I call both of those activities passive. You can also work actively with your mental chatter. Passive awareness and voicing of your mental chatter helps. In my experience going from unawareness to passive awareness improved my understanding of how my mind worked as much as anything.
The next step is to change your mental chatter actively. Like breathing, if you don’t pay attention to it, your mental chatter will continue automatically but if you pay attention you can control it. You always lose focus, so you can only do it for a while, but you can do it.
Since your mental chatter acts like beliefs and beliefs affect your perception, changing it will change how you perceive the world.
Many people feel they can’t change their mental chatter. Plenty of evidence contradicts that limiting belief. Advertisers, for example, know they can change it. They use jingles, catchy phrases, and such to do so. They change names of companies, like from Philip Morris to Altria to affect how you feel about them. It works.
Politicians do it. Calling issues pro-life or pro-choice or estate tax or death tax affects how people perceive and act on them. It works too.
Everything in your mental chatter came from somewhere, so those things you learned that created it influenced it.
Okay, got it? Your experiences affect your mental chatter. And if other people can change your internal dialog, you can change it too. You aren’t stuck thinking depressing thoughts, for example. Once you sense them, you can think about other things.
How? Well, mostly the Method does it. You can change your environments, seek out new beliefs (especially those of people you’d like to emulate), and change your behaviors. Expanding your horizons forces you to examine how other people perceive things.
If you find mental chatter you don’t like I don’t recommend trying to adopt the opposite. Like if you think “I’m bored” and you don’t want to feel bored, trying to think “I’m not bored” won’t likely help. Such thoughts still put boredom in your thoughts.
Instead, think of how you can take responsibility to change the environment or belief leading to that perception and thought. You might instead think “I bet I can find something more fun to do” or “hmm… what can I do with my time instead of just sitting here?”
I’ve learned to associate things I like with thoughts I like. For example, I took a long time to develop the pattern of flossing my teeth every day. I used to think of it as a pain. Now I think of the clean feeling I like after a dentist cleans my teeth and how much longer flossing keeps that feeling.
In other words, I use my mental chatter to make an activity something clean instead of a pain.
Likewise when I think about junk food I think of how someone is trying to make money off of damaging my health, especially with hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, sugar, and other super-refined foods. I don’t like doing business with people like that. So I use my mental chatter to turn something sweet or crunchy into something a corporation damages me with.
Thoughts attached to gripping, intense emotions are harder to change. It may take time and practice to develop skills to change such chatter.
Specific behaviors that help — pause, taking a deep breath or two, actively changing your behavior (stop talking to that person, ask questions instead of making statements, etc), actively changing your environment (leave, read or exercise instead of watching tv), etc.
Once you get the hang of it, you learn to change your mental chatter quickly and efficiently. Start small and build. Soon you’ll change your world.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book