This 1 Simple Exercise Will Help You Manage Your Thinking.

This week, I was working with a client undertaking some Mental Toughness coaching. We were working on the 4Cs of Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence and during the session we focused on the anchor C of Control – our ability to learn what we can and can’t control (our attitudes and actions) and not letting our emotions distract us.

In an exercise to raise self-awareness we reviewed some of the typical thinking she engaged in and she recognised that she was falling into a particular thinking trap on a regular basis. She used the word “Don’t” too often.

Every day, we engage in thinking that helps us process what we see around us and helps us make sense of our world. Our thinking however can also sometimes do us a disservice. We can engage in automatic negative thinking, have unconscious bias and engage in self-fulfilling prophecies.  Another mistake that we too often engage in is using the word “Don’t”. Try this exercise for yourself.

Close your eyes and “Don’t imagine a pink elephant.”

I’ll bet one of two things just happened.

One, an image of a pink elephant popped into your mind.

Two, you saw the image of a pink elephant and you quickly tried to think of something else and make it disappear.

While your subconscious mind will always do what you want – without question – it can’t process the word DON’T. In fact, it ignores the word DON’T. All of the time.

When you say to yourself, “Don’t imagine a pink elephant,” your subconscious mind will delete the word ‘DON’T”, and hear your request as “Imagine a pink elephant.” The result is that you’ll always see the image of a pink elephant first.

The word DON’T will cause you to do and feel what you don’t want.

If you say to yourself “I don’t want to be nervous during my presentation,” your mind translates that as “want to be nervous during my presentation.”  That image of being nervous is the first thing your subconscious mind sees. Guess what happens next? You end up being nervous during your presentation. The EXACT OPPOSITE of what you really want.

 When you say, “I DON’T want to be afraid to start my own business,” your inner mind hears “Want to be afraid to start my business.”

When you say, “I DON’T want to worry today,” your subconscious mind hears “Want to worry today.”  Then you’ll keep on worrying.

When a dieter says, “I DON’T want to eat chocolate,” their subconscious mind hears “Want to eat chocolate.” What will that dieter think about all day? Chocolate.

When you say, “I DON’T want to be anxious about money,” your inner mind hears “Want to be anxious about money,”   causing you to continue to feel anxious about money.

This week notice when you say the word “DON’T. As soon as you do, then change your thought to the opposite. You might want to start your sentence with “What if…”   or   “I would like to…”

For example, if you say “I don’t want to worry today.”
Change it to: “I would like to feel calm today.” Can you hear the reframe?

“I don’t want to be anxious about money.” Turn this to..
“I want to put a plan in place to manage my money.”

You get the idea.

So….No more “DON’T”.              

What are the thoughts you have often that will benefit from eliminating the word DON’T?

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at