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Sour Thoughts: It Only Takes 5 Steps to Ruin Your Day

Sour Thoughts

@sussialfredsson via Twenty20

The strength your thoughts possess to steer the course of your life is often grossly underestimated. It is for that reason you must take stock in your thinking process on a regular basis, whether good or bad. Not every thought that drops into the space between your ears is worth being allowed to plant itself as a seed and grow. Nor is every thought true or rational.

It’s precisely why there is a significant difference between having a thought (which is involuntary) and thinking about a thought (which is voluntary). And it’s for that reason that I’m blowing the cover on what I affectionately refer to as “sour thoughts”—destructive thoughts that seek to sabotage your pursuit of building the best version of “you” possible.

Related: 7 Distorted Thinking Patterns That Contribute to Anxiety

Shuffle the Hits

What was the first negative thought you had today? Be honest. How about when you walked into work and your supervisor walked right past you without even looking your way? How about when your spouse hurriedly walked out of the house without saying goodbye? How about when you sent an important text to a close friend and never received a response?

I’ll wait for a moment while that emotion resurfaces. What was your reaction? I’d bet some serious coin that it was to the tune of…

What did I do wrong now?
What a jerk.
Maybe it’s true that I’m not valuable after all.
She looked at me like that yesterday. I’m probably in trouble.
You’d think he would value our relationship enough to text me back soon.
After all I do for her, the least she could do is acknowledge me.
And my favorite: Who do you think you are?

Pucker up, lemon lips. You’re sinking.

5 Steps to Ruin Your Day

Taking it a step further, assuming you let the thought move from your conscious mind into your subconscious mind like a bird’s nest in a gutter, let’s play this out and explore the five snowballing steps that will surely ruin your day:

1. Entertain a negative thought.

2. Think twice about the same negative thought.

3. Second-guess the stupidity of the thought and consider its possibility of reality.

4. Allow the negative thought to take root into your belief system.

5. Behave through the filter of the thought as if it were actually true.

What’s the result? Enter the feeling of the cold, unforgiving blanket of apathy wrapping itself around your soul as the weight of disdain presses unflinchingly atop your eyelids while laying out the welcome mat for a headache, irritability and exhaustion. And just like that, you’ve created a huge, totally irrational story. It’s cleverly stupid, isn’t it? But even though you may be down, you’re not out. Thankfully, there are three surefire strategies to ripping destructive thoughts out of your mind before they take root and do their damage.

1. H.A.L.T.

Recently, I learned an acronym known as H.A.L.T. Regarding stinking thinking, the principle holds true. Any time negative thoughts enter your mind, quickly ask yourself:

Am I hungry?
Am I angry?
Am I lonely?
Am I tired?

Making slipshod, irrational, impulsive decisions in any of these conditions will lead you away from focused living that yields negative, regressive results. Supporting this thought, a trusted leader in my life once said, “I have to manage my soul and nourish my body. I have to realize that my soul and body get exhausted before my spirit does.”

2. The umpire strikes back.

A really wise man said, “Let soul harmony act as umpire continually in your hearts, deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds.” In baseball, the umpires decide whether or not the ball is in or out of play. Concerning your thought life, shouldn’t you employ the same strategy? You see, if you don’t manage your inner world, it’ll eventually manage you and undermine your destiny. You need to question “reality” and learn to set your mind and keep it set on that which is true.

3. Don’t let one thought go unchecked.

This is especially important when you’re hurting. There are so many times you have a reason to think and believe something, but it doesn’t mean you should. You don’t have to actively think about every thought that drops in your head. Deal with it before it settles into your subconscious mind.

In life, the barrage of random thoughts that enter your headspace won’t completely end. But you can put an end to allowing “sour thoughts” to manage you. Earlier, I suggested that you’ve probably asked yourself, Who do you think you are? Well, the voice of identity and the voice of shame ask the same question. One is an invitation to discover significance and purpose. The other is a blatant taunt fueled by fear and condemnation. Make the regular choice to develop a mind that agrees with the truth about the core of your identity and purpose. So I ask…

Who do you think you are?

Related: 4 Ways to Actively Reprogram Your Thoughts

This article originally appeared on chriscookis.com.

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Christopher Cook is a leadership coach and business consultant to both Fortune 1000 and nonprofit organizations. Additionally, he is the host of “Win Today with Christopher Cook,” a popular weekly podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and other outlets. Through his work at WINTODAY.tv and as a contributor for SUCCESS magazine, he serves as a guide to help people design their road map to wholeness from the inside out.

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