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Our thoughts control our lives. You’ve undoubtedly heard that sweeping statement. But do you consider that to be a true and accurate notion? Let me ask you this: What do you think about yourself? Because if our thoughts control our lives—and to some extent, they do—shouldn’t the thoughts we have about ourselves be positive? That brings up the question everyone must ask themselves: What thoughts do you have about yourself that are controlling your life?
The most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. And if you let those negative thoughts affect how you think, feel and act, how can you expect to build healthy relationships with anyone else? You must put yourself first when it comes to maintaining positive relationships.
Now stay with me for a moment. This idea of putting a relationship with yourself first isn’t a selfi sh one—in fact, in some ways it’s a selfless act. The starting point for having a great relationship with anyone else is mastering this all-important relationship. In addition, if you aren’t making the progress in life that you would like to make and are capable of making, I’d be willing to bet that what we are going to discuss will show you why. So let’s talk about your relationship with you.
Granted, as busy as we are and wanting to please others who are important to us—spouses, family members and friends—it can be easy to overlook the importance of the relationship we have with ourselves. But if we can’t get along well with ourselves, we won’t exactly have good relationships with all those other people in our lives. The first step in managing your relationship with yourself is to determine what you actually think about yourself. You might be surprised with what you discover. All too often we reserve our harshest criticisms and our most negative thoughts for ourselves. And those thoughts are precisely what often stand in our way of achieving those things we most want in life.
In my seminars and private-coaching sessions, I ask people where they believe their negative thoughts originate. This always becomes a fascinating discussion. Nearly everyone says their thoughts originally develop from their parents, the way they were raised and infl uences from their varied life experiences. Certainly, all of these things and many, many more are part of the answer. But there is also something much more significant that is often completely missed.
The questions you ask yourself can control your thoughts. We are constantly asking questions such as, “What should I do in this situation?” “How will this affect the outcome that I am working to achieve?” Even questions such as, “Is this the right thing to do?” will lead to all kinds of thoughts about good and bad or right and wrong. Truly, the questions we ask and the thoughts they lead to are endless. Questions can begin generating thoughts that don’t really serve us well. These types of negative thoughts slowly chip away at the relationship we have with ourselves.
When you continue asking those disempowering questions for months, years, even decades, your whole life becomes ruled by those negative emotions. You would never want to build a relationship with someone else on that same negative pretense, so why are you doing that to yourself?
Let me give you an example of how one question could be in confl ict with the relationship you have with yourself, and how it could derail you on your quest for greater success. I’ve discovered that many people have overwhelming, generalized questions such as, “What are they thinking of me?” Imagine having that question constantly roaming around in your mind. A successful client told me she’s had this question since she was a little girl, and although this client has achieved some great things in her life, she still hasn’t found peace, happiness or any level of fulfi llment. She says she feels that no matter what she does, it doesn’t feel like enough. That derisive question constantly fl oats through her mind. Here is a Fortune 500 executive, earning an amazing amount of money and receiving constant praise for her work, and yet she feels like no matter what she does it isn’t enough. She’s making a great contribution to others by serving at a very high level, but she is not happy on the inside. This reminds me of the old saying, “Success without fulfi llment is failure.”I think the answer to her challenge can be found in this main question that she’s been asking herself for years. Many questions have a presupposition, and wouldn’t you agree that her question contains the negative thought that people may not be thinking good things about her? In actuality, people probably respect and admire her, and hold her in great esteem.
The ultimate problem with this question is that it puts other people in the driver’s seat of your life. While a question like this might motivate you to get other people to think good things about you, you will never know for sure what other people think. And, most important, do you really want to base your life on what other people think of you?
Now I realize that this example may not illustrate your question or situation, but I hope it gets you thinking about what your question or questions might be. What negative questions do you ask yourself?
People transform themselves immediately once they discover the underlying questions and corresponding thoughts that are controlling their lives, especially the main question that they may have been trying to answer for decades. You may fi nd you can fi gure out your main question by yourself, or you might want to consider working with a coach who understands this process. The truth of the matter is that we are often too close to ourselves to see and understand exactly what’s going on.
There’s a great line in the play by Shakespeare titled The Life and Death of Julius Caesar where the character Cassius asks Brutus if he can see his own face. Brutus replies: “No, Cassius; for the eye sees not itself, but by ref lection, by some other means.”
So often, a question that you’ve been asking since you were a child is standing in the way of achieving a great relationship with yourself. That means it is also standing in the way of achieving your ultimate ideal in life. There is nothing more important than uncovering the questions and thoughts that are controlling your life so you can once and for all take control of your destiny.