant amount of time towards professional aspirations and goals, learning how to use that time optimally will help you achieve positive outcomes.

Here are certain strategies to overcome your busyness and become more productive.

Put first things first

Because of the busyness, we always have a reason to put off the important things. What fills up our time is a result of what we let into our days. When you don’t choose important things, your days automatically get filled with not so important ones. Prioritising helps you in making right choices. In order to rise above ‘busyness’, you have to know what your purpose is and should be able to define your goals. Before doing something, consider asking yourself

whether the tasks you are working on are important for your end goals. Unless you consciously take time out for your priorities, you will not be able to accomplish goals that are important to you. Start your day with a “To do list” and prioritise the vital few after picking them from the trivial many.

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. — Saint Francis of Assisi

Avoid multitasking

We find that more we do, the more we add up to our to-do-task list and end up in multitasking. Multitasking has become a part of life for many of us where we believe that this is a way to be more productive. Science reveals that our brains actually can’t handle doing more than one thing at a time. With multitasking, your attention remains divided as there will be a residue of your attention when you switch from one task to another. This leads to poor performance. Whereas by working on a single hard task for a long time without switching, you can overcome non-productive busyness and can also maximise your performance.

Reduce your distractions

Many are permanently tethered to their work day in and day out, dealing with trends like answering emails at all hours, instant messaging, and active presence on social media. Of course certain mediums offer benefits to your social life, but none are important enough to what really matters to you. Always trying to catchup can claim your attention and time adding to only to your ‘busyness’ and not in producing work of real value. Learn to reduce your reactiveness to these distractions. Identifying factors that side track and deter you from achieving the task at hand. Consider blocking or create blackout periods over a day to free up your time. Try and fill up your free time with something of more quality and meaningful.

Delegate

Many times we get drowned in the details instead if focusing on micro and macro. Details are important, but only those that will affect your end goal. You only have a limited amount of time a day. The end goal is to accomplish your task efficiently by way of optimal use of your time. If a particular task is taking too much of your time and it’s not the most important part of your work, delegating it to right people can help you overcome your ‘busyness’. Once you do this, ensure you trust the person and provide them enough room to get the job done. Using the right people, tools, and resources to is important in doing so.

Focus on being effective

Improve your overall quality, rather than trying to tick everything off your to-do list. It is important to understand when to say no by asking whether are these tasks necessary. If you say yes to everything, you find your schedules with things that keep you busy but don’t make you productive. Once you have set out to achieve your important tasks, ensure you say no to disallow things that hamper your productivity. Saying yes to the wrong things, even if they are small will eventually take up your time later on and add to your busyness’. Saying no to unimportant things will protect your time so that you can use it for the things that matter.

“If you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying no.”

Schedule your day

Many of us spend much of our day on autopilot—not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time. Because of this, it’s difficult to prevent the trivial from creeping into every corner of our schedule. But by scheduling your day, you can determine how many hours you’re spending in doing quality work.

Scheduling your tasks for the day helps you plan your work goals and removes the risk of losing out on important tasks. Doing this at the beginning of the day can get you more organised. If your schedule is disrupted, you should at the next available moment, create a revised schedule for the time that remains in your day. This will give you a careful gauge in your efforts and you can discover pockets of free time that go wasted.

Relax & Unwind

Unproductive ‘busyness’ often leaves you exhausted, bad tempered and stressed. You fail to gather momentum for next days’s work unless you recharge yourself. Once you are out of your working hours, inculcate unwinding yourself. The impact of unwinding is often underestimated and we fail to recognise that our minds need a downtime as well. Our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax says David Allen in his book “Deep Work”. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts organised can we achieve effective results and unleash our maximum potential. Mindfulness practice is a perfect antidote for ‘busyness.’ Taking some time to practice being in the moment helps you connect with your inner self and reduces feelings of tiredness and stress thereby creating space for you to become creative and productive.

Apply outcome thinking

You can’t really decide the right action until you know the outcome you’re after, and if your outcome is disconnected from reality if you are not clear about what you need to do to make it happen. Setting Goals or desired outcomes creates a cause-and-effect link in your mind about when certain goal-relevant actions will be taken. When you make plans ahead of time and decide what actions will be carried out, you can engage in doing productive work instead of being bogged down by unimportant tasks. Setting goals provides sufficient direction to move you toward your outcome rather than wasting your time in unproductive ‘busyness.’

Adopt next-action approach

Most of the times too many discussions in workplaces end with only a vague sense that people know what they are going to do. But without a clear decision that there is a next action, not much is accomplished. Forcing the decision about the next action prevents those issues that are important from slipping away thereby providing more clarity. Walking away from discussions with clarity of outcome makes each member involved in your discussions more responsible about the specific job assigned to them. This also reduces anxiety of undecided actions and increases your productivity.

Finally, Be willing to change your unproductive busy habits to do something more meaningful and productive work.

when you take up tasks, asking yourself,

“What does this mean to me” Or “ what’s the desired outcome?” “What are the pros and cons?” lets you identify things that aren’t necessary. This way you can align yourself to be productive instead of engaging yourself with everything that comes your way.

Conclusion

Are the tasks you are busy with right now add to your life’s purpose? Or are you being the victim of distractions and social trends? or can you find better and organised ways to do your tasks?

If you want to focus without distraction, achieve more in less time and be better at what you do, apply the above mentioned strategies. Getting past the unproductive busyness of your life not only helps you to become more productive but also provides a sense of fulfilment and gives your mind something to do meaningful.

Reframe your limiting beliefs

Most of the times, we are open about our physical health, but how often do we seriously consider our mental well-being?

Many of us lead busy, often hectic lives, so it is easy to experience certain levels of stress and anxiety that have an adverse impact on our thoughts, efficiency, emotional well-being and overall health.

Thinking is basically a mental process; which helps one define, organise, plan, learn, reflect and create experiences. In-fact human beings think at the rate of 1300 to 1800 words per minute according to a study. This explains why our mind wanders even when we are listening to others. One’s mind has all kinds of fleeting thoughts passing at any particular time. Day to day stressors add on to the kind of thoughts we have and are also one of the reason of we having unpleasant and irrational thoughts that don’t serve us any purpose.

Thoughts on their own will not affect one’s destiny, but if one spends time dwelling upon the unpleasant thoughts, surely then they impact one’s life in every kind of way. The prolonged periods of unpleasant mental state can be detrimental to your mental health and hinder you from performing to your maximum potential. So a lot depends on your ability to think correctly in certain stressful situations and unexpected life situations. Correct thinking is only possible if done so consciously and on purpose. Most of the times it is your beliefs that influence how you think. When you hold on to certain beliefs that don’t serve your interest or values, they give rise to unpleasantness which in turn hurts your ability to be rational, happy and successful.

Your beliefs shape your thoughts

Your beliefs have an impact on how you think, feel and act most of the time. The emotions we feel and the behaviours that arise from emotions are due to the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, people and environment around. Our beliefs shape our interpretations and how we evaluate certain situations and occasionally, due to certain limited beliefs we hold of ourselves, our thoughts can be distorted, biased, or negative thereby giving rise to irrational thought patterns and negative moods.

Because of such irrational thought patterns, we interpret the facts through a distorted perspective and create the impression that imaginary scenarios represent actual facts. If you hold onto negative beliefs, you tend to worry about things that are unlikely to happen. Such biased thinking affects your communication with others, your emotional/ mental well-being as well as your perceptions. Inability to perceive reality accurately leads to errors in your thinking and causes cognitive bias. These biases make you think in a very exaggerated and irrational ways, causing fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Because one’s thinking is so firmly associated with one’s beliefs, it’s not easy to change one’s thinking pattern unless you put in the required work to reframe your limited beliefs.

So, how do you deal with your irrational thinking?

Our minds constantly create narratives as they are pattern making machines. We always like to process facts through our minds and build association that seem to have a logic or rationale behind them. In doing so, we become victims of certain beliefs that aren’t logical, rational, or accurate representation of facts. This is one of the reason why we think in an exaggerated and irrational way about ourselves at times by giving into our negative beliefs. In some ways, our brains get wired to make these errors every now and then making ‘distorted’ or ‘faulty’ thinking patterns.

It is possible to modify your irrational thought patterns by being able to recognise what you are perceiving, assuming, and expecting. Being aware of your irrational thoughts and learning to reframe or restructure them with rational thoughts can be helpful especially when you are in situations that cause anxiety or depression or stress. It is important to learn that situations are not always the cause of our irrational thinking, but it is the way we perceive and interpret the situations. Interpreting the relevant facts of the situation effectively to come to rational conclusions can help in eliminating some of your false assumptions about yourself.

By restructuring your thoughts and reframing the way you interpret a situation, you can deal with your irrational thoughts and slowly make progress towards rational thoughts that are more empowering.

How to reframe your irrational thoughts and limiting beliefs ?

The essential idea behind reframing is that a point of view depends on the frame it is viewed in. When the frame is shifted, the meaning changes and thinking and behaviour change along with it. Cognitive restructuring or reframing helps in observing, identifying and modifying irrational thoughts to rational thoughts and negative mental patterns to positive ones. By reframing, you can think constructively and can practice accurate thinking. You can reframe your limited beliefs to new beliefs that better serves you and your goals. Constructive reframing also helps in overcoming certain mood disorders, anxiety, stress or depression. It is about reorganising thoughts, ideas, awarenesses into correct perspective and putting them into practice. Here are some ways to practice cognitive reframing of your limited beliefs.

Familiarise yourself with cognitive errors

When you learn to familiarise yourself with certain errors in your thinking and cognitive biases, you can challenge your limiting beliefs and eliminate negative thoughts. Here are some examples of cognitive errors which leads to irrational thinking.

• Downplaying the importance of a positive thought or emotion or event thereby magnifying the negatives like “useless”, “ failure”, or “inadequate.”

• Drawing conclusions when there is little or no evidence or on the basis of perceptions and not on real facts.

• “Making mountain of a molehill” Blowing things out of proportion.

• Using words like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘everyone’, ‘all’, ‘nobody’, etc.,

• Emotional reasoning – concluding that your emotional reaction proves something true, regardless of the observed facts.

Perfectionism – Thinking that you always have to be perfect, sating “should”, or “ must.”

• Thinking there are only two possibilities, when there may be other alternatives you haven’t considered.

Overgeneralisation – making conclusions based on a single event.

• Attributing personal responsibility for events which aren’t under your control.

• Thinking in extremes like “black-and-white” or “all-or-nothing thinking” (all good or all bad with no middle ground)

Practice noticing when you have these distortions in your thinking and ask yourself what other ways you could think. By being aware of these errors and reframing them can help you overcome your limited beliefs.

Challenge your irrational thoughts

Identify the thoughts that are of wrong perceptions and assumptions. Sometimes emotions make it difficult for you to think logically. The beliefs that we hold change how we manage our day-to-day experiences. Examine what are your negative beliefs and which emotions are involved and question how valid they really are. By questioning your negative beliefs and looking for alternatives, you can replace thoughts led by fear with realistic and positive thoughts. Replace obstructive and limiting thoughts with positive and empowering thoughts.

Track the accuracy of a thought

Analyse what the pros and cons of your limiting thoughts and beliefs. Evaluate the evidence for or against your irrational thought. Examine the validity of irrational thoughts and beliefs by asking critical thinking questions like what’s the worst possible and what’s the best possible thing of that thought. Once you narrow down to your irrational belief, you can think of a way to reframe it into more accurate and positive belief. Do not make up super unrealistic beliefs, instead find more positive way to frame a belief without deluding the facts of the situation.

Apply alternative views

There are always multiple perspectives to any given situation or circumstance. When you restructure your beliefs, you can look at the same facts through a new perspective and interpret in a way that can keep you motivated. By changing your perspective, you can make out your previous thinking errors and can transform them into rational thoughts. This way, you can discover the best way to view a situation so that it brings out your best possible self.

Avoid using extreme language

Often while expressing a negative belief or thought, we use exaggerated words like “never”, or “always”, or “very” and we end up identifying with negativity in ourselves too strongly. Instead, you can replace them with “sometimes”, or “at times”, or a “little”. This way you can downplay the negativity by how you speak about these negative traits by describing them in less intense ways. This way you can leave more room for positivity, improvement, and change. Reframe the way you describe your experiences and memories.

Develop mindful awareness

Simple meditation practice can develop your awareness of negative and irrational thoughts. Focusing your attention on your breath allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind. Whenever you notice any irrational thought popping, gently bring your attention back to experiencing the sensation of your breathing. Meditation is a great way to train yourself to be mindful of irrational thoughts and beliefs.

Finally, set your own direction and evaluate your progress. There are many ways to reframe any particular situation. And the way you would want to reframe a situation depends on your current goals, values, decisions and choices you make.

Conclusion

Cognitive reframing of your negative beliefs is extremely effective if used properly and consistently. It can help you overcome your limiting beliefs to become happy and successful. Reframing your limiting beliefs takes time and effort to master, but once mastered, you can keep repeating this positive thinking pattern for better results that add value to your goals. Take time to learn how to change your thinking for better and go beyond your limited beliefs and preconceived assumptions. Always remember constructive thinking is a process, one gets better with practice and experience.