No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, everyone fights the same battle: the battle against “brain junk.” What successful people know that others don’t is that this battle is the most important one to win. And if you want to be successful, you don’t just win it once—you win it again and again over the course of your life.
What’s Brain Junk?
Brain junk is the mental baggage that we all carry around that tells you that you’re not smart enough, tough enough, experienced enough, good enough, to do the things you want to do. It’s the cerebral clutter that holds you back and keeps you thinking small. And it’s so important to fight and win this battle that it’s the first thing I work on with all of my clients. This type of self-talk can destroy your dreams before you even get started working toward them.
We All Have It
The fascinating thing about brain junk is that we all have it, albeit in different ways. I’ve seen seasoned entrepreneurs get bogged down when facing new technology. I’ve seen new business owners derailed by the first sign of a challenge. I’ve seen highly motivated and talented people stop themselves from going after their dreams because they hit a few roadblocks along the way.
It’s not the fact that we have negative self-talk, but how we deal with it that defines us. The most successful people have moments when they feel anxious and small, just like those who are just starting out in their career, or in life. What sets the most successful among us apart is that they know how to manage those experiences so they don’t get stuck in them.
How Do You Toss Out the Negative Thinking?
It’s unlikely you’ll ever completely rid yourself of your negative thoughts. That’s why successful people have it, too.
The nature of this junk is that, even when you think you’ve dealt with it, it lurks in the dark recesses of your mind, awaiting the perfect moment to pop out and throw you off track. And when it does pop out, here’s what you can do to stop it.
4 Steps to Overcome Brain Junk
Step 1. Identify
If you don’t know that you have junky thoughts, you can’t really deal with it. So the first step is to identify that you have it. This awareness can in itself be enormously empowering. Your harmful thoughts can keep you captive. Finding out that you have it means you can take control and solve the problem.
Step 2. Assess
Once you know you have some brain junk, now it’s time to figure out what it is. There are many different kinds of junk—which one is yours? Is it about money? Do you have recurring negative thoughts that tell you that you’re not smart enough or you don’t know enough to achieve your dreams?
Track your thought processes for a couple of days and keep a journal. At the end of the two days, analyze the results and see what thought patterns recur. Then you’ll be able to determine which remedy to apply.
Step 3. Exorcise
Sometimes a couple of minor shifts in perspective can help you exorcise your negative thoughts.
You can change “stinkin’ thinkin’” by gradually replacing the negative thinking with its positive equal. This exercise is particularly useful when you have recurring, negative thought patterns that are junking up your thinking. Or, you can create a history of your successes in life to alter the way you see yourself. These are just two of many ways to exorcise your demons (and if you ever get stuck, you can hire a qualified coach to help you).
Step 4. Wait. Then Repeat
Your junk will come back and you’ll go through the process of tossing it out again. Over time, you’ll become more and more adept at decluttering your brain.
The bottom line about brain junk is that everyone has it and it never completely goes away. But if you learn how to manage it effectively, you’ll go farther than you ever thought possible.