Our words speak our truth in more ways than we realize – not just the words spoken out loud, but what we continually say to ourselves in our mind as well. When we speak, both internally and externally, it makes our thinking visible, which creates our perceived reality. And we reinforce our thinking and speaking by making decisions based on our perceptions. This becomes an endless cycle that can keep us caught in a loop of our own thinking.
We work with people who want to develop their leadership skills and grow their influence so we see this a lot. One coachee had a habit of saying “I’ll have to pay the piper” when he was talking about making decisions or taking risks. As you can imagine, this thinking had blocked and hindered him. When his coach pointed this out to him and asked what price he thought he had to pay, he was stumped. His father always used this phrase when he was growing up, but it never really had any meaning to him. When his coach suggested he not use the phrase anymore, he found himself thinking about it continually during the next week, making him even more conscious of his words. Eventually, he was able to eliminate the phrase entirely from his internal and external thinking and was able to move forward as he desired, no longer worrying about “paying the piper”.
Not sure if you’re caught in a loop of your own thinking? Here are some things you can do to make yourself aware and break the habit:
Elevate your thinking
As human beings, it’s easy for us to habituate and take on the thinking of those around us. It’s a survival tool that kept us alive and connected to our tribe in the past. It does the same thing now but times have changed. To elevate our work and success, we need to elevate our thinking; no longer allowing our unconscious primal patterning to take control. If you hear yourself thinking or saying things like “I don’t know what I’m doing” “I’m never going to figure this out” “This always happens to me”, or “I don’t see how this is ever going to happen”, it’s a sign you’re stuck in an unproductive loop.
Look for warning signs
We’re all guilty of using our thinking against ourselves. If you’re concerned that your thinking is hurting yourself, here are some warning signs:
- You’re using absolutes like never, always, forever in your thinking and/or speaking
- You hear yourself saying or thinking the same phrase repeatedly
- There’s a mental word loop going in your head, like having a song stuck in there
- You notice your language and thinking is more negative than positive, more judgmental than accepting, more angry than encouraging
- Your thinking and words are reinforcing what you don’t want to happen instead of what you do
- You are thinking/saying old, outdated phrases your parents (grandparents) said when you were young
Seek help from others
It can be difficult to notice habits about ourselves. It’s like playing music in the background – it’s there, but we’re not really paying attention. Try asking your friends, family, colleagues, or a coach for help. They likely know your habitual thinking and/or speaking patterns already. Embarrassingly, this is more visible to others than it is to yourself.
It’s worth noticing too. Once you’re able to observe and change your habitual thinking and speaking patterns, you’ll be able to make better, less subjective decisions, get more of what you want, and be a better leader. These loops are completely under your control, you just have to see them first.