Powerful Training for the Mind

Overcome disempowering thought patterns with this 3-part practice
BY Leo Babauta TIMEApril 24, 2022 PRINT

Every one of us has thought patterns that keep us stuck. In fact, these thought patterns are usually the real barriers—rather than money or time—that keep us from pursuing the meaningful things that we want to do with our lives. The patterns come in a few fairly familiar varieties.

Discouragement: What’s the point? I’m going to fail anyway. why even try? it’s too hard.

Rationalizing: It’s OK to skip this. I can do it later. One time won’t hurt.

Defensiveness: It’s not my fault. I didn’t mean to. Why do they have to attack me?

Avoidance: It’s overwhelming. Let me just check one message first. I don’t know if I can do this.

Blaming others: Why do they have to be that way. They’re always treating me badly. I can’t have a good life because of them.

Anticipating judgment: People won’t like this. They won’t value my contributions. They’ll think I’m a failure or stupid. I shouldn’t even try.

Harshness toward self: I suck. I need to do better. I’m always screwing up. I should be better than this by now.

The exact categorization of the thought pattern isn’t important—what matters is whether the thought pattern is helpful. What effect does it have on you when you think it? Is it moving you toward the life that you want or getting you stuck?

Most of us aren’t aware of it when these thought patterns happen, so we’re beholden to their power without realizing it.

To be clear, these aren’t “bad” thoughts—they’re natural and normal, but they aren’t always helpful.

If they’re unhelpful, then what would be more helpful?

We can train our minds to use a more powerful thought pattern.

For example, you might try one of these:

  • I don’t know if this will work out, but I’ll always put in my best effort and get the best result that I can.
  • Life is short and precious, and I want to make the most of it. I use my time consciously and powerfully.
  • I’m strong enough to turn toward things that make me feel uncertain, afraid, and overwhelmed and use them as a teacher.
  • I don’t know if I’ll be good at this, but I’m going to act as if I will be and have unreasonable confidence.
  • I don’t know what others will think, but I won’t know if this was worthwhile until I try. I’m going to have an incredible learning journey no matter what the outcome. They might be frustrating, but I won’t be at their mercy.
  • I value myself and acknowledge my light.

To better deal with these thought patterns, you can practice this three-part training.

Catch yourself when you’re using the old pattern.

You’ll usually know because you feel discouraged, you’re reaching for distraction, you’re avoiding something or putting it off, or you’re feeling mad at someone or victimized.

Pause and acknowledge your fear.

Underneath the old thought pattern is simply a bodily sensation of uncertainty and fear. Acknowledge that it’s there and that it’s OK to feel fear and give it reassurance and calm it down.

Try the new thought pattern.

Say it to yourself and try really believing in it. Fully empower it. See what effect it has.

You have to do this over and over. Set visual reminders wherever you can. Write notes on your phone, on a mirror, or on your desk. Practice over and over. When you get discouraged from practicing, notice what thought pattern is discouraging you, and try a new one.

What powerful new thought pattern do you want to train yourself in today?


Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net
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