Depending on what study you read or your source of information, how many thoughts we experience every day can drastically vary. I have seen reports that show anywhere from 6,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day, and no matter the number, we can all agree that we experience thousands of thoughts on any given day. So it is easy to understand how we begin to believe that thoughts form the basis of who we are as individuals. However, the more you dive in and understand how your thoughts work, the more you will recognize that is not the case, and your experiences in life can drastically impact your thought process. I had been exploring and leaning into this idea, and while I understood the concept, it was just that, a concept.
In 2020, that concept came to life when I began to experience workplace harassment. My mind was racing, confusion was settling in, and my mental health was spiralling. As I began to navigate the process of getting out of that situation, my thoughts were out of control, and I felt like I was losing my mind and sense of self. During that time, I read various works and quotes by Eckhart Tolle and had written down this quote, "The most decisive moment in your life is when you discover you are not your thoughts or emotions. Instead, you can be present as the awareness behind the thoughts and emotions." So, I began to explore my thoughts to understand how to create more awareness. Georgia Murch, speaker, author and culture creator out of Australia, identifies 10 different Board Members in her blog "The 'Board of Directors' That Live In Your Head." While what she says makes sense, her take on the Board was not landing for me, so I decided to define my own.
I discovered my thoughts could be put into six main categories. Once I understood those categories, it became easier to steer my thoughts in a way that became more productive, determined, and awakened. By acknowledging that my thoughts come from a different level of awareness, I became more conscious of which Board Members had the floor. I learned how to quiet the ones causing the most disruption and bring forward those that help me step into a more productive space.
As I introduce you to this Board of Directors, consider how these Board Members are showing up in your life, how they make you feel, and what steps you can take in your thought process.
Inner Monkey: A scattering of thoughts, constantly jumping from one idea to the next and lacking any content or structure. When the Inner Monkey is at play, staying on task is very difficult because it lacks focus or concentration.
To help tame your Inner Monkey, get some paper and a pen and just start writing. Let your thoughts flow through the pen, don't filter any ideas, or place any judgment on what you are writing and don't let your pen stop at any point during this exercise. Keep writing until your Monkey is quiet (3-4 pages). These pages are not intended to be read by anyone, and frankly, don't even go back and read them yourself. If there are ideas, you want to pull from them, go back, gather the ideas, and shred the pages. Let go of all your random thoughts as you shred the pages and move on. If you want to consistently calm your Inner Monkey and increase your creativity, do this exercise each morning.
Inner Asshole: Critical of everything, points out and regularly reminds you of every mistake, and tells you how you "should" be or what you "should" be doing. It is the Inner Asshole that will place doubt in your mind, tell you that you are not enough and sabotage many areas of your life.
When you notice that this Board Member has taken control, acknowledge the thoughts and remember you are not your thoughts. If you are focused on negative self-talk, create awareness by writing those thoughts down or making a mental note then search for evidence in your life that supports the opposite thinking. On the other hand, if your thoughts are centred around what you think you "should" be doing, make a list of the "should" statements that are rolling in your mind. Next, convert those statements into "could" statements. In doing so, you take back control and put yourself in a position of choice, putting your Inner Asshole in their place, at the back of the boardroom.
Inner Child: In need and often looking for reassurance that everything will be ok. Your Inner Child wants to know that you are clear in your decisions; you will always love them and have their back. Doubt, insecurities, and reservations that come from your childhood will resurface when your Inner Child has the floor.
Dealing with your Inner Child can be delicate, especially if you had significant trauma as a child. If this is the case, finding help through a psychologist trained in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) is recommended. However, if your Inner Child is simply creating some drama and bringing up childhood injustices and hurt, here is an exercise to try. First, with a piece of paper and crayon, write out all your doubts, fears and thoughts with your non-dominate hand on the left side of the page. Once that list is complete, with a pen and your dominant hand, write all of the ways you will support and stand with that Inner Child on the right side of the page. Basically, for lack of a better description, write the words to that child that you would if you were parenting them today; this will improve your relationship with your Inner Child and keep them content and quiet.
Inner Diva: Full of attitude and a bit demanding. While well-intentioned, your Inner Diva will fill in the gaps in almost every situation. Your Inner Diva can have a chip on their shoulder and lack self-awareness. Knowing when and how this Board Member shows up can significantly impact your relationships with family, friends, and colleagues.
When you find your thoughts are repeatedly running through a scenario, incident, conversation or event and causing you to get discouraged, worked up, and even angry, chances are your Inner Diva is at play and filling in the blanks of the story. An excellent exercise to put everything in perspective is to write/type out everything you are telling yourself about the situation. Then line by line, challenge yourself by asking if the statement is true? Even better, do this with a friend and have them challenge you. What proof do you have that it is true? If you don't have absolute proof the statement is true, highlight it. You will soon see how many gaps your Inner Diva has filled in. From that point, you can be aware of the story you are telling yourself and release the narrative, or better yet, seek out the other person involved, talk it out with them and ask if they can help you clarify. Although this approach will require you to get vulnerable, it can also clear up misunderstandings and improve your relationships.
Inner Spirit: Calm, cool and collected and your voice of reason. When you listen, you will get messages that serve your greater good. This Board Member is kind, gentle and always has your back. However, your Inner Spirit can be very soft-spoken; as the Chair of the Board, it will be your responsibility to create the space for them to be heard.
You will likely find this Board Member doesn't surface much on their own; you will need to create the space in your thinking to bring them forward. Once you have had the chance to calm the other members, spending time in quiet reflection, journaling, meditation, a walk, or running can help pull your Inner Spirit forward. Once there, ask the questions and make a note of the thoughts that immediately come to mind, the answers you feel in your gut or intuition. These are the answers that will guide you in the right direction. Creating a daily meditation practice will help you in being able to tap into this trusted Board Member more often.
Inner Sage: Savvy, problem solver and very wise. Your Inner Sage has taken notes on the lessons you have learned in life, can help you not repeat the same mistakes and guide you to step in strength and grow accordingly. You might hear the chatting in the background but miss the message this Board Member is trying to give you if you aren't present.
Like Inner Spirit, your Inner Sage may need to be called to the table and is most effective after calming the other Board Members. Start by thinking of different situations where these or similar problems have arisen and how you solved them. You might even use your Inner Sage as a proxy to reflect on what people you admire and respect might do in the situation. For example, I often find myself thinking, "What would Dad do?" since losing my Dad in 2017. If you take the time to be reflective and are open to listening, you will often find the guidance needed, and if you are struggling to find the answer, your Inner Sage will guide you by encouraging you to ask for support.
Understanding your thoughts, how they show up and what filters come with them are vital in creating a level of awareness that help you move through any complicated situations by allowing you to:
Take responsibility for your thoughts by recognizing which Board Member is at play, the script that comes with them and then taking positive steps to turn your thoughts and ideas into actions that will move you in the right direction.
Be honest about how your thoughts drive your behaviour and possibly hold you back from finding success and living your best life by breaking down the barriers created by your thoughts.
Improve your mental health by recognizing that your thoughts can shape your beliefs about yourself and others.
The next time you find yourself with thoughts swirling in your mind, ask, which board member has the floor? And as the Chair of your Board, what are you going to do about it?
If you think your Board of Directors is derailing you as you strive to move forward in your life and career, book a complimentary discovery call with me, I would be honoured to help you gain clarity and step into your strength!