Do you know how to watch yourself think? Let’s talk about what that means and how it impacts your life.

As I’ve said before, your thoughts are optional.  That includes ALL of your thoughts – about yourself, other people, and the world.  Sometimes your brain offers you thoughts on its own, and sometimes you may choose to think some thoughts intentionally.

Why Is It Important To Watch Yourself Think?

So, why would anyone want to watch themselves think?

Because  stopping and examining what your brain is doing allows you to gain awareness around your own thoughts and what they’re creating in your life.

Here’s an example that I’m sure you’ve probably experienced yourself.  Have you ever listened to a friend or a family member talk about themselves, their job, or some other situation in their life and you couldn’t wait for them to stop talking, so that you could point out their thinking that wasn’t
true? Or how they were actually hurting themselves with their thinking? Or that it was causing them to do or not do specific things in their life?

You were watching that person think and finding thought errors in their thinking. You can actually do that with yourself, which is totally amazing.

Two Ways To Notice Your Own Thoughts

There are a few ways you can watch yourself think.

Notice Thoughts In Real Time

First, you can notice your thoughts as they happen.  Think of it like sitting on a couch and watching your thoughts go by, as though you’re watching a movie on TV.

When you notice a thought, be intrigued by it.  “Isn’t it interesting that I think I can’t function with a migraine?” Which was one of my thoughts earlier today.  Or, “I wonder why I think I don’t have any energy to clean my house?” Notice the thoughts as they pop into your head.

Like I said earlier, your thoughts are optional.  You have the ability to choose whether or not you want to believe them.  That doesn’t mean you’re going to go through your life every single day and notice every single thought and say, “Well that’s optional, and that’s optional,” because you would wear yourself out completely in five minutes.  After all, you have over  60,000 thoughts a day!

But we do have these sneaky little thoughts that impact the way that we feel, which impacts our actions, which are what create our results in life.  Once you start noticing the thoughts that are happening in your head, you can start acting on them with intention, explore them, and even transition to a new thought when it’s appropriate to do so.

Write Your Thoughts Down

Another awesome way to watch yourself think is to write down your thoughts – the stream of consciousness in your head. Even five minutes of writing down whatever is going on in your mind can be very revealing.

Once you’ve written down some thoughts, go back and read them to yourself with an air of curiosity.  “Isn’t it interesting that I’m feeling overwhelmed about packing for this trip?”  Or “Wow, look how worried I am about this package that I’m supposed to receive today.”

You can read your own thoughts almost like you’re another person outside of yourself.  That is amazing because it gives you some objectivity.  It gets you a little bit unstuck from being in your own sea of thoughts.  You have the ability to jump outside of your own brain and look at what it’s doing and think, “Huh, isn’t that interesting?”

Amazing Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Thoughts

Once you’ve started noticing your thoughts consciously, here are some great questions you can ask yourself about your thoughts.

Why?

A fantastic question to ask yourself is, “Why am I thinking that?”

“Why am I so worried about this package?”

“Why am I thinking that organizing my house is too overwhelming?”

“Why am I thinking that my husband doesn’t find me attractive?”

Once you start asking yourself “why,” it’s almost like pulling a thread.  Every time you say to yourself “why?,” you’re pulling the thread a little bit more and a little bit more.  Keep asking yourself “why?,” and see where it takes you.  You will discover so much about yourself by looking at your thoughts and asking, okay, “why?”

Your brain might offer, “I don’t know” when you ask yourself why.  Don’t take that for an answer!  Encouraging yourself to really answer the question will help you get to the root of what your brain is doing.

What is this thought creating in my life?

Another great thing to ask yourself about your thoughts is, “What is this thought creating in my life?”

For example, if I think I have a lot of packing to do for a trip, I start feeling overwhelmed.  When I feel overwhelmed, I shut down, I go do other things.  My brain does its best to get me to not take action on the thing I think is overwhelming.  From that thought of, “I have so much packing to do,” causing the feeling of overwhelm, I don’t get the packing done.  Thinking to myself, “I have a lot of packing to do” causes me to not get the packing done.  That’s what it’s creating in my life – it’s actually setting me back.

Does This Thought Serve Me?

Another awesome question you can ask is, “Does this thought serve me in being the version of myself that I want to be?”

A big goal of thought work is to evolve as a human being into the best, most amazing version of yourself.  Don’t get me wrong, you are already awesome, amazing, perfectly whole, and complete exactly as you are. We all have areas of our life, though, that we want to improve.  One of the ways that we can do that is by choosing thoughts that serve us in becoming who we want to be.

What Else Might Be True Here?

Another really good question to ask yourself, especially if your thought feels very, very true to you, is, “What else might be true here?”

Take the example of, “My husband doesn’t find me attractive.” Okay, maybe he doesn’t, but what else might be true here?  Is it possible that he’s stressed?  Is it possible that he’s trying to flirt with you and you’re  not noticing it? Maybe, maybe not.  I don’t know.  But, asking yourself, “What else might be true here?” is a great way to show yourself that your thought is optional.

Another example: “I have so much packing to do for this trip.”  This is a situation that I currently have in my life.  We’re taking a trip soon and I’m thinking, “I have so much packing to do.  It’s going to take forever.”

So what else is true here?

Well, it’s a weekend trip and I really don’t have that  much packing to do.  I need to pack maybe two outfits plus two backup  outfits, a couple of sets of pajamas and my toiletries.  So I actually don’t have that much packing to do.  I feel a lot less overwhelmed when I think about it like that.  I just proved to myself that my thought about having a lot of packing to do was optional.

The Importance Of Curiosity And Compassion

Another really important thing when you start watching yourself think is to be careful with how you approach yourself around your own thoughts.

You never want to approach yourself with judgement or criticism.  You probably will, especially if you’re a recovering  perfectionist like myself. Your brain wants to look for what’s wrong.  It’s designed to do that.

Naturally, when you start looking at your thoughts, you’re going to start noticing, “Oh gosh, yeah, of course I think I look fat in that outfit. I can’t give myself a break. I don’t appreciate my own beauty.”  And that doesn’t help.

Think of it like this.  What if somebody else outside of you was looking at your thoughts and saying things like, “You’re overwhelmed over a little bit of packing? You need to get over it.”  Or, “Of course your house isn’t clean because you’re lazy, like usual, and you can’t get with the program.”  How would that feel? That would feel horrible.  When we judge and criticize our own thoughts, our own actions, and our own feelings, we’re doing that to ourselves.

When you watch yourself think, you always want to approach yourself with compassion and curiosity.

Instead of, “Oh, of course I think I look fat in that  outfit,” or, “My house isn’t clean, of course, because I’m lazy.” Approach your thoughts like this: “Isn’t it interesting that I love this outfit, but I’m not letting myself feel good in it, which is the whole point of the outfit?”  “I wonder why I think I’m “lazy” when it comes to cleaning – is it really that I just don’t think cleaning is fun?”

Practice Loving Self-Talk

When you’re noticing your thoughts and examining what’s going on in your head, talk to yourself like you would talk to the dearest person in your life that you love so much.  Watching yourself think is really all about learning and growing into the awesome human being that you are.  It’s not about putting yourself down at all.

If you notice that you’re judging or criticizing yourself when you look at your thoughts, recognize it, acknowledge it and set it aside.  Don’t start judging yourself for judging yourself, like, “Oh, of course I’m judging myself again. Here I go.”  Notice it with compassion and  curiosity. “Okay, I’m getting a little judgmental with myself.  It’s okay, self. I love you. We’re going to look at this thought and we’re going to handle it.”

How To Watch Yourself Think:  Conclusion

Let’s do a quick review.  There are couple of ways to watch yourself think:

  • Notice your thoughts as they float by, kind of like watching tv on the couch
  • Write your thoughts down, and then go back and take a look at what’s going on in your head.

Ask yourself awesome questions about your thoughts, such as:

  • “Why?”
  • “What does this thought create in my life?”
  • “Does this thought serve me in being the version of myself that I want to be?”
  • “What else might be true here?”

Finally, make sure that when you examine your thoughts, you approach yourself with curiosity and compassion, not judgement or criticism.

If you want to learn how to watch yourself think, uncover what your thoughts are creating in your life, and choose thoughts that serve you in directing your life where you want it to go, schedule a free coaching consultation call with me.  Let’s talk about how I can help you and see if we’re a good fit!

About the Author

Amy Schield, MBA is a time management and productivity coach for small business owners. Using a mix of simple tactics and neuroscience-based strategies, she helps clients manage their time successfully, set and achieve goals for business growth, and navigate the mental and emotional side of owning and running a small business. Acting as a personal trainer for the brain, she teaches clients how to get out of their own way, so they can finally build the business they want.

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