You become what you think quote by Emerson on image of mountain with stars

Managing our thoughts and our minds is the most powerful way to change our lives. We’ve been taught what to think and why, but not how to think. Here are several ways for how to think, and especially how to change your thinking. What you think, you become.

A metaphor for the mind.

Imagine a reservoir being dosed with poison 10x daily for 20 years. That’s 730,000 doses of poison! Your mind is like that reservoir – have you been dosing it with poison for decades?

Stopping the negative talk will help purify the reservoir of your mind. But you can dramatically speed up the purification process if you use an antidote to the poison. That is, manage your mind. Your mind’s job is to think. It will be thinking about something anyway, so you might as well make them purposeful thoughts! 

Repetition matters.

It doesn’t matter if you believe the positive thoughts at first. What matters is that you say them, and that you say them regularly. Most people don’t just say one negative thing to themselves every once in a while. They say them over and over again, for years on end. Positive thoughts work in the same way, through repetition.

Excavating your mind.

How do I know all this? I’ve been in 12-step recovery for years and it has revolutionized my life. Recovery is not a program of learning, it’s a program of unlearning. The bulk of the work I’ve done in recovery is thought work.

What’s the background audio of your mind like?

Some people don’t even know that they have a background audio of negative thoughts running through their minds. Even for those of who do know they say terrible things to themselves all day long, they might not understand just how detrimental those thoughts are (remember those 730,000 doses of poison?!).

Take charge of your life by taking charge of your thoughts.

When we start taking charge of what’s going through our heads by purposely choosing our thoughts, we take control of our lives. You don’t have to live at whim of the background audio in your head. Talk to yourself more than you listen to yourself. 

Notice your negative thoughts, stop them, then replace them.

The first step in addressing any problem is to notice there’s a problem. When you notice such thoughts, stop them. Then, make a plan for replacing them. This is where thinking on purpose dramatically changes things. Ask yourself honestly, “Is this working for me?” 

If you need help unearthing your thoughts, you might try 12 step recovery, journaling, therapy or working with a coach. 


Programming your mind.

Sir John Hargrave wrote a book called Mind Hacking. He’s a computer programmer who used the principles of programming to change his mind. He says our negative thought loops are limitations we put on ourselves. They’re not actual limitations. What we consider possible and impossible are just ideas. You can train your mind to believe something you previously thought was impossible. This will reshape the world around you. 

Scaffolding your thoughts.

It’s not necessary for you to believe an affirmation for it to work, but it is necessary for you to repeat it. If you won’t repeat something because it feels too far from the truth for you, there’s a way to get there. I learned this from Brooke Castillo from the Life Coach School, it’s called scaffolding. Here’s how it works: 

Let’s say you’ve been saying, “I hate my body” for decades. You can scaffold your way to “I love my body” by thinking something neutral such as “I have a body.” 

Better thoughts = better life.

Louise Hay wrote the book You Can Heal Your Life  and her philosophy is that our mental patterns create illness and disease in our bodies. She believes that if you want to have a better thought life, you have to change your thoughts! 

One of the most powerful notions I learned from her was that just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true!  I used to believe the thoughts in my head. Now I know that beliefs are just thoughts we’ve thought for so long that we’ve come to believe they’re true. Louise is a huge proponent of affirmations.


Affirmations work to combat negative self-talk and help us “change our minds” about ourselves and what’s possible. 

I used to think, “I’m too much” and I’ve replaced that with “I’m just the right amount of everything.” 

Thinking on purpose changes everything.

Thinking on purpose has a huge impact on your life, and thinking good thoughts is the way to have good life. This is especially true if you’ve been thinking negative thoughts for a long time. Excavating your mind to see what your thoughts and beliefs are is important in order to change them. The change process involves examining whether your thoughts and beliefs are serving you, and replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones.

Barb Nangle is the Founder and CEO of Higher Power Coaching and Consulting, LLC and host of the podcast, “Fragmented to Whole: Life Lessons from 12-Step Recovery.” Her signature course, “Better Boundaries with Barb” is available for either private or group coaching clients.