Thought habits that are keeping you stuck

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We think over 60,000 thoughts a day which means most of them are subconscious. Things like, I don’t know, or I have so much to do, cycle through our brain all day every day without even really realizing it. This week we’re diving into what some of these thought habits are, why they are keeping you stuck and what to do instead. If your brain is going to subconsciously talk to you and create the life you want, let’s make sure they are thoughts that are going to get you where you want to go. Listen in this week and learn how to get unstuck.

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman. I worked almost 12 years at Amazon and saw so many brilliant and successful overachievers burn themselves out and leave their jobs because they’re so stressed and anxious. But guess what? Having a successful career does not have to be at the expense of your mental sanity and personal time. There’s an easier way, and I can show you how. Let’s do this.


Hey y’all, okay, about six months ago when I was in Seattle visiting some friends, I made a trip to Ikea, which I have a love-hate relationship with, and I bought these two mirrors. I wanted to hang above the nightstands in my bedroom, and they’ve been sitting leaning against the wall for 6 months now. I look at them multiple times a day as I come and go from my room, and I always just subtly think to myself, “Oh yeah, I’ll do that later,” or “Maybe I’ll do that tonight,” or “I’ll do it tomorrow.” I always have good intentions, and I just keep looking at them, but I don’t actually hang them up. Again, I’ve been doing this for six months.


So, the other day, I was like, “Okay, enough already. I want these off my floor, out of my room.” So, I hung them up, and you guys, it literally took me less than 5 minutes. They’re straight, they look great, I love them. It totally changed the look and feel of my room. In fact, my kids even noticed, which is saying something. But it was like this five-minute task I’ve been putting off for over six months because I have so many of these little thought habits that are super simple and just kind of sneaky. They’re just like, “I’ll do it later,” “I’ll do it tomorrow,” “There’s no rush.” And there really isn’t a rush. They’re just mirrors. It would be just fine if they never got hung. Nothing terrible would happen.


But what I want to talk about today is part two of habits that we talked about last week. What are some of these repeat little thought habits we have that are keeping us stuck from living the life we want to have? So, remember, as I talked about in the episode before this, if you want to change your life, you need to change your habits. If you want to change your habits, you want to change your heart. And if you want to change your heart, you’ve got to change how you’re thinking. So, understanding these little thought habits is key to changing your life.


There’s a phrase by my favorite artist, Brandy Carlile, in one of her songs that she says, “The path of least resistance is catching up with me again today,” and I was like, “Oh, everything’s so true.” In ways I wish it didn’t. Again, looking at these mirrors, literally this five-minute task I was putting off, I had been cognitively aware of and telling myself multiple times a day for six months. It was just so much brain chatter that was unnecessary.


I love the quote by Dale Carnegie. He says, “Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” So, as we think about these thought habits, here are some of mine. I want you to think, what are some of these just like subtle little guys that you think all the time? They’re things like, “I don’t know,” “I don’t want to,” “I’ll do it tomorrow.” My favorite one I have so much to do. I can’t tell you how many times a day I think that. Or a version of it is like, “There’s not enough time.” Another one of my thought habits is, “It’s a lot.” I have a lot going on. I have a lot to do. I have a lot to manage. Another one is, “I have to,” fill in the blank, or “I should,” fill in the blank. Or another thought habit I have is, “This is not fair. It’s not fair. It shouldn’t be this way.”


So, again, these are like short, simple little thoughts that most of us think hundreds, if not thousands, of times a day. The more we think them, they easily come and go from our brains, and there’s also not a ton of emotion behind them, so it’s very easy to think them and then just dismiss the thing and keep thinking them over and over and over again. But what happens is when you have a thought, the neurons in your brain connect, and the more times you think that thought, the more times those neurons connect, and the stronger that connection comes, and it literally moves to a different part of your brain from that prefrontal cortex where you’re purposely thinking that, like, executive CEO part of your brain. And when you have thought these thoughts so many times and they have a very strong neurological connection, they move back into that deeper, subconscious, reptilian part of your brain. So, subconsciously, your brain is feeding you these little thought habits all day, and most of the time, we’re not even aware of it.


Your brain likes to keep thinking these thoughts because that connection is so strong in your brain. It doesn’t require your brain to use as much energy to think it, so it just surfaces them up to you all the time. “I don’t know.” “I don’t know.” “I have so much to do.” “There’s not enough time.” “I should do this.” “I should do this.” “I shouldn’t have to do this.” “It’s not fair.” All day, every day, we are consciously thinking these thoughts. These are thought habits that are impacting our lives.


If we want to change our thought habits, we need to become aware of what habits we have, and then we want to deliberately choose new thought habits. Okay, your brain is going to have these thoughts you’ve thought so many times that they do sit in that subconscious part of your brain, and we want that, but we want to put them in there on purpose and make sure they’re ones that are helpful.


When I’m trying to change a thought habit, I think of it as, like, what’s a new little thought habit baby I can make, right? Like, you think of a little baby. They’re really just kind of helpless. They need a lot of attention. You’ve got to be super gentle and kind with them. I have no expectations of anything coming back to me from a baby. Right? Like, little babies, it’s all about me just giving it tons of love and attention and affection and taking care of its every whim and need that it has. It’s the same thing when we’re trying to create these new thought habits. They’re like little babies. We’ve got to give them a lot of attention. We’ve got to be kind. We’ve got to have low expectations and practice thinking them over and over and over.


So, you want to decide on purpose what you want them to be. Okay, there’s no right or wrong thought habit to have. You just want to make sure the ones you have are empowering and moving you forward and helping create the life you want, not keeping you stuck and justifying why you feel stressed and anxious and overwhelmed.


So, let me give you a couple of examples of what this might look like in real life. Let’s say you’re attending your weekly business review, and there are two follow-up questions that were assigned to you. Now, when this would happen to me, my brain, by default, because of the thought habits I have, goes into, “I don’t have time for this. This is such a waste of time. Answering this isn’t going to change anything. So-and-so asked this question, and it’s really kind of pointless, but I have to chase it down.” These are the thoughts that just naturally and very easily come to my brain because I have a habit of believing I’m behind and now I have to waste time because of something that was asked of me. So, again, if I want to have that new thought habit, that little thought baby, I want to be aware, first of all, of what those thought habits are. “I don’t have time for this, and this is a waste.” And then I want to choose to practice thinking a new one on purpose. I want to build that neurological connection. The more times I think and believe this new thought, the stronger the connection will become, and the less I’m thinking that old thought habit, and that connection is going to get weaker.


So, in this example, maybe my new thought is, “I don’t have to, but I’m going to.” When that’s what I’m thinking now, I’m not going to spend as much time being annoyed. I’m going to get to work. I’m going to answer the question. I’m not going to overcomplicate it. I’m not going to spend a ton of time on it, and I’m going to move on. So, I’m not going to waste my time feeling sorry for myself and complaining about what’s been asked of me to do simply because I redirected my brain from one thought habit to a thought I want to become a habit of, “I don’t have to, but I’m going to. I don’t have to, but I’m going to. I don’t have to, but I’m going to.” And I want to practice telling myself that multiple times a day.


Here’s another example. Maybe you got some feedback from your manager that you’re not ready for a promotion yet. Those thought habits are usually some form of negative thoughts, like, “There’s no winning. This is stupid. What’s the matter? This is not what they told me. I hate this place. They don’t understand what I’m doing.” All of these negative thought habits, by default, are going to come. It’s okay to feel sad and disappointed if you thought you were ready for promotion and you’re being told otherwise. Like, that’s a natural human response. I’m not saying we don’t be sad and disappointed, but being sad and disappointed is very different than letting these thought habits consume your brain. That will just keep you stewing in it and trying to feel justified for being sad and disappointed, and in fact, just make it worse.


Go be sad. Go be disappointed. Go be upset. But if you’re stuck in these thought habit loops, it’s almost like you’ve spilled something sticky and nasty and gross that smells terrible and looks horrible all over the floor. And instead of being grossed out and annoyed that you got to go clean it up when you’re believing these thought habits of, “There’s no winning. This is so stupid,” now it’s like you’re just playing in it and smearing it all around, and you’re just making it worse for yourself.


Feel sad and disappointed, but then choose how you want to think about it on purpose. What’s the thought habit you want to practice believing instead? Maybe it’s a habit thought of, “I’m going to figure this out.” When that’s what you’re choosing to redirect your brain to after you’ve given yourself permission to be sad and disappointed, when you’re coming to work every day from the thought, “I’m going to figure this out,” you’re not making it worse for yourself, and you’re also not going to take no for an answer. You’re going to push to get what you know you deserve, and you’re more likely to get promoted because, guess what, working at the next level means finding creative solutions to roadblocks.


I always think of when I was managing a team, and one of my employees came to me and said, “I’m ready for a promotion. You need to put me up for promotion.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s cute. No, you’re not.” And they were like, “Okay.” And I’m sure they were disappointed and frustrated and all those things, but they didn’t wallow in their negative thought habits. They believed a version of, “I’m going to figure this out.” And you know what they did? They went and they wrote a promotion document. They went and got letters of recommendation from people that supported them. They went and got the data and proved me wrong. And guess what? They were ready for promotion, and I put it through the process, and they got promoted. And it was amazing. But if they had believed their negative thought habits of, “This is stupid. There’s no winning. I can’t do this,” and just expected me as their manager to figure it out for them, their promotion would not have happened.


Choose the thoughts you want to make a habit on purpose. “I’m going to figure this out” is such a great one. Email it to yourself. Text it to yourself. Put it as your phone background. Put it on a sticky note on your mirror. Like, put it everywhere you can to practice thinking this thought hundreds of times a day. “I’m going to figure this out. I’m going to figure this out. I’m going to figure this out.”


Okay, here’s another example. Let’s say that you get an email from your skip-level manager who’s freaking out and needs something from you by the end of the day due to some escalation from an executive. Knowing that they need this by the end of the day means you’re going to have to be working late. Your habitual thoughts are probably going to go down the lines of, “This is unfair. Why do we keep doing this? I don’t have time for this.” Again, I’m not saying those thoughts are wrong, but believing those thoughts initially is just going to keep you stuck. Another habit thought you could redirect your brain to is, “I don’t want to do this, but I’m choosing to still do it.” When that’s what you’re choosing to believe, you’re going to approach this project with less resentment and less stewing. So you’re going to be able to focus, which means it’s probably going to take you less time to do. When you aren’t emotionally resentful and frustrated, you’re going to be able to give what you can to this skip-level leader, but you’re not going to overcomplicate it or overdo it, and you’re not going to work as long as you would have if you were freaking out overcomplicating it. You may also push back to find better solutions so this doesn’t keep happening, but you can’t do these things when you’re ticked off and stuck in resentment. You’ve got to practice thinking thoughts and making that your go-to habit in a way that helps get you unstuck.


The thought baby you may want to practice thinking is, “I don’t want to do this, but I’m choosing to still do it.” Or here’s one last example. Maybe you come home from work, and you’re hungry and tired, but you’ve also made a goal to try to make more meals at home and eat out less. When this has been me, again, those habit thoughts are things like, “It’s fine this once. I’m just too tired to make food. I’ll do it tomorrow.” Very slippery little thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if I have a goal of making more meals at home, these thoughts aren’t going to help me get there. So, again, that thought habit baby I want to practice nurturing and taking care of and thinking on purpose is, “Oh, I want to figure this out. I want to figure something out.” I may still order in food, but now I’m doing it from a place of love and calm, not out of avoidance and frustration and just my old habit. I’m choosing it on purpose. Or maybe I make something that’s simple and fast. Maybe if I do order out food, I’m going to create a plan for what am I going to do tomorrow because I’m probably going to come home from work tired and hungry as well. Choosing to practice making the thought, “I want to figure this out,” is going to help me build trust with myself because if I keep saying I’m going to go do something but I only do it when it’s easy, I know subconsciously I don’t believe myself. Doing it when it’s hard is where the trust and growth happens.


So, again, naturally, I have a lot of thought habits in the realm of, “It’s fine. I’ll do it tomorrow. It’s not a big deal,” hence the mirror that took me six months to hang. But I want to practice having habit thoughts of, “I want to figure this out. I can get this done.” So, here are a few of the thoughts that I’m trying to make a habit in my brain. If you want to steal them as well, go ahead, or choose your own. For me, I’m practicing believing the thoughts, “I want to figure it out.” I’m practicing believing there’s always enough time. There’s no rush. Or my new favorite one that I’m practicing telling myself multiple times a day, “I’ll just do it real quick.” Right? Those mirrors, “I’ll just do it real quick.” Most of the things I tell myself, “Oh, I’ll do that later,” literally take minutes to do. But they’re taking up so much of my brain space that could be used for better things to help people, to give myself rest, to come up with bigger, more strategic ideas. So, these thought habits we have, they’re sneaky. They’re little, subtle things we tell ourselves over and over and over again.


Just start noticing: What are the thought habits you have that are keeping you stuck? You want to try to catch it and choose a new one on purpose. What is that thought habit baby you want to nurture and grow this year? Catching it, catching that thought habit, is often the hardest part. These thoughts are so simple and obvious that you don’t see it. But if you find that there’s something in your life you just feel really stuck in and you’re not sure why, just start paying attention to what are those subtle, simple, short little thoughts you keep telling yourself over and over and over again and go pick a new one to redirect your brain to on purpose.


All right, y’all, you’re amazing. You got this. We’ll talk soon. Hey, wait, real quick, before you go, if you’re struggling with bad managers or leaders, listen up. I recently did a workshop talking about the three steps to deal with a bad manager, and it’s gotten so much response and engagement. I’m having a hard time keeping up on replying to people about it, and I want to make sure you get it as well. It’s totally free. There’s zero obligation. Click the link in the show notes or go to and access this workshop to know the three steps to take if you are stuck with a bad manager. You got this. We’ll talk soon. If what you’re learning from this podcast is helping, this is just the beginning. Each week, I offer a limited number of coffee chats so that you and I can connect one-on-one and talk specifically about what’s going on for you. You’ll leave this call feeling more hopeful and motivated, but I’m also going to teach you a few things to try right away to get unstuck. Space is very limited, and these are free. So grab your spot before they’re gone. Click the link in the show notes or go to and sign up today. You got this.

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

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