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Inquiry - Challenging Our Stressful Thoughts

Jack Craven
December 10, 2017

What is a current issue that continues to cause you stress? We all have them. Not a day goes that one of my clients isn’t sharing something that bothers them – a lot. Something that impacts their focus, happiness and productivity. The most common stressful thoughts are, “I don’t have enough time; I’m overwhelmed by how much work I have; I’m not good enough,” or “my employees aren’t good enough.”  Most frequently, the issue that causes us stress is something or someone that we cannot control and want to change. It could be your COO, sales manager, or boss. Pause for a moment right now. Bring the image of who or what you want to change to mind. Now think of the energy and time that you have invested into this issue. Notice the sensations that are occurring right now in your body as you think of what you’ve invested.  

One of the tools that I use with my clients is Inquiry from  Commitment 10 of the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership (The Opposite of our Story), and also a Life XT practice. Both come from The Work of Byron Katie. The Work is a simple step-by-step process for challenging and reframing stressful thoughts. The premise of the Work is that we are the cause of our own suffering. We have 50,000 thoughts a day. If we believed them all, how would we even be able to get out of bed?  When we challenge our stressful thoughts, we begin to reframe the experience, create new neural pathways and then be able to change our reaction.  This opens the door for true happiness as we release the belief that our sense of wellbeing is dependent on controlling or changing other people or the situation.

The first step of The Work is to articulate your stressful thought. For example, “John doesn’t respect me.” Ask yourself, , “Is it true?” The answer is a simple and honest yes or no.Then ask, “Can I absolutely know that’s it’s true? Yes or no? The third step is to ask, “When I believe the thought “John doesn’t respect me,” how do I react?  One  might say, “stressed, afraid, , angry, constricted.”  The fourth question is, “Who would you be without the stressful thought?”  Often when I get to this step, I see my client’s body relax. They lighten. Their answers range from “happier, less stressed, to more open and connected.” It is a palpable  difference.   

When we believe our stressful thoughts, we suffer. When we challenge our stressful thoughts, we allow ourselves to be happier and more connected. How we react to a situation and what we believe is a choice. If we can reduce the intensity and duration of the stressful thought, we’re on the path to  transformation and greater happiness.

Jack Craven
Jack Craven is an executive coach to business leaders, and the teams and companies they lead.

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