Getting out of the Mental Mud


The biggest change in my life over the past few months is that now, unlike before, when I realize I’ve made a wrong turn, I don’t keep driving down that road!

  • I’m not talking about literal wrong turns (although it’s true for those as well).
  • I’m not talking about figurative wrong turns — actions that lead you someplace where you didn’t want to go. (I’ve already written a post about that — and what to do when it happens.)
  • I’m talking about mental “wrong turns” — thought patterns that take you off your intended path…perhaps even into an inner “ditch.”

It’s not a big deal to have unintended thoughts. In fact, sometimes a train of thought can lead you into very interesting terrain, giving birth to ideas or perspectives you’d never considered — many of which may turn out to be breakthroughs, epiphanies, or just pleasant surprises.

Other times, however, you may find yourself habitually turning down inner roads that leave you stuck in the mud, spinning your wheels, and stranded a long way from your intended destination.

Again, it’s not the end of the world to get temporarily stuck now and then. You take a walk, take a nap, call a friend (or a tow truck), shift your focus, and eventually get unstuck — and moving into more pleasant inner territory. And oftentimes, in retrospect you realize that the “wrong turn” ended up being a valuable learning experience.

The problem for me became when I found myself taking the same wrong turns again and again and again. And even after I recognized it (“Oh, here I am heading down this muddy backstreet again — in the opposite direction of where I want to go!”), I’d still keep on heading down the same road — thinking the same old thoughts, spinning my mental wheels, and getting covered with mud!

But recently I realized that I have a choice!

More than just realized it — I began making different mental choices. And although it took a little practice to change some deeply ingrained thought patterns, I now find that I can turn on a dime — and so can anyone! It just takes a few key elements:

  1. Desire (part 1) – If you don’t want to change your thought patterns, you won’t. Simple as that.
  2. Recognition – You start to notice recurring, unhealthy thoughts, just as you might recognize a road you’d accidentally turned onto many times. (“Oh yeah, there’s that abandoned warehouse again — I’m definitely headed the wrong way!”) In other words, recognize a familiar thought that you know is not serving you.
  3. Remembering – From your past excursions, you remember where this mental road leads — and you know that it’s not a place where you care to spend more of your time.
  4. Redirection – Just as you can hit the brakes, turn the steering wheel, and make a U-turn in your car, you can also redirect your thoughts. And, as with driving, it’s helpful to know where you do want to go!
  5. Desire (part 2) – Just as this process starts with the desire to change your thoughts, it ends (or continues) by focusing on your desired thoughts and feelings — aligning your thoughts with your intentions, your dreams, and your soul. In short, you focus on your (very healthy!) desire to feel good!

In my case, I had a few habitual thought-patterns that I found myself stuck in so many times that I could no longer pretend that I was lost. In fact, I knew exactly where I was and exactly where these thoughts would lead: straight into the mental mud!

I also knew that these recurring thoughts were unproductive. I wasn’t “solving” any problems — I was just spinning my wheels in the mud (and driving myself nuts!). And after 1000+ excursions into the same “thought-ditch,” I couldn’t kid myself that I was making any progress.

On top of this, the more I learned about the Law of Attraction (especially the fact that creation begins at the level of thought), the more I realized that I didn’t want to keep manifesting experiences that matched these thoughts!

So, for the past few months, any time I recognized these “muddy roads,” I’d simply mentally change the subject. I’d make a mental U-turn and head down a different road — one that I knew would lead somewhere healthier:

  • I’d focus on gratitude.
  • I’d focus on happy memories.
  • I’d focus on my dreams and positive intentions.
  • I’d focus on anything at all that felt better!

And it worked!

Simple as it may sound, I’ve been able to turn my thoughts around — and turn my life around — largely by hitting the brakes the moment I found myself on a mental “road” I didn’t want to revisit. Before too long, the tendencies to turn down those roads dwindled to almost nothing. And instead, turning toward gratitude and positive thoughts became second-nature.

And thanks to Law of Attraction, I’ve noticed these changed thoughts reflected in my improved external reality. And yes, that is a nice perk, but it’s not really why I made the shift. The real reason is much simpler:

It just feels better!

Do you ever find yourself stuck in unwanted, recurring thought patterns? Would you like to stop heading down those mental roads? If so, the next time you recognize one of those thoughts, simply hit the mental brakes and redirect your thoughts to something that feels better.

It might sound simplistic, but it works! Not only will you feel better in the moment, but your external life will start to reflect these positive new patterns.

Still not convinced? Why not give it a try? The only thing you have to lose is a bit of “mental mud”!

photo by Samo Trebizan

What’s Your Word of the Year? (Here’s Mine)

For the past few years I’ve practiced my own personal New Year’s tradition:

On January 1, I pick a word for the year and write it on my bathroom mirror — where it stays for the next 365 days.

I write the word in bold, blue Sharpie and position it so that whenever I look in the mirror, I see it just above my head (or, if I’m standing with particularly good posture, as if it’s written directly on my forehead).

Each time I see the word, it reinforces its meaning, its power, and its role in my life — so I’m careful to choose a word that […] Continue Reading…

New Year’s Manifestations (NOT Resolutions!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope that you had a wonderful end to 2014 and a happy New Year’s celebration — and that 2015 is already starting off great for you!
So, it’s that time of year again: time to turn over a new calendar page, turn over a new leaf, and make your New Year’s resolutions.
(Or not.)
When you think of New Year’s resolutions, do you think, “Yay!” — or do you think, “Ugh!”. Or do you start off thinking, “Yay!” (in January) and end up thinking “Ugh!” (by February, if not sooner).
If you’ve ever gotten excited about a New Year’s resolution — […] Continue Reading…

Be Like a Kid on Christmas Morning

Here’s something you can probably imagine, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas or have kids…

Think of a kid on Christmas morning — before they open presents…or even see them.

How do you think they feel? Bored? Excited? Or do they not feel much of anything at all until they actually open their presents?

Most likely, they’re bouncing off the walls with excitement from the minute they wake up! (That is, if they managed to sleep at all!)

They don’t wait until they actually see their presents until they feel excited. They don’t wait until they open them. They don’t wait until they […] Continue Reading…

You WILL Find What You’re Looking For

(In several posts I’ve been tempted to simply write a sentence or two — or even just leave it blank except for the title. This is probably the closest I’ve come to actually doing this, but I decided that, rather than explain or elaborate, I’d simply offer some examples to reinforce the title’s point…)

If you’re looking for reasons to feel good, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to feel bad, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons why your life is great, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons why your life is terrible, you’ll find them.
If you’re […] Continue Reading…

But That’s What Really Happened!

When I started looking into creative-writing programs, I got a book called The Creative Writing MFA Handbook.

It’s a guide for people applying to MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programs, covering everything from choosing the best-fitting school and submitting your application, to making the most of the experience once you get there — especially during the workshops, which are at the heart of most writing programs.

The author’s #1 piece of advice for being workshopped (i.e., having your piece critiqued by fellow students) is: Don’t get defensive!

Aside from not criticizing readers’ feedback (which harbors ill will and stifles honest discussion), he also discourages […] Continue Reading…

Step Right Up! (…or don’t)

Have you ever been to a carnival where the carnies call out to you from their rides or games: “Step right up! Right this way! Two throws for a dollar!”?

Maybe they’re trying to lure you over to the ring toss or some other game (that probably looks easy but is next to impossible to win). Or maybe they’re trying to coax you into taking a ride on a roller coaster or a Ferris Wheel or the Tunnel of Love or the Haunted House.

Many of the games or rides might appeal to you. You might be very happy that the […] Continue Reading…

Don’t Listen to Me

I love the personal-growth community.

I love the millions of people who share their hearts and their wisdom in books, blogs, courses, workshops, and all sorts of ways — online, in print, and in person.

I’ve gained life-changing inspiration and insight from a wide variety of teachers, writers, mentors, coaches, and friends. I’ve been moved, touched, and motivated. And I’ve gotten lots of really good advice.

So now I’d like to share my own heartfelt advice regarding all of the wonderful personal-growth/spirituality teachers out there:


(Not even me.)

Does this mean that I don’t think they have wisdom? Not […] Continue Reading…

You’re Getting Warmer

If I’d meant this title literally, I probably should have written it in spring or early summer, rather than waiting until the week before Labor Day. But I was thinking of it figuratively — as a personal-growth metaphor based on the common variation of hide-and-seek. Here’s what gave me this idea…

I recently listened to a recorded talk in which the speaker (Esther Hicks, presenting the Abraham teachings) described our Emotional Guidance System by using this example: You know the game where you’re looking for something, and as you get closer someone says, “You’re getting warmer” (or, “You’re getting colder,” […] Continue Reading…

The Welcome Wagon

Moving to a new place (literally or figuratively) can be very exciting: you feel a sense of adventure, new possibilities, and a fresh start.

But once the initial excitement fades (or perhaps even sooner), you might begin to feel disconcerted or uncomfortable.

After all, this new territory is totally unfamiliar. You don’t know your way around. You get lost just trying to find the grocery store. You don’t know where the nearest gas station is. You don’t even have a library card.

The people here have strange customs and strong accents — and they use unfamiliar jargon, regional slang, or even a different language altogether. […] Continue Reading…