(This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on catabolic and anabolic thoughts. Start with Part 1 here)
In this series, I not only wanted to share the power of this catabolic/anabolic thought framework with you, but I also wanted to remind myself of its power. It provides a way for us to take conscious control of our thoughts and reminds us that we're not at the mercy of our situation or experiences. In this part, I'll share how you can look at the catabolic thoughts I shared last week from an anabolic perspective.
If you remember from the previous post, catabolic thoughts are destructive and draining. Anabolic thoughts build you up and give you positive energy. It's important to note that neither type of energy is inherently good or bad since there are advantages and disadvantages to each type of energy. Good and bad are judgments. So we don't use this framework to judge ourselves or beat ourselves up (yes, I'm looking at you, dear INFJ). We use it to analyze our thoughts with curiosity, and then choose if that's how we want to respond to life at that moment.
The process of using this thought-energy framework looks like this:
Maintain an awareness of your thoughts.
Analyze them to see if they are catabolic or anabolic.
Determine if you're ok with the energy you identified behind your thoughts, or if you want to respond from a different kind of energy. This is taking conscious control.
If you decide you want a different kind of energy in your life, create a new thought based on the type of energy from which you want to respond.
This is an ever-evolving practice that takes time. The hardest part is usually the first step, which is why I suggested you start with step 1 in last week's email. As I mentioned last week, my clients have the opportunity to take the Energy Leadership Index (ELI) Assessment. As clients start incorporating it into their lives, some of them like to set up little rituals or routines to remind themselves to check in on their thoughts throughout the day. Setting up reminders on your phone can help. Another idea is to pair your check-in process with some other activity that occurs every day. Think about pausing to reflect each mealtime, during your commute, or while journaling.
Examples of catabolic thoughts
Let's take another look at the examples of catabolic thoughts I shared in the previous post, then we'll look at examples of how to turn these into thoughts with more anabolic energy. Take note of the catabolic thought, emotion, or action in parentheses at the end of each statement.
I wish I would have said that differently. (worry/fear)
Ugh! Things will never change! (frustration)
I'm devastated by their actions. (disappointment)
I'm not good enough to do/be/have that. (low self-esteem/self-worth)
It's their fault that I'm feeling this way. (resentment)
No one will ever understand me. (hopelessness)
This always happens to me. (victim thinking/focus on self)
That's not my fault. (defensiveness)
The core thought behind these statements is either victimhood or conflict. Those are catabolic, or draining, thoughts. The advantage of the victim-based thoughts is that they may serve to protect you or allow you to receive sympathy. If a core thought is conflict-related, it may allow you to force progress on something, at least in the short term.
Let's take a look at how to turn those catabolic thoughts in the list above into thoughts with more anabolic energy. Keep in mind that these statements are simply examples to help you explore alternate ways to respond. There are many options, and these may not work for every situation. Each statement below corresponds to the same number in the list of catabolic statements above. These statements represent the presence of more anabolic energy (the kind that builds you up and helps you get where you want to go).
I recognize that I could have said that differently. What's done is done and I can't change the past. (responsibility + tolerance)
Sometimes life is difficult. This is one of those times. (rationalization)
I'm saddened by their actions, and that matters. But, their actions reveal more about what they must be going through inside. (compassion)
My inner critic is telling me I'm not good enough because he/she is trying to protect me from harm. He/she is like a scared child who doesn't understand. I will respond with kindness to let him/her know that I really can handle this. (challenging inner critic/gremlin)
I'm in charge of my feelings. My thoughts create my feelings and emotions. (responsibility)
It's possible for me to be understood, and my worth remains the same when others don't understand me (confidence). I release the expectation I place on others to understand me. (release)
Just because this has happened in the past doesn't mean it will always happen. (challenging an assumption + justification)
How can we work together to make a difference? (service + reconciliation)
What other anabolic alternatives can you come up with that match the anabolic thought, emotion, or action I included in the parentheses behind each statement?
Not all anabolic thoughts are equal in terms of how much anabolic energy they give you. Most of the thoughts I shared in the second list, while anabolic, provide lower levels of this building-type energy. Think of a staircase with the lower stairs full of catabolic energy and the top stairs full of anabolic energy. Each step up helps you release some catabolic energy and gain more anabolic energy. You usually need to start at the bottom and work your way up since it would be difficult to have enough strength and energy to jump from the bottom of a set of stairs to the top!
What do you think? Will this thought-energy framework help you start thinking about your thoughts in a different way? I'd love to know what you thought about this 2-part series. You can post your thoughts below.
If you want more detail, or want to learn more about how to respond from the higher levels of energy, we can talk about doing an ELI Assessment and debrief together. It's a powerful tool full of so much more than I can share here. Just hit reply if you're interested in learning more.