By Andrew Leigh
In the first two parts of Gardening Your Mind we looked at two of the most damaging weeds in the ‘garden of our mind’. Part 3 explores another of these destructive garden pests, the Deep Rooted Never/Always plant. As before you’ll find tips on how to get rid of it and what to grow in its place.
The Deep Rooted Never/Always plant
There’s not much greenery to the Never/Always plant – just those two little words are all the foliage it needs. But chop the top off and it’ll grow back strong as ever, because the roots go very deep.
This plant can act as a signpost for us. It tells us that the garden of our mind is suffering from negative and self-limiting beliefs, and needs some well targeted nutrition in the form of specific positive self belief. Let me explain.
When we habitually use ‘never’ and ‘always’ about ourselves or the situations we find ourselves in, these words tend to signal a specific self-limiting belief. Statements like the ones below are virtually stating the self-limiting belief for you:
- ‘I always screw up at the last minute’
- ‘I never finish a job’
- ‘She always beats me’
- ‘I never get a lucky break’
There are two problems here – first, the expectation of the belief becomes self fulfilling. If you believe you always screw up at the last minute there’s a very good chance that you’ll find a way of doing it.
Second – these statements simply aren’t true.
You may find yourself protesting against that last sentence. If you are then take note, because the weird thing about the Never/Always plant is that we actually defend it against attack! It’s like we’re saying: ‘hey- don’t you dare pull up that weed – it’s my weed and I’ve become very attached to it.’ But the truth is it’s the weed that’s become attached to us!
As I said, Never/Always statements are rarely, if ever, true. But they can seem like the truth because of our mind’s ability to screen out information that doesn’t fit with its image of who we are. There will actually be plenty of times when we do things fine and don’t screw up at all. But when the Deep Rooted Never/Always plant has a grip on us you can be sure that our mind will manage to filter out any inconvenient success stories.
Amazingly, even when someone compliments us about one of our successes we’ll find a way of discrediting their compliment so that we can keep consistency with our own particular self-limiting beliefs. How often when offered a compliment have you heard yourself muttering something like: ‘Oh, it was just a fluke,’ or ‘Yes, that wasn’t like me at all’?
How to deal with the Never/Always plant
Get it out at the roots. Here’s how:
- Take note of the sentences you use with never/always in them. Keep a note book with you and jot them down as they occur.
- Formulate the ‘positive opposite’ – though not with the words never/always in them, because it’s unhelpful and unhealthy to believe that we never make mistakes. So instead of ‘I always screw up’ use ‘I usually succeed’.
- Take time to tell yourself that your negative never/always statements are not true and counter it with evidence.
- Make a list of the times you’ve proved these statements false – and don’t unfairly discount your achievements.
By refusing to tolerate our never/always statements, by contesting their truth and by highlighting our positive achievements we are replacing these horrible weeds with the beautiful, fruitful varieties such as the ‘I usually get this right’ plant, the ‘what can I learn from that?’ and the ‘how can I do better next time?’
Be systematic about this. Treat it as a project and be consistent with it. Before you know it you will be reaping the fruits of the lovely, bountiful garden of your mind.
Go on. Start your gardening today.
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Andrew Leigh helps people achieve better work and business performance, whole-life wellbeing, achievement and change, and fulfilling new life directions.
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