In a previous blog post, I talked about keeping our New Year’s resolutions and how self-discipline plays a very important role in achieving our goals. As I previously mentioned, I’ll start fleshing out ideas regarding self-discipline that affects different aspects of our lives – emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, spiritually, etc. This blog post will focus on one of the most important aspect of our lives that we need to discipline: our thoughts.
In 2005, I have had a chance to read Dr. John Maxwell’s book Today Matters. He outlines several key disciplines that we need to do daily in order to create the life that we wanted. One of the things that really made an impact in my life is the discipline of practicing good thinking. You see, I was very pessimistic back then. What I didn’t realize was that it was affecting my life and my career. I remember a time when I couldn’t get a job because I thought nobody wanted to hire me. But when I started changing my thought process, things started to get better. But it didn’t happen overnight. I had to constantly discipline my thought process and still do so up to now. And this is one practical application of self-discipline that will definitely go a long way. I challenge you to follow these tips and document your progress within the next 8 weeks. Several of them I got from the book Today Matters while the rest were born out of experimenting and seeing what works for me.
- Find a PPT (Place, Process and Time). When the weather permits, I usually take a walk or ride my bike to spend time thinking. Other times, it’s in my home office, our basement or walking in our living room. You may have a preferred place where you want to spend your thinking time but make sure that when you’re there, it’s all you do. You also need to find time to think. What’s ironic is that in the workplace, people who are staring out the window and doing nothing are being called out as unproductive. When I used to work in Singapore, I usually take half-hour breaks and walk along the banks of the Singapore River. It became more frequent especially when I take on critical projects. I just enjoy watching the scenery and trying to clear my mind. What I found out was that these short breaks became what I call my “strategic, work-related thinking time.” I felt energized and filled with tons of ideas when I sit down on my desk and was able to accomplish more tasks. Create a process that works for you.
- Purge unhealthy thoughts. Whether it’s because of our experiences or what we’ve been taught, we all have unhealthy thoughts. These range from petty things like “I won’t be able to resist junk food” to more serious matters like “I’m a total failure.” But just like unhealthy habits like lack of sleep and eating a lot of junk food can cause our bodies to be weak, unhealthy thoughts create the same effect. Disciplining our thought process requires purging unhealthy thoughts. You can start by being aware of your thought process. If possible, write down what you are thinking. While this might seem unnatural for most of us, flagging down unhealthy thoughts is a step towards flushing them out. When I was dealing with my unhealthy thoughts, I didn’t write them down because I was very uncomfortable. However, I did try verbalizing it and identifying the thought as unhealthy. You may want to think of it as “talking to yourself.” But that’s how I started. I remember verbalizing the fact that I was becoming negative about how people think about me. When I became aware of the negative thought, I was able to change it. A word of caution, though, is that it is not easy to purge unhealthy thoughts. It’s like trying to unlearn things that became habits. But that’s where the discipline comes in.
- Feed your mind good stuff. (I got this one from Tim Sanders’ book Today We Are Rich) One of the books that I started reading as part of my discipline was The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Because it was hard to purge unhealthy thoughts in my system, I needed something that would replace them. I recounted times when I was happy, energetic and lively. I started to list down all of my successes and envisioned myself growing and moving forward. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I began to see what I was capable of and that created a lot of opportunities for me. While most people don’t buy the idea of positive thinking, it did work for me.
Try applying these tips and see how they work for you. I’ll continue with the series on self-discipline over the next couple of blog posts because I, too, need to constantly do these things (remember commitment, consistent and courage?) as part of my continuous self-improvement.
How are you taming your thoughts?