Relieve Anxiety

Getting Past Intrusive Thoughts

Man Scratching HeadOne of the most frequent questions I receive is “How do I overcome negative thoughts that come up when I try to improve my life?”  You know those phrases like “I can’t do this,” “This is just too hard,” “Who do I think I am?” and “What’s the use?”

These phrases can be quite distracting, lead you to feel bad, and intrude on your best intentions.  In this post, we’ll explore some insights from Dr. Otto Scharmer’s research at M.I.T. on how the top leaders and innovators handle that and move to powerful solutions.

So, what did Scharmer’s research reveal?

First of all, Scharmer found that successful leaders and innovators share certain attitudes and strategies to create a positive mental environment for success.  He synthesized his findings into what he calls Theory U.  Theory U takes participants through seven stages to develop what he calls “presencing,” a state of inner stillness in which inner knowing comes to the surface.

Sounds a lot like what we do in meditation.

The first stage of this process is to “observe, observe, observe.”  You learn to recognize the voice of judgment which reflects a lack of acceptance of what is really happening.  You notice habits of being self-critical or blaming others, so you can consciously set them aside, and move deeper into a state of “full immersion” that reveals the best solutions to what is actually going on.

As you accept the chaos of the ever-busy critical mind, challenge its assumptions, and consciously let them go, you begin to access a quieter mental space in which you can ask substantial questions like “Who am I?” “What is my work?” and “What is the highest future possibility in this situation?”

Now, this process happens in stages.  The first stage is perhaps the most essential, as it sets up the rest.  In the first stage, you learn to recognize where your mind is coming from at the moment.  In other words, you observe the different thoughts you have.  You recognize the memories, inner critical voices, cynicism, and fear that intrude on your consciousness and color how you are looking at things.

You accept all of this, so you can see it more clearly and realize the results of your thinking.  This alone is a powerful step.  The ability to “observe, observe, observe,” sets the stage for diving deeper to access authentic, effective, creative solutions.

You can apply this idea whenever you run into a challenge or a stumbling block, whenever you feel stuck on “where to go” or “what to do.”  You simply start from where you are now.  And a big part of that is becoming more aware of what you are thinking.  That doesn’t mean that you have to know 100% of what is going on in your mind.  That could be an endless task.  It just means that you begin to be aware of thoughts that stand out.

This can be as simple as turning inward and noticing the words that are streaming through your brain.  See if you can witness what your mind is saying, without getting caught up in it or reacting to it.  Is it possible to just watch your thoughts?

In that process, you start to grow a little mental “wiggle room.”  You start to separate “who you are,” from all the various things that are going on in your head.  As you watch and observe, you may start to experience a little quietness, a little more clarity, a little deeper connection to “what you are here to do,” and the best steps to get there.  When you practice this consistently, that bit of awareness can grow into a quiet inner presence that senses your best solutions.

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