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  • Sharon Wallen

Wait 21 Days—How to Change Your Habits of Thought

“It’s your beautiful brain and you get to choose what you think about.”

 

A lot of people don’t believe me when I say that. “Nope!’ they tell me, “My brain thinks whatever it wants and I’m just along for the ride.” Or “My brain wakes me up at night worrying about a whole stew of scary stories.”

 

I know that feeling. That’s how I felt up until 20 years ago. My brain was in the habit of thinking negative thoughts that caused me to live with chronic anger, hurt feelings, and anxiety. It didn’t occur to me to question it until I was in my 40s. My friends were spinning their own negative stories, after all. It just seemed normal.

 

If you suffer from negative habits of mind, it’s important to know that you are not alone. And that there are a multitude of resources these days to help you find the power to create new habits of thought.

 

I find joy in sharing the things that have helped me gain the self-awareness and mastery to make new choices. I now focus (almost!) exclusively on the thoughts that allow me to create what I am wanting in my life—physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, a career that brings me joy and challenge,  plus a nourishing relationship that offers deep love, true companionship, and mutual growth. I can say for sure that it is totally true that you get what you think about.

 

I struggled for years trying to change my habits of thought. I read books on the subject, repeatedly started (and quit) meditating, yelled at myself ... the list goes on. Nothing seemed to work except wine, and that only offered temporary relief. It was exhausting.

 

It turns out to be very difficult to change what’s going on in our brain because we’re trying to use the thing we want to change to change itself. It is like trying to trim the nails of your right hand with your right hand. Until we learn some new skills, we cannot question the nature of our thoughts while we’re thinking them. The fact that we’re thinking those thoughts at all gives them a false credibility that causes us to believe they are true. We need another perspective—to see ourselves from a different angle.

 

For me, a big breakthrough came when I agreed to hatch some chicken eggs as I wrote about in my book Hatched: How Nine Little Chicks Cracked My Shell. As soon as I took possession of the eggs, my heart took over and decided what I would focus on. My head grew relatively quiet. I was enthralled with performing the daily tasks required to hatch the eggs. I had to turn the eggs over and rotate them in the incubator three times a day every day to make sure they all had relatively consistent heat. This was not something I had time for in my busy life.

 

Here's what happened:

 

“If you had asked me before I said Yes! to chickens if I would be willing to turn and rotate eggs three times a day for 21 days, I might have slapped you. But performing this simple task (the task of a hen’s feet!) expanded my heart and focused my mind in ways that were unfamiliar and lovely.”


from Hatched Chapter 2: Wait 21 Days


I experienced a new way of being while caring for those eggs and the chicks that would come. My new normal was to focus my attention more on the beauty of what I was doing in each moment and less upon my ruminations about past wrongs or future worries. Just tipping this balance a little bit toward the positive brought great relief from my previous emotional stress. I finally understood what it felt like to be aware of my thoughts. When my brain fell back into its old default negative patterns, I didn’t like how I felt. I was able to catch myself and return to my new more comfortable and positive frame of mind. I had discovered my power to choose.

 

I realized years later that I was only able to break my old habit because caring for the chicks provided a positive, heart-engaging focus long enough for new pathways to form in my brain. I had to stick with it or the chicks would die in their shells. Changing a habit takes time.

 

“It is fascinating that the 21 days it takes for a chick to develop and hatch is the same amount of time it takes for the synapses in the human brain to stabilize when we introduce a change to our routine.”

from Hatched  Chapter 2: Wait 21 Days


What I want you to know is that you don’t need to hatch a bunch of chicken eggs, but you do need to get outside of your head to learn how to master your thoughts. What brings you joy? What would it take to bring more focus and engagement to that?

 

It is also very helpful to have support to help you stick with your new ways of being long enough for them to become your new reality. When we start this work, our successes are fragile and often fleeting. It can feel lonely as not everyone around us appreciates our changes. Many relationships are built upon a mutual love of complaining about things and being together will no longer feel comfortable for either of you.

 

Finding a new tribe is key. I want to help with that. Starting in March, I’ll be kicking off a new private Facebook group. It will be a place to share successes, ask questions, offer suggestions about what’s working for you, and grow new friendships with those who are on the same path. Making it private and working to keep it just for us is important to me so you can feel safe being your authentic selves.

 

And because the joy it makes me feel is very similar to what I felt for those first eggs and the little chicks growing within, I’m calling it … 

The Nest.


If you're serious about creating real change in your life, I hope you join us. Drop me an email (sharon@masteryandme.com) or direct message me and I'll be sure to send you an invite. Meanwhile read Hatched for a dose of inspiration if you haven't already. :)




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