By Joel Lund
How do you measure your worth? The chances are, you don’t value yourself all that highly. How could I say that? Evidence. Lots and lots of evidence. No, no, I am not stalking you. Nothing like that. The evidence isn’t specifically about you. But there’s still loads of evidence that you don’t value yourself highly. And, no, I’m not referring to your self-esteem, although that is part of where this is going.
Let’s Start at the Start
Here’s one definition of “self-concept”:
“A self-concept is a collection of beliefs about one’s own nature, unique qualities, and typical behavior. Your self-concept is your mental picture of yourself. It is a collection of self-perceptions. For example, a self-concept might include such beliefs as ‘I am easygoing’ or ‘I am pretty’ or ‘I am hardworking.’” (Weiten, Dunn, & Hammer, 2012)
Most of us would probably use terms like those above when we describe ourselves to others. In my case, I lean slightly to “introverted.” I am a bit too “hardworking.” And I am “relentlessly creative.”
However, I, like you, also do just what you do. And you, like me, do it way more than you would believe: You think negatively. Almost all the time, in fact.
I wish I was kidding. Truly.
Here’s some evidence for you:
- Your prefrontal cortex (also known as your thinking brain) doesn’t mature until you are around 25 years old. Until then, fears, negative beliefs and self-imposedlimitations are pretty much programmed into you without your involvement.
- So, many of your behaviors were learned by the time you were 12. Think about that for a moment. Did you have mostly positive inputs in your childhood?
- Your mind processes, on average, between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day. Yep, that means you churn through 35-48 thoughts per minute.
- Research shows that roughly 95 percent of your thoughts are just like the ones you had the day before and the day before that. They are habitual thoughts.
- For most people, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative. So, if we assume that your normal thought flow is, say, 60,000 per day, then 48,000 of them are negative. Per day. Per. Day.
- Um, yeah. This is sobering stuff.
- But it doesn’thave to stay that way.
Creating a New Start
At the time of this writing, we just celebrated Easter. It is the most important day in the church year for good reason. It has everything to do with newness. With becoming alive. Easter is about transformation, from death to life. On Easter, believers all over the world declare that we are made new through the resurrection of Jesus. Paul encourages us to “put off your old self” and “be made new in the attitude of your minds” as a response to this Good News (Eph. 4:22-23).
Well, what does this include? It means that we can experience transformation — real change— in our lives, starting right now. We can crimp those negative spin-cycles we put ourselves through. And, as believers, we really need to actively, gleefully and passionately take charge of what our minds are marinating in.
Four Steps to a Better Outlook
There are four simple things you can start doing today to assist the Spirit in redeeming your mind:
- Recognize that much of your view of the world is framed in stories. And most of those are negative because you were unable to filter them because you were young. Your thinking brain hadn’t come online yet. If someone said something critical of you, like, “You’re stupid!” or similarly hurtful comments, you simply accepted them as true. So, many of your stories about yourself are flat wrong.
- Choose to activate your brain to your advantage. You can! Nothing is locked down. It is possible to create new, positive pathways.
- Lean into positive thoughts, ideas and images. There is no better place to go than Scripture and great devotionals, first thing in the morning.
- Do things that promote happiness in you and those around you. Action is tremendously important forchanging your behavior patterns and habits.
Once Upon a Time
Let’s apply what we have learned so far from a real life event: The Great Recession.
The Great Recession brought new careers to millions of people. Some were able to choose their new career. Others had no choice.
Many circled back to a dream they held when they were younger. Often, they engaged in a deliberate transition from their old “world” to their new one. For others, the transition was all at once.
In all cases, how they valued themselves was challenged. Does my paycheck determine my value? Am I worthless because I was fired? What else can I do? Am I too old to start something new? You can see how unchecked negative thinking would make everything harder.
When life throws disruption at us, we have three options: move away from it, move towards something else, or don’t move.
It is better, whenever possible, to move towards your dream. This is a much better way to initiate change in your life, especially when it results in major change. Moving towards is positive, full of hope and powered by vision. Another option is operating from a move away from motivation. Moving away from is negative, fueled by regret and powered by frustration. Both work. But one works better, faster, and has much better staying-power, because it is built on hope and belief in a better you. Your last option is to do nothing. And it is a tempting option.
Because when push comes to shove, moving towards something unknown is harder than not moving and just accepting things as they are (even when you are terribly frustrated about how things are). Moving towards something new — something better — takes faith, guts and grit. It requires stepping into a dimly lit future. It means you set sail into uncharted waters. And to do that, you have to leave the safety of your harbor.
But it’s worth it. Because, really, what’s your alternative? Well, the alternative is 48,000 negative thoughts every day and things staying the same.
Get To Or Got To
So which one will you be? Intrepid adventurer, setting sail for a better future? Or are you going to remain a tepid, armchair complainer?
Sometimes, when you’re in a negative spin-cycle, you feel like you have got to do things the way you always have. Not true. You get to choose. “I’ve got to” thinking means staying stuck. “I get to” thinking allows abundance, freedom and opportunity.
And you get to choose your path. Choose boldly. Think positively. Move towards.
Joel is a certified master coach, business strategist, and author. Most importantly, he’s worked with a lot of people just like you. Chat with him. There’s no charge. Schedule here: http://bit.ly/Curious-PFR.