“Research shows, you're going to regret not following your dreams a whole lot more than you're going to regret not doing what you 'should'.”
If you’re like me, then you may have reached the point where going through the motions in life just doesn’t work anymore. I reached that point back in 2019. I remember waking up one day with the feeling like I just couldn’t stand one more day of being unsatisfied with my life.
I couldn’t sit at my computer grading an endless pile of student work. I couldn’t attend another meeting that didn’t produce any results, other than creating another fruitless meeting. And I couldn’t keep allowing my employer to control when I could have time off to do the things I enjoyed like taking vacations and traveling. I WAS ABSOLUTELY DONE!
That feeling of dissatisfaction helped me realize that I needed to turn the tables on life, or I was going to spend the rest of my life regretting not pursuing the life I wanted to live. While the thought of calling the shots in life was exciting, I still faced the challenge of overcoming thoughts that were counterproductive to my goals.
Overthinking kept me in a cycle of creating complex plans and strategies for my life’s transition. Listening to others was my way of checking in with people to make sure I was doing the right thing. My need to be perfect was keeping me stuck in a life that I was ready to change once and for all.
Now, if any of this sounds like you, don’t panic. There’s nothing wrong with you. This is a part of the human experience. I want to show you how to bring awareness to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are keeping you from living a more fulfilling life. It will take some learning, patience, and practice on your part, but if I can do it, I know you can too.
In this post, I’m going to explain three thought patterns I had to overcome to get unstuck and move along the path to living my dreams. This could help you identify what's holding you back from going after your dreams. My hope is that you’ll be able to develop a strategy to keep these thought patterns in check, so you can flip the script on life as I did.
3 Counterproductive Thought Patterns Keeping You Stuck
The three thought patterns for you to be on the lookout for are: People-Pleasing, All or Nothing Thinking, and the Fear of the Unknown.
How do you tell if you are a people pleaser? Well, people pleasers want everyone around them to be happy, and they’ll do whatever it takes to keep the peace. People-pleasers prefer to avoid conflict whenever they can. The headline here is that if you’re a people-pleaser, you may be spending a lot of time trying to make other people happy by sacrificing your own happiness.
Here are some signs to look for:
You feel responsible for other’s emotions.
You feel overburdened by your responsibilities to others.
You have a hard time saying “no.”
You need others to agree with you to feel good about yourself or your decisions.
People-pleasing can be hard to break out of, especially for people who’ve been providing or taking care of others for some time. Learning how to put your needs before others requires time and practice. But you can shift from hardcore people-pleasing to remaining committed to your dreams and ambitions.
The next thought pattern to be aware of is All or Nothing thinking.
All or Nothing Thinking
All or nothing thinking occurs when you view your life situations as polar opposites, without any middle ground. Let’s say you had an interview for a new job and you haven’t heard back from the interviewer. All or Nothing Thinking takes over when your first thought is that you bombed the interview and that’s the reason you haven’t received a callback.
All or Nothing Thinking works against you because it prevents you from exploring different alternatives about why you haven’t received a callback. Maybe you knocked the interview out of the park and the hiring manager needs to interview the remaining candidates. In this case, all or nothing thinking blocks your ability to consider other possibilities, including the thought that you performed well in the interview.
Like people-pleasing, all-or-nothing thinking requires awareness to correct. I believe it’s important to recognize all or nothing thinking when it arises, so you learn what triggers the cycle. I’ll talk more about triggers and strategies for correcting all or nothing thinking in an episode devoted solely to this topic.
The last thought pattern is a big one. Why? Because EVERYONE suffers from it, even if they won’t admit it to you.
Fear of the Unknown
Fear of the Unknown is the most common one that I observe in myself and in my coaching clients. This sneaking thought pattern lives quietly in your brain. It hangs out in that part of your mental landscape where you don’t notice it. Fearing the unknown shows up when you can’t predict or control the outcome of a situation you're facing. Left unchecked, this fear can paralyze you to the point that you’re unable to make decisions or take the actions you need to get the results you want.
The takeaway here is that you have to start training your brain to spot faulty thought patterns that prevent you from making progress towards your goals. How do you do that? PRACTICE!
Practicing begins with raising your awareness of the interrelationship of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. How do you feel when someone makes a request of you that conflicts with your plans? Does it make you feel resentful, overwhelmed, or angry? Keep asking yourself questions like these to discover what is at the root of your feelings. You may find that your thoughts about pleasing others cause your negative mentions.
If you believe things are only good or bad, and there’s no middle ground, you’re in the land of All-or-Nothing Thinking. How does not seeing alternatives impact your motivation to achieve your goals? What results do you achieve when you limit yourself to only two perspectives? How might this be keeping you from making progress toward your goals?
When your fear of the unknown takes over, take some mental notes. Focus on the triggers. What’s causing your anxiety? Is it the thought of doing something new? Or is it that you get anxious when you can predict how things will turn out? Pay attention to your thoughts and see if you make a connection to how your thoughts influence your feelings.
The important thing to remember about practicing is to stay in observer mode. Resist the urge to jump into fixer mode.
Want More Help?
You’ll need some baseline data to develop strategies to overcome these faulty thought patterns. That’s why I developed an exercise, The Show Up Report, that will help you gather and organize that mental data you collect from practicing.
Get a FREE copy of the exercise. I designed it to help you identify the thoughts, feelings, behaviors that are blocking you from getting the result you want in life. The worksheet also prepares you to set goals that are specific to your life’s unique circumstances.
Take the first step towards living the life you’ve always dreamed about. Download your copy of the worksheet today!
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Image: Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke—Pixabay