How I manage my stress and keep myself smiling
I’ve realised how my thoughts drive me. Everyday I used to worry about different things and it was making me unhappy.
Now I use a simple trick to stop my worrying affecting my enjoyment in life. 6 months ago to the day, I was cycling to a final interview for the JUST EAT accelerator program. It was a big moment for me. If we were accepted there was mentoring, office space for 3 months and £20k investment at stake. I knew I was prepared but I couldn’t help but worry.
My mind was awash with my thoughts…
- “What if the other start ups are better?
- Do I look smart enough?
- Am I going to be on time?
- What if we don’t get it though? Back to our bedroom for 12 hour days, struggling, as we have done to this point.
- Will I be able to continue my dream?
- Will I be able to afford to keep living without a paycheck?”
I cycled across London with these thoughts whirled around and around in my head. This was no unusual occurrence, a similar process happened everytime I got on my bike. One day I was chatting to my friend and I got to see how ridiculous all this worrying was, he suggested that maybe this wasn’t how everyone had to live. I started to see that almost none of my thoughts were of any use or value, I had simply tricked myself into thinking that it was. My rational went something like this, ‘The more I think about problems and worry about the future, the more I can find solutions and avoid pitfalls’. Spending my life this way, I had no peace of mind and I was missing out on the moment. It was a mad way for me to live my life; worrying for over an hour a day so that I might or might not avoid future problems that didn’t exist yet!
Next I saw that all this worrying was having a big impact on my life. Firstly, I wasn’t enjoying my cycle rides and I was turning up everywhere slightly stressed. Secondly, it was stopping me enjoying the beautiful process of starting my own business. Now I knew I needed to change this. But how?
How to change
Luckily for me, my friend suggested a happiness hack for me to use, I call it ‘I am not my thoughts’. This has changed the way I look at life. The premise is that my thoughts are automatically generated by my brain, based on my past experiences to create my reality. My thoughts are not the reality, they are just my brains interpretation of events. The reality is that I am cycling across London, the fact that my brain is telling me I am doomed to fail is not, it is just going on my past experiences.
How is this useful?
Knowing that my thoughts are not the reality and just my creation enables me to detach myself from my thoughts and replace them with whatever thoughts I want. I am not my thoughts if I chose to ignore them.
Let me put it another way.
I think of my thoughts as a little voice in my head. On my bike my voice was constantly there telling me to worry and solve all of the problems for my business. That little voice was constantly there. It was every thought I had.
Take 10 seconds and listen for your little voice. What’s it saying right now?
“Do I have a little voice?”, “This is stupid”, or “I don’t have a little voice”.
That’s the little voice I’m talking about. 🙂
Once I realised that the thoughts weren’t me, and they were just my little voice, I was able to pick and choose what I wanted to listen to and when I wanted to act differently.
Let’s me walk though an example…When I step into a room full of people, my little voice instantly judges everyone in the room. It tells me who is friendly, who is threatening, who to talk to, who to avoid. I can choose to listen. ‘Voice, your probably right, let’s avoid them, but let’s talk to them’. Or I can disregard my thoughts and I can choose to talk to whoever I want. Who knows, your random pick could be the most interesting person in the room!
Let’s go back to the example of me riding my bike. My voice will say things like, ‘how are you going to raise a family if you don’t start earning money soon’. I can choose to indulge the thought or not. In this case I decide that it’s not useful to me right now, so I ignore it. This is how I got peace of mind on my cycle rides. I practised listening to and ignoring my thoughts as I cycled. I quickly got better at knowing which thoughts to indulge and which not to, and I quickly realised that most of my thoughts were irrelevant. After practicing this for a while I started to notice my little voice getting quieter. My brain started to catch up that I would survive without the little voice. It’s amazing. This practise means I am now able to cycle around London with peace of mind, free to think about all the good things in my life.
Having mastered this happiness hack on my bike, I have started to use it everywhere. Now I can choose which thoughts I want to indulge when I’m in a meeting, eating my lunch, or out with friends. This process has brought me so much peace of mind and happiness in my life.