Developing ‘So what’ thinking

Have you ever imagined the outcome of a situation before it happened? Think about that question for a moment… You will know if you have, if I remind you of a classic scenario – John has an interview next week, he has been preparing for a few weeks and is becoming anxious about it; without full awareness, he has begun creating full-coloured, vibrant moving images in his head of himself walking into the interview room with sweaty palms, stuttering his way through the questions, and next, opening an envelope that has just fallen through his letterbox, that begins: ‘We are sorry to inform you that on this occasion you have been unsuccessful…’  He hasn’t even been to the interview yet! Does any of that sound familiar?! Many of us create distress within ourselves by imagining a future of disastrous, disturbing, fear-filled images and ideas…all of this comes from imagination and this is a destructive use of imagination. A longer-term habit that is beneficial to develop is one where you use your imagination positively, by using visualisation to programme your sub-conscious to see yourself, in the above case, performing excellently and succeeding before you even reach the interview room!

Many of us stop ourselves from trying new things, meeting new people, going on an adventure, changing a job or a comfy routine through the way that we think about it and visualise it, as above. We disturb ourselves into thinking how awful, how difficult it will be and so to avoid this pain…we avoid trying it altogether! We are fortune-telling and not in a positive way! You will know if you are putting the brakes on any action is you find yourself using the phrase, ‘But…what if I …?’ You have imagined failing or feeling uncomfortable before you even attempt anything.

Here are some classic, everyday examples of being a fortune telling:

But…what if I enrol on a course and I find it difficult?

But…what if I go out with him/her on a date and I don’t get on with them

But…what if I go to that new restaurant and hate the food?

But…what if I change my job and hate the new one?

But…what if I go to the dance class and can’t follow the steps?

But…what if I change my hairstyle and don’t like it?

This thinking creates a state of mind where you feel FEAR, ANXIETY, NERVOUSNESS….and it STOPS ANY ACTION that could be beneficial to you.

It is important to get into the habit of taking just a few more calculated risks. These risks may improve your physical health, your mental health, your social skills and social life, your relationships, your career satisfaction and your income.

To start developing a risk-taking consciousness, work on getting into the habit of thinking differently.

Here are some examples of ‘SO WHAT’ THINKING to counter the fortune-telling statements above:

So what if I discover the course is difficult, I can ask for help – it’ll be a good challenge for me.

So what if I got out with him/her and we don’t get on, I’ll give it a try anyway, it might be fun!

So what if I try that new restaurant and don’t like the food, next time I’ll try something different!

So what if I hate the new job at first, I need to give myself time to settle in, it could be great!

So what if I go to the dance class and can’t follow all the moves, I enjoyed the company anyway!

So what if I change my hairstyle and don’t like it, it’ll grow back or I might get used to it and really like it!

If you practise changing how you think about the opportunity of new things it will have a positive effect on your state of mind; you will feel freed up to give it a try, and you’ll take a a more rational and light-hearted view where you are more likely to bounce back from initially uncomfortable situations; this ENABLES ACTION,  practise it!


Change is not to be feared

Stages of change model.

‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but not one thinks of changing himself.’ Leo Tolstoy

Many people avoid change in their life because they view change as something uncomfortable and difficult. Human beings enjoy routine and ritual because it creates a sensation of security and comfort; when we experience change we often suffer from a sense of loss of our ’normality’, a loss of familiarity and a loss of control.

 Even if we know that we want to change because we are in a difficult situation and are experiencing high levels of discomfort there can still be reluctance to change due to fear of the unknown. This fear can result in a psychological ‘paralysis’ where we know we need to change but can’t.

The process of change asks us to consider big questions such as:

What is important in my life now?

Who is important to me?

What action do I need to take to make things different?

What if it all goes wrong?

What if I make the wrong decision?

The first three questions are incredibly important and are helpful to us in evaluating what we would like from our life and what we need to do to make change happen. The last two questions are fortune-telling; in other words, we are almost deciding that things will go wrong before they have, which sets our subconscious off on a losing streak before we start! Be aware of, and avoid, this type of thinking at all costs!

Instead, visualising the pleasure when the change has happened will set our subconscious up to want to change because it can already see the great results that change can bring.

It is important to understand and to evaluate where we are in the various stages of change, see the diagram above- Cycle of Change – Prochaska & DiClemente

In pre-contemplation we are unwilling to change and to see that there is something to change

In contemplation we have seen that there is something to change but we are not in the right state of mind to make the leap

In preparation a decision to make the change been taken and we put plans in place to do it

In action we have started to do what is necessary to make the change happen

Maintenance is crucial in keeping up the action and good habits

Relapse is a normal part of the change process. We can go through the cycle a few times before lasting change is reached.

Try this activity to send a clear and powerful message to your subconscious; change will be successful and pleasurable –

  •  Set aside 15-20 minutes, once or twice a day, find a quiet space, take some deep breaths and relax
  • Now, start to think about the change you want in your life e.g. career, family,relationship, friends, self-image, confidence, ambitions etc.
  • Next, in your mind, create a vibrant picture of yourself in that new situation, giveit colour, give it movement, and give it sound
  • See yourself in your own home movie of this new change in your life…

What do you look like?

How are you behaving?

What are you saying?

What do you hear around you?

What can you see?

How are you interacting with family/friends/colleagues?

What emotions are you experiencing? e.g. joy, comfort, pleasure, confident feelings

REPEAT THIS EXERCISE ONCE OR TWICE A DAY— then start planning, putting into action and achieving your change.

REMEMBER that lasting change can take a while—do not get disheartened, ask for support if you need it – good luck!