From time to time, I develop what Buddhists call monkey mind. I have huge rambling conversations with myself, going over all the issues, deadlines, and situations that are happening.
I’m guessing that you also have similar bizarre internal conversations.
Do you ever listen to the things you say to yourself? Do you sometimes allow your mind to spiral down that rabbit hole until you feel anxious and worried about all your mind has created?
[ctt template=”3″ link=”0EjCY” via=”yes” ]Do you ever listen to the things you say to yourself?[/ctt]
The problem with monkey mind is it can hurt us professionally. We need to pay attention to it and stop the downward spiral it can create.
One of my mental habits has to do with my sleep (or lack thereof). I tend to lay awake several nights a week, not tired at all. Since I’m not doing anything else, it is an excellent opportunity for me to think. My monkey mind takes over in full force some nights.
This habit always has one reoccurring theme. I worry about how tired I will be the next day. I can be planning my latest blog article or writing a new workshop in my head, and at some point, my monkey mind will start to tell me how tired I’m going to be in the morning because I’m not sleeping when I should be.
This habit is not doing me any favours at all.
Maybe your thought habits are to get angry that the person who cut you off in traffic is a jerk or that the executive who drops an urgent task on you just before quitting time is taking advantage of you. Maybe you hold the belief that when you get too many deadlines, you are bound to make a major mistake on one of them, or if you speak up at a meeting, everyone will wonder what gives you the right to share your opinion.
Our negative thought patterns cause us to blame other people, set ourselves up for failure, or feel like a victim.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”wzSQD” via=”yes” ]Our negative thought patterns cause us to blame other people, set ourselves up for failure, or feel like a victim.[/ctt]
We need to force ourselves to take a step back and pay attention to our monkey mind and then stop it so it doesn’t cause us to spiral down the rabbit hole. My reoccurring thought pattern is hurting me. If I don’t stop and think, using my rational mind, about what it is saying, it can set me up for failure.
When I am awake for hours at night, my monkey mind keeps telling me how tired I’m going to be. When I listen to what it is saying with my rational mind, I realize it is causing me harm and not being helpful. My rational mind takes over my monkey mind and I no longer worry about being overly tired the following day. I realize that if my body was that tired it would sleep. I promise myself not to tell others (or myself) that I’m exhausted because I didn’t sleep. The more I confirm that belief, being exhuasted, the more accurate it will become. So I don’t reinforce the bad thoughts my monkey mind creates. If possible, I give myself permission to have a quick catnap in the afternoon, or go to bed much earlier than normal.
When someone cuts me off in traffic, I am self-aware and recognize that the other person isn’t always a jerk. Perhaps I was so intent on listening to a podcast or singing along to the radio that I didn’t notice I was going slower than the speed limit. Or, I remind myself that perhaps this person is on their way to an urgent meeting.
When a last-minute task gets dropped on my desk, I don’t allow myself to follow my gut reaction, thinking they waited to the end of the day on purpose. When I hear that little voice try to convince me that my executive did that on purpose, I listen to it and then force myself to find an alternate perspective as to why the task didn’t appear until late in the day. Even if I don’t believe my alternate perspective, I recognize that my head’s little voice isn’t helpful and is causing me to believe negative thoughts that might not be true. I don’t want to be angry with drivers in traffic nor anyone in the office. I need to stop listening to the negativity it is sending me.
We know that we are all guilty of this. We can look in the mirror and see someone too fat or too skinny, too old and wrinkled, or too young and inexperienced (and so on). When you hear that voice telling you all these negative things, force yourself to listen to a different message, even if the goal is to make yourself laugh at the time. Please don’t focus on the wrinkles, but instead remind yourself that you are an authentic, experienced adult who doesn’t need Botox because you have experience instead. Please don’t focus on the weight you want to lose, but instead, remind yourself that you show the world that you enjoy all that it has to offer. I sometimes laugh at my wrinkles and extra weight instead of feeling anxious about them.
The next time you want to speak up in a meeting, don’t listen to that voice that’s trying to tell you that you aren’t supposed to speak up in a meeting. Instead, reframe the thought to recognize that you are uniquely blessed with a perspective that the people sitting around the boardroom need to hear. If you hold it inside, you are doing your company a disservice.
You need to catch yourself when you’re creating negative self-talk and force yourself to hear an alternate explanation. You don’t need to believe the alternate explanation, but you do need to hear another one. It stops us from going down the rabbit hole of monkey mind and accepting everything we say to ourselves without any challenge.
I challenge you to give it a try!