Challenge every thought. Every. Single. Thought.
Are your thoughts true and can you turn them around?
Katie Byron’s life work “The Four Questions and Turn Around” talks to just this.
In a talk co-hosted by Wayne Dyer, she said, “We will be confused as long as we believe our own thoughts.”
This struck me like a bolt of lightning. I have been doing a lot of mindfulness work and thought awareness over the last two years. It has opened me to how much time I waste in thinking unwanted, untrue, and unproductive thoughts. It not just wastes physical time, but doesn’t contribute to living a productive life of intention and joy.
As I endeavor to challenge every thought; weeding the garden of my mind of unproductive and other unneeded thoughts, I have also questioned the validity of my thoughts. Often, I realized there was no real truth behind just about any thought that I think.
Byron Katie’s simple (yet profoundly deep) technique requires you to ask four questions plus a turnaround question to get you to reframe the situation to rid or change the thought to something more positive.
Let’s take a look at her process mixed with the powerful coaching questions from Solution Focused Coaching.
We have been conditioned to have a knee-jerk reaction to many thoughts, so much so, that we believe our thoughts without really understanding why. We also become too attached to our thoughts thinking we ‘own’ that thought. How can we shift our reality if we did not have a knee jerk reaction and/or think we own our thoughts.
Is there even one circumstance where that is NOT true? Keep thinking. Sit with it for sometime. Generally, there are few things that are true or false 100% of the time.
Solution Focused Coaching Questions you can use:
- When you identify an exception to this, mention the exception out loud or write it down.
- How do you feel with this exception? How do you feel about the original thought?
- Which feeling do you like better?
- How can you strive toward the better feeling thought?
Imagine the time you think that thought. Ask yourself these….
Solution Focused Coaching Questions:
- How do you feel when you feel this? (Don’t hesitate, say what comes up first.)
- What happens in your body?
- Can you identify the smallest or biggest thing you notice in general when you think that thought?
- What do you do at the moment you have that thought?
- If anyone is around you, what do they notice?
- Based on what you and others notice, how are you perceived?
Solution Focused Questions to ask:
- Was there ever a time in the past when I did not think this? If yes, how was life different then? How can I bring that into my life today?
- If you stopped thinking this thought today, how could your life be different?
- Consider how much time in a day you think this thought – if you did not use this time or energy for this thought, how could that time and energy be used differently.
- If you did not think this, how would you notice?
- How would others notice you are not thinking this way anymore?
- Without this thought, how much closer could you be to inner peace? (Where are you now on your inner peace scale – identify your scale in any way you want, and where would you be on the inner peace scale without that thought?)
Flip this thought upside down. What is it’s opposite? Keep trying to ask yourself different questions to come up with the turnaround question (more examples in the recording).
Solution Focused Coaching Questions to Prompt:
- Consider the exceptions you came up with for the answer to question 2. Select one. If that was true, if a miracle happened and you had that thought in your mind instead of what you have in your mind now, how would your life be different?
- How would you and others notice?
- How would that change your interaction with others or yourself?
I will share an example of this from my real-world work experience. Many years ago I was a social worker working with children with mental illness. I worked in community settings, which meant I met my clients in their home. There was one mom I was working with who, for years and years shouted at her child every day when he came home from school because he’d run in swearing and calling everyone names. What peace was in the house was totally disturbed upon his entrance. We tried so many things, then we tried a method similar to this. I will try to mould that situation into this method.
Then we shout and fight for quite some time before things calm down. I want this to change.
- Is it true that your son ONLY KNOWS how to disturb the peace when he comes home?
- It took a lot of time, but it was realized it was not true, because….
Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true?
- Can you ABSOLUTELY know that your son ONLY KNOWS how to disturb the peace when he comes home?
- Rarely he comes home and is happy or comes to tell me he missed me.
- Some weeks ago he had run in to show me his artwork from art class. He did not disturb the peace that day.
- When he smells cookies that I bake he seems to be calmer.
Question 3: How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought?
- How do you react when you believe your son ONLY knows how to disturb the peace when he comes home?
- Well… I’d be sitting in my kitchen for about an hour before he comes home having coffee, I look at the clock then I realize, “Oh no… I have to get ready for the tornado to enter. I start to get anxious and the hour that I have remaining is already gone because I start worrying about that my peace will be disturbed… OH MY, I have disturbed my OWN peace before he has even had a chance to come home to change my mind.
- I also realize I smoke more before he comes home when these thoughts enter my mind. But the smoking doesn’t relax me, it makes me more anxious.
- Maybe my anxiety about this thought makes the situation worse than it actually is. Maybe sometimes I don’t really notice when he doesn’t swear or shout. Worse, I probably miss if he has something nice to say or share because I am not really listening to him as I am listening to these thoughts in my head, just waiting for the ball to drop. (She started crying…..)
- That’s easy- I’d smoke less. Probably bake more- I love baking. In fact, I want to get a job as a baker in the store, but I am always worried about my son. I could also possibly notice his good news.. just now I am realizing that I have missed his good news in the past… due to being so obsessed about the bad behavior happening, I missed the fact that it was happening INSIDE of me…
- I said I’d bake more and I also said my son is happier when he smells cookies when he comes home. Wow, I never realized this connection before.
- Well… also I complain about this a LOT…. if I can learn to stop thinking about it, maybe I will also stop talking inseceantly about it… Or I can switch the thought to what I want, so instead of the old complaints coming out of my mouth, I would have something more positive to talk about.
- My family would have more of ME… we can play board games or go for a walk or anything. I can also spend more time with my daughter. She always feels left out as I am overworrying about my son. Wow, I never realized this before.
- What is the opposite of “My son only knows how to disturb the peace when he comes home?”
- My son can be happy when he comes home.
- I can also be more at peace by doing a few things differently before he comes home.
- I can approach my son without shouting (as he swears, I usually shout to tell him to stop swearing, then we get in a shouting match).
There was an amazing change in this family. Within a few months (really a short time considering this had been going on for YEARS), the incidence of shouting and swearing upon her son coming home was maybe 1 or 2 days a week instead of 4 or 5. She had a lot more time. This chain-smoking mother went from several packs of cigarettes a week to one pack (saving money, too!). She and her family did more family activities together… and best of all (all though all of these are spectacular) – she got that dream job of hers at the bakery. So she could bring home baked goods before her son came home from school. Her daughter also wanted to stay home and spend time with her brother and parents (instead of trying to run away).
I am not exaggerating this story. It was really a textbook example. This mom and the entire family (dad was there, too), did the work and reaped the rewards.
I hope after you read this, you are convinced that it’s high time to challenge every thought, so that you too can free your time and mind and live your best life – EVER!
Author, Jennifer Kumar is a certified ICF Solution Focused coach who cares about your wellbeing and inner peace.
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