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Be Intentional About Where You Spend Your Mental Energy

Nov 23, 2022

You experience approximately 60,000 thoughts per day. That is a lot, right? There is no way you can give attention to everything that comes your way, or that goes through your brain. Because of this, you can either be intentional about what you are thinking, or you can allow your brain to choose your thoughts for you. What can be helpful to know is that given the choice, your brain will likely choose to focus on the negative things, the hard things, the things that did not go well in the past, and the things that it thinks you should worry about in the future.



Your brain does this to protect you. It thinks that if you focus on the hard things or the negative things that it can protect you from them, or you can save yourself from them. When this happens, you often spend a lot of time and mental energy having thoughts that do not serve you. This is what is happening when you receive nine compliments and one piece of constructive feedback, and all you can think about is the one piece of constructive feedback you receive while completely dismissing the nine compliments. This is also why you worry about something that could happen in the future, even though there is very little chance it will actually happen and there is no need to worry about it today. This is also why you hang onto negative memories or thoughts about your past, even though they don’t serve any purpose other than to make you feel bad. 



Although this may sound concerning, the good news is that with intention, you can choose what you focus on and what you think about. When you choose your thoughts, you are also deciding how you want to feel. I speak with a lot of clients who experience stress, frustration, or unhappiness related to their work. They have thoughts about things that happen during their workday that cause them to experience unpleasant feelings. Despite not wanting to feel bad, they then go home and rehash all of the negative things that happened at work, and feel all the negative feelings over again. Venting or getting support from others can feel helpful after a hard day, however, it is important to be aware of how going through the negative events of the day is impacting how you feel. It is also important to consciously decide how much mental energy you want to spend thinking about work, when you are not at work. If you are consciously aware of it, you can better manage it and not find yourself in a situation where you are spending all of your free time outside of work, thinking about work in a way that creates more negative feelings.



The same is true for any area of your life. Perhaps you feel someone wronged you in some way. It is human nature to want to replay what the person did and what you think about it over and over. In some instances, this could be helpful in assessing how you want to proceed with the relationship, or if there is any action you want to take. Aside from those situations, replaying the situation and your thoughts about it only result in you reliving something unpleasant over and over. Again, if you are aware of your thoughts you can decide if you want to spend your mental energy thinking about negative experiences, or if there is something more useful you could spend your mental energy on. 



The same consideration applies to things that you think about yourself. If you feel that you are not measuring up in some way, or that you did something you wish you had not, your brain will want to put those thoughts on replay and have you think them over and over. This will require mental energy and will likely result in you having negative feelings about yourself. When you raise your awareness to your thoughts that may be causing you to experience feelings you don’t want to feel, you can decide to intentionally change them. 

When you notice yourself experiencing unpleasant or undesirable feelings, you can go through the four step process below to identify where you are spending your mental energy so that you can decide if it is serving you, or if you want to shift your focus to something else. 

 

  • Ask yourself, “What am I thinking that is causing me to feel this way?”. Get really clear and very specific about what you are thinking. Are you having thoughts about something in the present, are you replaying something from the past, or are you worried about something in the future?

 

  • Once you determine what it is that you are thinking, ask yourself, “What am I trying to achieve by thinking about this?”. Is there value in replaying something in your mind, or in worrying about something that could happen in the future. Are there actions you can take to improve a situation or to prevent something from happening in the future?

 

  • Next, ask yourself “Where do I want to spend my mental energy?”. On a scale from 1 - 10, with 1 being “not at all” and 10 being “critical”, how important is it that you continue to think the way you have been thinking, which is creating unpleasant feelings? If you identify a low number, consider if it is worth your mental energy to continue to think about it.

 

  • Decide. You get to decide what you want to think about and how you want to think about circumstances, other people, and yourself. Your thoughts will always impact how you feel. Decide if what you are thinking about is a good use of your mental energy based on how it is making you feel, and if there is any positive outcome if you continue to think about it. 


When there are so many things going on around you that are outside of your control, knowing that you can control your thoughts is empowering. It takes some intention and practice but once you can start to identify what you are consciously thinking and decide if your thoughts are serving you, you will be much more in control of your feelings and of the outcomes you get in your life.

Live your best boss lady life! 

~ Karen 

Karen Vincent Solutions 

If you are interested in information about how to manage unhelpful thinking patterns, you can grab my free 5 Common Thought Distortions Guide HERE. 

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