Are you aware of your own thoughts?
I hate to break it to you, but chances are: you’re not.
Every single one of us has – on some level – an overactive ego. This ego-mind is the inner voice that chatters away incessantly in the back of your mind. Most of the time, you’re not really paying attention to it, and often you’re not even aware that it exists.
Even though you aren’t aware of them, those hidden thoughts actually control many of your everyday decisions and interactions.
Secretly, those thoughts are controlling your life.
In this post, I’ll share a simple process I use to stop those thoughts, and start using them to work for you, rather than against you.
Step 1: Recognize the “Secret” Inner Story
The first step in the process is to learn to become more aware of these thoughts.
You can do this through tools like meditation, journaling, or stepping back. Whatever method you use, the idea is to begin to observe the narrative that runs constantly inside your head.
For many, simply recognizing that this narrative exists is a HUGE step in the right direction.
That’s because the sad fact is – for most of us – we are largely unaware of our thoughts. We are often aware of only the “surface-level” thoughts we have. Things like:
- Conversations we have with others;
- Acute focus points (such as when reading, writing, or working);
- Casual thoughts about our day, such as deciding what to wear or what to eat.
These are our conscious, active thoughts.
But, just beneath these thoughts we also have many, many other thoughts. Peeling back these layers is kind of like peeling an onion –> the deeper you go, the stronger the smell, and the more they make your eyes water.
Secretly (aka: unconsciously), these deeper thoughts drive many of our day to day choices. They control what we think, the actions we take, and how we respond to our environment.
They quietly control our lives — while we’re off deciding what to eat for lunch.
Only when your recognize and reframe these thoughts can you gain control of your mind, and (by extension) your life.
And, while I know it sounds blunt:
When you fail to control these hidden thoughts, you give up your power to be, do, or have whatever it is that you really want.
If this is the first time you’ve ever heard of these “hidden” thoughts, it can feel overwhelming (or even scary) to realize you’re not as in control of your mind as you might think you are.
But, there is good news:
Reframing those thoughts – owning them for yourself – does not have to be difficult.
And that brings us to Step 2…
Step 2: Reframe the Thought with 3 Simple Questions
Once you have taken the time to observe the hidden narrative going on inside your head, you can begin to take control of it.
The key is to reframe the ego-mind’s story so that it helps you and works for you, rather than against you.
To do this, I use a simple, 3-question framework.
Question 1: Do I Actually Believe this Story?
This is an absolutely essential first step.
I find that at least 90% of the time, when I actually look at the story my ego is telling me, it seems ridiculous.
Often, the story is based on crazy fears or unjustified assumptions about things that are unrealistic or extremely unlikely to happen.
If you can write down what the ego’s story actually is, you can judge whether or not you even believe it in the first place.
Doing this weakens the grip that story has on you, because the very act of questioning it causes you to detach from it.
As you detach, you can judge it on your terms.
Question 2: Is the story helpful or unhelpful?
Once you’ve established whether or not you actually believe in the story you’ve been telling yourself, it’s time to ask whether or not that story is helpful for you.
Sometimes, the ego’s narrative will strengthen you. It will help to build your confidence and make you feel eager and excited about what you want to do or achieve.
If this is the case, great! Allow that story to continue to work for you, and you may even want to work on strengthening that belief, so it can help you go even further.
But, most of the time, the unconscious stories we have don’t actually help us.
When that’s the case, you need to move on Step 3, so that you can re-shape that story in a more positive light.
But, before you go on, note that I am only giving you 2 options here.
Every story is either helpful, or not. There is no neutral narrative.
Even if your unconscious thoughts seem subtle, even if they don’t immediately appear to be either supporting or blocking you from your goal, there is always a deeper implication to them. This is part of the many layers of thought mentioned above.
If you think the narrative is neutral, continue to stay with the idea long enough until it’s implication becomes clearer to you. If you still cannot decide if it is helpful or unhelpful, assume that it is unhelpful, and continue to Step 3.
Question 3: How could I change this story, so it better serves me?
Once you have identified the ego’s story, and decided whether or not it is helpful to you, it’s time to reframe that story so it can better serve you.
This step is essential when the story you are telling yourself is inherently negative. When that’s the case, take a few moments to think about how you could reshape the thought.
Using your resonance as a guide, choose a new version of the story that feels right to you.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Which aspects of the story are helpful?
- Which aspects of the story should I discard?
- Are there any words or ideas I need to change completely?
- Are there any words or ideas I can make small changes to, that would greatly improve the narrative?
Note that you can follow this process no matter how good or bad the original story is. If the story is already positive, you may want to think about how you could further improve it.
Step 3: Apply Your New, Desired Belief
Once you recognize and reframe the secret story in your head, the last step is to apply the new, more desirable belief to your daily life.
This step comes down to awareness and repetition.
Simply re-writing the ego’s narrative once is often not enough to eliminate it from your subconscious mind. You need to build the habit of recognizing when the story crops up, and then repeating the new story you created for yourself instead.
This takes practice. Do not be discouraged if you forget to reassert your new story when you are first starting out.
With time, it becomes easier to identify the old, hidden thoughts and to catch them before they become too serious. As you do, you can affirm your new story more easily.