I have recently been reading this great book by Mark Manson. He provides quite a counterintuitive approach to managing and leading a good life and one of the topics he discusses particularly resonated with me. Have you ever taken notice of that internal monologue you have. The one that just keeps going round and round and round again in your head?
We have an insidious quirk in our brains and for many of us, this feedback loop from hell can drive us a little bit nuts.
Tell me, does this scenario remind you of anyone?:
You get anxious about a conflict you are having with a colleague at work. You are walking into your office building and you wonder why you are feeling so anxious. That anxiety feels crippling and you start wondering why you’re so anxious. Now you’re anxious about being anxious. Oh no! Doubly anxious! Quick, where’s the escape hatch?
What about when you’re feeling down and out about a recent stressor in your life and somebody turns to you and says “what have you got to feel depressed about, your life is perfect”. Suddenly you get down on yourself for feeling down.
Or what about when you’re feeling worried about a difficult decision you need to make. You sit and lament on the fact that worrying is taking so much of your time and energy. Suddenly you realise that you’re worrying about worrying.
If you’re anything like me, you’re been trapped in this feedback loop from hell on more than a few occasions. You’re probably doing it right now. “Yep, that’s me, I do that all the time. Why oh why do I do this to myself?”…… See you’re doing it again J
So what can you do about it?
1) Well for starters… recognise that you’re normal!
That’s right; there is nothing wrong with you. As human beings, we are blessed (or maybe cursed) with being able to have thoughts about our thoughts. So we need to understand that this feedback loop or our internal monologue is a normal part of our everyday lives. I think about going to the gym so I can get fit and lose weight. But then I feel like a loser when I realise I can’t be bothered going to the gym. Ahhhh, there it is, my insidious internal monologue.
We are constantly surrounded by messages telling us that we are supposed to be constantly happy all the time. The fact is that’s just not the case and in fact it’s unrealistic. We have been blessed with emotions to give us feedback on how we feel. We are allowed to experience all emotions, we just have to be conscious to regulate “the amount” of emotion we experience. We need to recognise when this feedback loop from hell causes us to be overly stressed, even to the point it can border on self-loathing.
2) Snap the rubber band!
Get to recognise when you’re feedback loop is in play. Start to recognise the typical patterns of thinking you engage in that generate your feedback loop. As soon as you recognise that typical internal monologue start to take hold, snap that virtual rubber band you have on your wrist and tell yourself “that’s enough”!
3) Recognise what you can and can’t control.
Draw two large circles, one inside the other. In the outer circle, write down all the things about the situation that you can’t control, and in the inner circle, write down all the things you can control. Now ask yourself, “in which circle am I spending the most time worrying?”
4) Choose to reframe your thoughts.
Choose action over indecision. If you have a “below the line” thought, then consider how you could turn it in to an “above the line” question you can ask yourself to spur on action in a proactive way. If you are saying to yourself “this is all too hard”, then ask yourself the question, “how could I make it easier?”
5) Focus and prioritise your thoughts
Pick and choose what matters to you and what doesn’t matter to you based on your personal values. This can take practice and sometimes you will stuff it up. But it is so worth it. You need to be selective about the battles you fight because we all have a limited amount of energy. We need to be selective and pick the battles we have a good chance of winning. So when was the last time you wrote down your values – what is really important to you?
Want to know more about managing your internal monologue? Send me an email at email@example.com to enquire about leadership and / or wellness coaching.
Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Leadership and Wellness Coach and Speaker / Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a Certified Coach with 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, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing. You can find her at www.bakjacconsulting.com or firstname.lastname@example.org