Calming the Chaos of Our Thoughts to Change for the Better

We are often a contradiction of ourselves. We strive for self-improvement and change, yet we also want to believe that “we are enough.” 

The 60,000 thoughts we have each day are often tangled into one lump that can leave us confused as to which ones matter and what is simply clutter. A thought like “That article I wrote last week was dull” can mutate into a self-destructive belief that nothing I do will ever be great. 

We tread a fine line between self-acceptance and self-development whenever we examine our actions, accomplishments, and mistakes. Striking a balance is no easy feat.

It’s Not Enough to be Inspired

Our inner critic is a powerful driving force that has the ability to propel us to do great things. That same voice can also cause chaos within, especially if our mental and emotional state is not equipped with the resources to communicate effectively with the inner critic. 

This is one of the reasons why we seek motivation and inspiration from self-help books, articles, and workshops. This is not to say that searching for help is a bad thing because it is not. We all need help at times in life.

What’s unhealthy is when we get stuck in a cycle of only looking to be inspired. The process of searching for sources of inspiration or motivation may evolve into means of procrastination if we do not follow through with action.

Listening to empowering, enlightening, and aspirational stories can induce instant feelings of positivity and a sense that we can do anything if we put our minds to it. It’s a natural high that has a real effect on our body and mood. 

But, as quickly as the inspiration hits us, so quickly do the feelings dissipate. When the feelings fade, we then start to miss that particular high, thus, the cycle of loading up on inspirational information restarts.

So, what went wrong? What was the missing piece that kept us searching?

What was not there is action. Getting inspired and making sweeping declarations about how we’ll change for the better is different from committing to habits that will change our current state

As counterintuitive as it sounds, constantly tapping into motivational resources can bring forth chaotic thoughts about the self because we bombard the mind with things that we become convinced need to be fixed about. There needs to be a pause between receipt and processing. More importantly, creating a plan and taking action has to be completed before we open up to the next dose of inspiration.

It’s like charging our phone batteries when it’s at 60%. Manufacturers will remind us to wait until the battery is at least 20% before powering up, otherwise, we risk damaging the device. Our capacity to store power is finite. Therefore, anything excessive is unhealthy, including self-help practices. 

Perhaps, we have that one friend who posts daily inspirational quotes or articles but doesn’t seem to be practicing what they’re preaching. When they do this, it’s probable that the post is for their own self more than others. It’s an unproductive way to remind the self of what needs to be examined because it aims to separate the self from the problem. That friend may be projecting the solution to others because they may not be ready to exercise the solution.

Staying in a state of inspiration without action is detrimental to self-growth because it does not yield any result – neither positive nor negative. Mistakes are opportunities for learning and successful action plans are signs that we are on the right path. When we remain in the inspired stage, we end up doing nothing.

Find out what happens by doing. It is in doing that we sort through the chaos of our thoughts and thereby, find our purpose.

Manifest What Makes Life Better 

Our thoughts have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies. When our hearts, actions, and senses are aligned, we can manifest change. 

Careful examination of our thoughts helps us recognize what may be blocking us from taking the next step. It can take time to notice unhealthy patterns and habits but the pause is necessary training for the mind so that we react to the true source of the problem. Remember that our reality is not created by what is happening outside, but rather, by how we are reacting inside.

How do we start manifesting the change we desire for ourselves?

Well, it starts with making a plan one day at a time.

Carry a notepad to jot down our thoughts and plans for the day. It helps us document ideas, thoughts, and feelings which we can refer to when we start the planning process. It’s also a great decluttering tool for the mind. 

One of the most valuable things we can do to improve the quality of our thoughts is to write them on paper in order to process what we’ve written to understand where we struggle and where we find positivity. It’s not the mere act of writing, but more importantly, reflecting on the words and checking if it holds the truth about our authentic self. We could be writing positive statements but do we believe them? Write and pay attention. 

Journaling can be a powerful tool when done with the intention of improving the self. Commit to the daily habit of listing down small goals that are realistic. It’s ideal to do this in the morning to provide our conscious and subconscious mind with the roadmap for the entire day.

Start with a “top 5 goals for the day”. An example can be: (1) Wake up 15 minutes earlier than your usual alarm time. (2) Eat a healthy lunch, on time. (3) Finish writing one chapter of an e-book. (4) Leave the office at 5:30 sharp. (5) Take 5000 steps.

Our goals for the day have to bring us closer to our ideal self, no matter how minute that step may be. Taking small, realistic strides towards a bigger goal helps us decrease frustration, feelings of being overwhelmed, and burnout. 

List daily habits that result in joy and contentment. The keyword here is “habits” which means we do them regularly. A good example is saying “no” to something that does not resonate with us. If an invitation to a party that we don’t feel like attending comes, say “no.” If a friend wanted to talk about a problem which we’ve repeatedly given the same advice, say “no.”

Other daily habits that can change our state of mind are:

  • Learning something new
  • Saying and internalizing three nice things about ourselves
  • Disconnecting from the Internet after 10 PM
  • Taking a photo of something positive and happy
  • Meditating
  • Writing a journal

Small goals and habits are like building blocks that give form to a bigger structure. We create a grand design piece by piece, and if we focus on fitting each block firmly and correctly instead of ruminating on the fact that it isn’t whole yet, the sooner we can reach our goal and feel joy for what we were able to build.

Noting our mistakes, articulating the change we want to make, and striving to make a change will save us from sinking into our own negative thoughts of not being enough. We are fallible and that is okay. But that is not an excuse for us to settle for “what is” if we know that we can be happier and live a more meaningful life.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry