When we start a writing project we have many decisions to make and long lists of “to dos” and often wondering whether we are heading in the right direction. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, which leads to apathy and not getting anything done. There are many strategies for managing overwhelm; one is to look at your thought circle and how to apply it in a 3-day experiment to help you eliminate overwhelm.
What is a thought circle? If we can believe that we have so many thoughts per day, then our thoughts are finite and can be enclosed within this circle – the thought circle. For most of us when we are feeling overwhelmed, we have lots and lots of thoughts. Some thoughts are serving us and some thoughts are not. Sometimes they are overlapping and getting in each other’s way (If you’re anything like me, these thoughts may sound like: What if you tried this? What if you went in this direction? What about this shiny object over here?), sometimes they are small and pesky and keep popping up and annoying us (this is never going to work, why are you even trying this?), and sometimes we have huge thoughts that overwhelm us (my biggest culprit leading to a flood of overwhelm is – ooooo great idea—> let’s make that as big as possible – maybe a book!).
Now, for a long time I heard a lot of advice that we should just stop thinking those thoughts that are not-serving us. The advice might sound like – “just do it” or “you need to eliminate your negative thoughts” or “just stop feeling bad” or “stop making excuses or procrastinating” or “stop getting in your own way”.
To “just stop” relies too much on willpower. How is willpower working for you? For me, it only ever got me so far. Sure, there are moments when we can push through and just force ourselves to do something but I have found that it’s not sustainable and eventually we run out of will power.
Here’s what I started to do and what I would like to suggest that you try: instead of trying to eliminate the thoughts that are not serving us, I want you to do the opposite – I want you to notice and acknowledge them. Basically, it will start to become easier to let go of non-serving thoughts because there is just not any space for them. What if we could choose to have more thoughts that serve us, and if our number of thoughts are finite, this makes less room for thoughts that don’t serve us. Soon we would have a circle full of thoughts serving us, by default.
By now you may be asking: That’s all fine and dandy but how do I practically DO this? Try this 3-day experiment:
Day 1 – Notice your thoughts that pop up throughout the day.
Day 2 – As you notice your thoughts coming up, ask yourself: does this thought serve me? If it serves you, great – keep going. If it doesn’t serve you – write it down. You can do this in the moment, in reflection or in preparation.
Day 3 – Look at the non-serving thoughts that you recorded and let them run freely through your mind as you write down what you are thinking – really connect to these thoughts. By acknowledging these thoughts and understanding them, ask if you can forgive them and have compassion and understanding for them. If you cannot forgive them, go deeper and keep acknowledging all of the thoughts and feelings that are coming up. There may be resistance. If there is considerable resistance, make sure you get it all out and then pretend as though it’s your best friend that’s been telling you all of this – what would you say to your best friend?
As you begin to acknowledge and understand what’s coming up for you, you will begin to be able to let it go. This allows for more thoughts to come in that are serving you. Soon your thought circle will be filled with thoughts that are serving you. Will non-serving thoughts still come up? Of course, this definitely still happens to me, but if you choose to put this process on repeat beyond the 3 days you will see that you will have increased thoughts that are serving you and less overwhelm.
Now, you are probably already thinking – gee, that sounds like a lot of work; when am I going to have time for that? So, begin now – notice that “that sounds like a lot of work-when I am I going to find time for that?” is a thought… ask yourself – is it serving me? If not, write it down and let yourself sit with this thought, why does it come up for you, write freely about how your thoughts and feelings around this thought.
As you move through this 3-day thought experiment you may notice how your thoughts change. Your overwhelm will decrease as more of the thoughts that you are having are serving you.
If you want to take these ideas further and learn how to apply them to start making writing easier and faster, your next step is to email me at support@melissaEanders.com for a complimentary discovery call where we will discuss what’s happening for you and consider whether the work I do is a good fit for you or not.
This 3-day thought experiment is based on my interpretations of the amazing work of Brooke Castillo and her thought model as well as the work of Byron Katie – both are my virtual mentors whom I am eternally grateful. I highly recommend that you listen to Brooke’s podcast and read Byron Katie’s Loving What is, if you want to change the way you perceive your thoughts. Also Michelle Woodward who talks about having 100 energy units per day … it gave me the idea to apply the finite idea to thoughts and what might happen if we did so. I am also eternally grateful for my coach Jennifer Sherwood who has taught me how to acknowledge and take care of my inner child so that I may speak more from my adult self.