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Mastering Thought-Discipline to Thrive… Especially in Solitude

Brigitta Borinstein joined The Inspiration Lab in Wilmington and didn’t let a move to Kentucky stop her from remaining a member. With all of our programming and events moving online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our membership community truly has no physical bounds. Brigitta proves that by still participating in activities like Inspiration Cafe and here by sharing a blog post on the importance of positive self-talk, also known as thought-discipline. With many people spending more time alone than ever due to the restrictions that come with this global health crisis, maintaining a healthy thought process is critical to our well-being.

I graduated from the Virginia Military Institute where I earned not only a college degree, but also experience in the leadership positions behind the school’s highly regarded military training. I assumed that four years at a school so esteemed for instilling discipline would automatically yield the same results in me, but that ended up not being entirely true! I learned physical discipline, time management discipline, and aspects of mental discipline, but the most critical piece of discipline — referred to here as “thought-discipline” — had to be completely harnessed by me.

Shortly after graduation, I married my now-husband, whose subsequent deployment with the Marine Corps would put my massive dearth of thought-discipline front and center. I knew that if I wanted to survive, or better yet thrive, during our time apart, I needed to overcome this obstacle. Although the military aspect of my distanced relationship might not be applicable to everyone, we are all currently experiencing distance with loved ones during this time, which creates a very similar void to fill. It is my hope that my lessons learned can shed light on small ways we can all fill that emptiness. Perhaps with a little bit of encouragement, we can each flourish during this time of unique solitude and uncertainty.

Following my husband’s deployment, dinners alone were vastly different from the just-married ones we enjoyed before he left, and the self-talk I was stuck with instead of normal mealtime conversation was not particularly good company. My days became full of telling myself all the goings-on I might normally share with him but instead had to keep bottled up inside. My anxiety levels were through the roof and my mind would roam freely to the worst conclusions when time had passed by with no text message. The quick transition (or lack thereof) to solitude opened wide the doors for me to either help or hurt myself, and my lack of thought-discipline led me to pursue the latter option.

At first, I coped very poorly... or not really at all. My mind scrolled nonstop through endless criticisms of all kinds when it really should have been encouraging and reinforcing the effort I was already making.

Does this resonate with you? Regardless of our specific circumstances, the person we spend the most time with is ourselves, and if negative thoughts are hindering you in any way, this creates what I believe to be an urgent need to develop thought-discipline.

Or not.

The other option is to, like I did until relatively recently, beat yourself up over small mistakes, see yourself as small and insignificant in the way you contribute to your now distanced relationship, and listen to the lies that repeat themselves on an endless cycle of self-doubt, unbelief, and belittlement.

How do we right this ship? The first step involves a simple and logical perspective shift in which you recognize that viewing yourself in a negative light is absolutely pointless. If a child came to you upset over a poor grade, you likely would encourage them by making the important distinction between dwelling on that “failure” and learning from the experience in order to quickly move on. In this analogy, I am encouraging you to apply the “learning from the experience in order to quickly move on” mentality whenever you slip up in your ever-critical role as a mother, spouse, friend, daughter, business owner, volunteer, fill-in-the-blank. Beating yourself up and replaying your mistakes again and again only prevents you from getting better and ruins your day!

The second step to success necessitates replacing lies — you’re not doing a good enough job, your role is unimportant, you don’t contribute that much, you don’t look pulled together — with the truth. You are incredibly important, irreplaceable, and absolutely essential.

Here’s why:

Whether or not you wanted to (or even knew all you were getting into at first!), you said “yes” to a life of unpredictability and constant change. Maybe you committed yourself to living a life that facilitates another person’s happiness or fulfillment in a career path. Maybe you strive to open doors of opportunity to others as you spearhead your very own business pathway. Maybe you obligated yourself to cooking meals, doing laundry, mopping the floor, or any number of tasks we like to tell ourselves are menial. The truth is, everything you do is critical.

When writing this post, I was having a tough time viewing all the responsibilities I have as important. I reached out to my husband for his perspective and he assured me that even my being at home when a repairman plans to drop by, running errands so that he doesn’t need to, or simply being his happy thought while away on deployment far exceeds expectations and lifts a tremendous amount of weight from his shoulders.

The third step to success requires that you never turn back. We all already know that the negative self-talk that comes when we aren’t disciplined about our thoughts begins a steep decline down a slippery slope. Once you start to slide, it can affect all aspects of our lives — from our health to our mood to our relationships. So after we say “shut it!” to the negative thoughts and fight back with the positive truth, you have to make this a daily practice until it becomes a beneficial habit that never lets you go back to the lack of thought-discipline you used to have.

Of course, it sounds much easier written about than it is to put into practice, so here are some tips I’ve learned in my journey to overcome this battle with my mind.

Tip 1: Journal for proof you’re showing yourself grace. To do this, I started to wake up a tiny bit earlier in the morning. I’ve always enjoyed reading my Bible and having quiet time before I start my day, but to have a paper trail and proof that I show myself grace throughout this process of growth, I added a small, one-minute journal entry to each morning (or night before I go to bed). This allows me to recognize, “Okay, I messed up today and beat myself up, but I’ll do better tomorrow!” Or: “I didn’t listen to the negativity today and it felt amazing! I had a great day. I can’t wait for this to become a concrete habit!”

Tip 2: Make a list of all the positive ways you can and should view yourself regardless of whether you believe them yet. A lack of thought-discipline will cause you to doubt that you are beautiful, but write this list down anyway — because once you master this, you will know it to be true!

Tip 3: Share this blog post with a friend if you want an accountability partner. The encouragement of someone coming alongside you on this journey really helps!

I’m still growing, but I’ve learned so much about being more intentional in guarding my thoughts and focusing on the truth, even when it’s easier for me to believe the negativity. My eyes have been opened to not only the effects these thoughts have on my daily life, but also the effects my thoughts can have on my interactions with family and friends. I’m so thankful I get to walk alongside so many incredible Inspiration Lab members as we all face different challenges head on right now and overcome them one obstacle at a time!


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