Research shows that more than 90% of the 40 to 60,000 thoughts a human brain produces per day are repetitive. Also, it was proved that 70 to 80% of those repetitive thoughts tend to be negative. If we add to this that the human being is a creature of habit, we can see how easy it is for our minds to get stuck into a vicious loop of negative thoughts.
In this episode, we want to give you three easy tips to disrupt our thinking patterns and avoid falling into a negative thinking loop. The main objective of these three simple activities is to exercise the brain and prevent its atrophy. The brain needs to be tested and continuously stimulated to keep its good shape and perfect functioning, just like any other muscle.
Rob Shallenberger: Alright, welcome back to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. This is your host, Rob Shallenberger. I want to welcome you. First, I want to say I honor you for consistently listening to this podcast. It’s a big deal because it’s a good display, if you will, of your character, of your willingness to invest in you. And so, it simply says a lot about who you are and how much you value your own growth, both as a person, as a leader, in every aspect of your life. So, in this podcast, I want to share just a few brief thoughts, and I don’t suspect that this will take more than a few minutes to do so. But it’s been something that’s been on my mind lately, and I wanted to share it with you in the hopes that it’ll disrupt maybe the way you’re thinking, like it has disrupted my thoughts. And I think that’s healthy in a good, very positive way, is what we’re talking about here. So, this is really how to change our thoughts and dream big, and certainly, this is not all-encompassing. I mean, there are books and books and books written on this idea of changing our thoughts, what I want to do is just take three ideas that will have a big impact.
Before we do, a lot of you already know, but for those who may not know, our new book, Do What Matters Most is going to be officially launched on May 16th. So, we just sent out an internal email inviting people who wanted to be a part of this, to join our launch team. And we’ll probably end up with between 150 to 200 people that volunteered for that. And there’s really very little, in fact, no work required other than you’re a part of the process, which is kind of fun. So, for those who want to be a part of the launch team who didn’t see that email, write us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and basically, you become a part of the team. In other words, we’re going to send you a draft of the back cover here in the next couple of weeks. We’re going to send you a description of this or that, a description that will go on Amazon and with other booksellers, Barnes & Noble, and so on. And you’re going to have a chance to put in some input. What are your thoughts? Do you like this? Does it resonate well? Do you not like this? What can be tweaked, adjusted? We simply want your opinion. And so, this is a great chance to be a part of the process, if you would like to be.
And then second, we invite people to preorder the book on Amazon right now, so that you’re one of the first to get it. And what I mean by that is, when people make a book recommendation to me, regardless of the book, I figure, if they took enough time to make a book recommendation, then I’m going to order it. Now, I’d say 90% of the ones I invest in, I read – there’s a handful I don’t read but it doesn’t change the fact that if someone makes a recommendation to me, I order it. I usually do it right on the spot because otherwise life gets busy, slips through the cracks. And so, I’d invite you right now since we’re talking about it to go preorder the book on Amazon. Search for Do What Matters Most, it’ll come up, it has some arrows hitting a bull’s eye. And that way, it’s top of mind, it’s right there, and you’re one of the first ones to get it, you can read it, and it goes through what we call the big three, which if you’ve listened to this podcast for any amount of time, you’re very familiar with. These big three high-performance habits will have a big impact on our time management, on our performance, and on our productivity. And again, just to reiterate, the habits are to develop a written personal vision, to identify roles and goals for the year, and how to prioritize your time to the process of pre-week planning. So, again, there you go, a little bit of that admin out of the way. And now let’s jump into the thought part of this.
So, the reason I wanted to do this is because I’ve really been putting a lot of time and effort over the last five months into the brain, into the science behind the brain and thoughts and there’re so many different facets of this, whether you’re talking about high performance or success. Whether you’re talking about anxiety – which a lot of people have experienced – or depression, or any of these other things that happen within the brain and even on a personal level. And this may be what sparked it is my mom passed away six weeks ago because of early-onset Alzheimer’s. So, clearly, the brain is something that we’re very attuned into right now and really trying to learn a lot about because it’s also one of the organs that I think we know the least about. The heart we have pretty dialed in, there’s still of course more things to learn, but the brain is still, by and large, a big mystery to us. Here’s what we do know though, is that we as humans are creatures of habit. I want you to think about that. We are creatures of habit, and there’s a lot of research out there regarding the brain and our thoughts and the power of our thoughts. And most of this research shares a statistical range that we can all agree on. Whether it’s the exact percentage or not, there’s a range that most of them land within. And I want to share some of these with you. And as I do, listen to some of these findings, and think about how they might relate to you. And think about how they also might relate to those close to you. It could be your parents, it could be your children, it could be your spouse, your co-workers. So, think about how these statistics may relate to the people in your life.
The average person, according to research thinks between 40 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Now, here’s what’s interesting: between approximately 85 to 95% of those thoughts are repetitive. Wouldn’t you agree with that? I mean, usually, they’re about family, finances, health over and over and over, it’s the same thought. It’s like this repeating loop. Now, here’s what gets more and more interesting about this: between 70 to 80% of those thoughts tend to be negative. So, what that tells me since we’re creatures of habit, we think all these thoughts per day, most are repetitive, and most are negative, according to the research. So, isn’t it easy to get stuck in that vicious, negative loop if we’re not very careful? And what I mean by careful is, “Are we disrupting our thought patterns?” Because otherwise, it tends to be a vicious loop. I mean, think about this. Who is your own greatest critic? Isn’t it yourself? What if we shared some of the thoughts we had about ourselves with others? Would we talk to other people that way? Probably not. And so, what I found is that by being very conscious of our thoughts, we can acknowledge them and say, “Is this thought serving us? Is this thought helpful? Is this thought even real?”
I’m going to share some things that will disrupt our thinking patterns and get us to a different place, or at least start the process. And I want you to think about this – I mentioned that we repeat a lot of our thoughts day to day – what are your repetitive thoughts? What do you think about? In other words, what’s going through your mind on a day to day basis? And I’m guessing that across the board, almost all of us, you’ll say, “Yeah, you know what? It’s family, it’s money, it’s my business, or it’s my job.” It’s these certain things and they just seem to go over and over and over again. Now, knowing that a lot of them are geared towards the negative, we are very served, or I should say we’re served well, by being able to disrupt those thought patterns. And I want to share three ways that we can do that. And again, by no means is this an all-inclusive list. I mean, just in the last three months, I’ve read several different books regarding this and I’m upwards of like, there’s like 50 to 70+ techniques, processes, tools that can be used. And so, I just want to touch on three that I feel are important to arm ourselves with as a skill. Imagine a quiver – a quiver is that little thing that you put on your back that holds arrows. All we’re doing is being able to put another arrow in our quiver and recognize thoughts that are not helpful to us.
So, here is number one of the three things I’m going to invite us to do to disrupt our thinking and ultimately help us dream bigger. And that is to look for these keywords that usually are followed by something negative. And here are some of the keywords: what if, should. Think about the times in your life when you’re using those words and what’s the following thought. And I would suggest that 90% of the time we use those words, it’s followed by something negative. “Oh, I should have done this, I should be doing this.” My brother in law has a great phrase, and I really adopted this, and he said, “We need to quit shoulding on ourselves.” Now that’s pretty close to what we call a swear word, but whatever. We’re talking about ‘should’ here – quit shoulding on ourselves. In other words, it’s not serving us in most cases, when we’re saying “I should do this, I shouldn’t do that.” Instead, there’s a different way to look at it. But the word ‘should’ inherently is a negative thought process in most cases. The same with “what if”. Well, what if this, what if that? If you look at the root of all anxiety, all anxiety is based on fear. Think about that. And usually, fear stems from this, “what if” type statement. Well, what if this happens? Well, then what if that happens? What if that happens? Oh, man. And suddenly, there’s this rabbit hole that a person has gone down, it’s like, “How did we even get there?” And I think I’ve experienced, I think everybody’s experienced this to a degree. My son goes out with his friends or my daughter goes out to play with her friends, and it’s so easy to go down this trail, probably because of my own high school experience. My son is out there and I think, “Well, what if he does that? Well, then if he does that, then what if that happens?” And so, now I’m trained, I’ve recognized in my mind and trained my mind to recognize these statements. And as soon as I start this ‘what if’ train, I can immediately stop the train and go a different direction, and replace it with a helpful, positive thought. So, part of this is just being armed with the awareness that when we’re using the what-if words, the should word, we’re probably getting caught in that negative thought loop. And that’s where we can start to disrupt the cycle, and to disrupt the cycle requires first awareness. So, that’s number one. Look for places where you’re using those words – what if, should – and right there, as soon as you say it or think it, disrupt it. Shift the direction and think of an alternate thought that could replace that that is on the positive side.
All right, here’s the second thing – and this one actually requires you to do something as far as physically doing something. So, I invite you to take out a piece of paper, open something up on your computer, Word or whatever. But you’re going to need to either write or type here. And I would suggest that writing is more productive, it unlocks a part of the brain that otherwise stays dormant. So, grab a piece of paper, and here’s what I’d like you to do if you’re game for doing this. List on there every negative thought that you’ve had, and then dig a little deeper, so any fears that you’ve had insecurities, if you’ve lost a loved one in your life, things that cause you to stress, whatever. And this is a fairly common exercise because what we’re doing is actually getting it out there. So, really, honestly list what these look like out there. And then one of the questions is to look at each one of these on that list and ask, “Does that thought serve you well?” And in most cases, when you really look at it, the honest answer is no. No, that thought doesn’t serve us well. And a lot of those thoughts that you’re going to write on paper, you’re going to realize are part of that negative thought repetition loop.
And that takes us then to step three, which is to make another column on the right. So, you have the thoughts on the left – the negative thoughts. And then on the right, you have another column or just a separate list – however you want to set it up. For every negative thought that you wrote, now you’re going to write a corresponding positive thought. So, if you had a fear of failure, well, now we’re going to shift failure away from the negative into the positive. So, over on the left, you say, “Oh, man I’m scared that maybe if I fail at that, people are going to see me this way or that way.”, or “Oh, man, if they see who I really am…” And then there goes the thought process. “What if they see me as I really am? What if this is discovered?” Could you see that “what if” is showing up already? So, on the left, you have the thought, the negative thought; on the right write the corresponding positive thought. So, let’s stick with that failure. The left is the fear of failure. On the right, you may write an instance or an example, or a time when failure actually served you well. It actually helped you. You learned something from it that helped you become later who you are today, or who you became in a good way. So, that’s what I mean.
And what we’re starting to train our brain to do is to recognize the negative thought when it shows up, and then replace that with something else that serves as well. And what I’ve learned about the brain – we’ve been talking about it for years – but man, I’ve learned so much in the last few months. The brain is truly a muscle if you will. A muscle only gets stronger when it’s exercised. If it sits there, it atrophies. Someone who’s been bedridden for months and months, or has been in a coma, it’s very easy for the muscles to atrophy, to go through that process. And the brain is no different. If we don’t exercise it, if we just go day to day in the same repetitive loop, if we’re not reading books, listening to podcasts, or other things, it’s very easy for the brain to go through the same atrophying process. And so, treating it like a muscle, this is what we’re doing. We’re recognizing certain thought processes, and we’re replacing them with other thoughts. And that literally is an exercise. And that’s why I said, getting out the piece of paper is an exercise in the most literal sense – it’s an exercise for the brain.
Alright, so I want to now share the third thought process. And this one, I’m sure someone else has thought of it before, I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. I’ve never heard it before; it was one of those that just came to me early in the morning, and I thought, “I’m going to try this.” And I did, and it was amazing how much that disrupted my thinking and got me out of my normal day to day thought process. Now, here’s what I’m going to say, and bear with me on this. Stick with me for just a couple of minutes, I want to make sense of this. And that is, I’m telling you to really disrupt your thinking, and one of the ways to do that is to get out a piece of paper again, and choose something crazy big that probably will never happen. I’m talking crazy big. Mission to Mars. Colonizing the Moon. How to go beyond our solar system? Planning a totally exotic vacation with no limits or constraints – you could spend a million bucks on that vacation, whatever. I’m telling you, though, or suggesting to choose something that is crazy, crazy, big, and likely not to happen. And then think about how you would actually go about planning it and doing it.
Now why would I say to do this, or why would I suggest that this would disrupt our thinking? Because number one, what I’ve realized is that we as humans, being creatures of habit, are so used to thinking within the constraints that we’ve grown up with. We’re so used to thinking within the constraints of our experience, of our current paradigm, of our current mindset and if we really want to disrupt our thinking, then we need to get out of that little bubble that our brain is in, if you will. And so, hey, you know what? Choose the mission Mars, that’s what I actually did. I said, if I was Elon Musk, trying to figure this out, everyone else is telling him It’s impossible. Isn’t that interesting? All of these people are telling Elon what he can’t do, and yet he continues to do it time and time again because he’s a disruptive thinker. He knows how to disrupt his own thinking and go out there beyond the constraints that most people are used to sticking within.
And so, I’m just asking you to choose something that’s crazy big and if you were to do that, plan it. How would you do it? And just by virtue of going down that thought process, that trail, we are disrupting our own thinking, I mean, we’re completely outside of our normal thought patterns. And maybe you’re saying, “Well, that’s a waste of my time, I can be thinking about other things related to my job, my business.” Well, here’s what I’m suggesting: it’s not. If we go back to the statistics, where 90 to 95% of our thoughts are repetitive, and 70 to 80% tend to be negative, it’s very easy to get caught in a loop. And what we’re trying to train our brain to do there is to get out of that loop. And so, by doing this, what we’re starting to train our brain to do is to be innovative, to come up with new and fun things to do personally, to do new things with your family, and new ways to approach your business, your job, how to improve it. Because once we start disrupting our thinking, that will trickle over into every area of our life. And so, I know it sounds kind of crazy, but choose something big that you think most likely you or us will never do, and then actually plan it, get into it, and disrupt your own thinking. Just see what it does. And I promise that after doing that a couple of times, it truly is an exercise of the brain. We are exercising the innovative part of our brain and that will trickle into other areas of our life.
So, I wanted to take just a few minutes as we get ready to wrap this up – I mean, this short podcast – I hope it’s given you something to think about. This has been something that’s really been at the forefront of my mind over the last four to six months, probably in part due to my mother, and then just the fascination that I’m developing with the brain. And what a mystery it is and how powerful of a tool what we have between our ears really is. And again, I’ve said this several times, I’m going to say it one final time, the brain is the equivalent of a muscle. We need to exercise the brain just like we do our muscles. That doesn’t happen by accident. And that’s why someone who – I mentioned the Do What Matters Most book – someone that has a vision, they have clearly articulated roles and goals, they are consistent about the habit of doing pre-week planning. By virtue of doing that, it should disrupt our thinking. We don’t want to get into a rhythm, it’s the same thing every single week. I mean, there’s certainly value to consistency if it’s positive, if it’s serving us well. But there’s also value to bringing new parts into our life, doing other things that are outside the norm, breaking that consistency every once in a while if it’s for our benefit. So, again, the whole intent of doing this was just to share some thoughts that have been impactful in my life and that could help you or empower you in whatever you’re doing to change your thoughts and start to dream a little bigger and innovate new ways to lead our life by design. And that’s the intent of this podcast.
I hope it’s been helpful for you. Again, I’ll just come back to where I started – part of the admin – this Do What Matters Most book is coming out in May. We are so excited for this book. This has been the book we’ve been wanting to articulate and write for years, and it’s coming out May 16th. So, I would invite you and encourage you to preorder it. And once it’s out, get it for those who are close to you. And we’ll talk about it many more times, but I’m just inviting you to do that right now while it’s top of mind because that book, by virtue of reading it, will help you and empower each one of us to start disrupting our own thoughts, to dream and do things that are a little bigger scale in our lives and have a bigger impact in our personal, our family, and our professional lives. So, again, I want to thank you, the listeners of the Becoming Your Best podcast for what you do, for you investing this time to be a part of the podcast, it’s a big deal. And if there’s someone in your life, whether it’s a co-worker or a family member, or a friend, I’d encourage you to share this with them. You never know when you plant a single seed, if it lands in fertile soil now it has the chance to grow. So, between now and the rest of the week, I hope you have a great day and a wonderful rest of the week.
Leading authority on leadership and execution, F-16 Fighter Pilot, and father