Some things about me are facts:
I’m 5’ 6” and I have blue eyes. I stopped coloring my hair five-ish years ago, so I’ve got some grays. I’m married with two kids and three dogs. We all live in Thousand Oaks, California.
These truths aren’t open for debate; they objectively ARE.
Some other things I’ve always believed about myself aren’t actually facts, although they feel true to me.
Like I’m terrible at technology and at training my dogs. I’m a good mom and a pretty solid writer. I love to procrastinate and I’m secretly lazy, so I finish what’s expected of me, but at the last minute.
Although these thoughts feel true to me (SO TRUE!) they are optional thoughts I choose to believe. Even the bad stuff. That’s not on purpose. It’s just that I’ve thought this good and bad stuff for so long, the beliefs become cemented. Permanent. Inevitable.
Most human beings take comfort in the familiar, so we tend to repeat the patterns of our past, even when those patterns no longer serve us. It’s like we’re caught in this wake of who we’ve always been, and forget we can swim in a different direction.
For example: The more I say, “I’m scared of talking on the phone,” the more I avoid talking on the phone.
Who even cares if you prefer texting, Julie?
No one, probably, except my grandmother.
Still, I’ve turned down offers to co-write or ghost-write books because—among other reasons—the commitment required phone calls.
See also: I would’ve had to produce specific results on a deadline instead of staying in the familiar wake of NO SPECIFICS! NO DEADLINE! HOORAY!
Plus, what if I failed? What if the person for whom I was ghost writing wasn’t satisfied with the product?
(I didn’t consider my potential success, or the possibility that people might be delighted with my work.)
I told myself you can’t do this, Julie. After all, Past-Julie had never done this before. But instead of admitting I was afraid, I repeated thoughts that sounded almost noble—like I need to complete my own projects first. And I prefer fiction. And I operate better by myself.
I could’ve used the money, the accountability, the experience. The challenge.
But challenge is RISKY!
And safety is SAFE!
To be fair, some optional thoughts do serve us. Like, I’m a good mom and I can write well. Believing these thoughts makes me very happy, so why not practice them?
Yes, I said practice.
(Stay with me.)
Believing I’m bad at something—like technology—is limiting. It makes me feel helpless and unnecessarily less-than.
But I can’t simply decide I’m great at technology and make that thought feel SUPER TRUE. That’s too big a leap. First I have to practice believing smaller thoughts that move me in the right direction.
Here’s one of mine right now: I’m open to learning about writing in a new genre.
Then I’ll practice thinking I can write in a new genre. Other people do it. Why can’t I?
From there, I’ll switch to I am writing, but then I actually have to do it, mistakes and all. This phase is transitional and can take some time, and that’s OK. Eventually I’ll reach I have written in a new genre when I’ve published my next book.
Ask yourself what optional thoughts you’ve been believing so strongly or for so long that you’re convinced they are The Facts.
(Seriously. Stop and think right now. Give it a minute. Let the question sink in.)
Which of those thoughts makes you happy?
Good news: You can believe those thoughts forever!
But if there is something you wish you could change that isn’t a FACT, consider a small shift in your thoughts that will bring you closer to a new belief. A goal you actually want. Step by step.
I’m open to it. I can. I am. I did.
Change is hard. Hard and scary.
But Hard and Scary is how we grow.
So decide what you want to believe, then let’s go swim outside that wake together.
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