The Art of Honing the Best Thoughts

05.07.2020 |

Episode #3 of the course How to become happier: A guide to reprogramming your thinking by John Robin


Welcome to the third day of our course on becoming happier.

Yesterday, we saw how to build on the 3rd step in the process we have learned so far:

Step 1: Notice negative thoughts.

Step 2: Catch a negative thought and reword it to be positive.

Step 3: Notice patterns in the negative thoughts you record.

Using the patterns we notice, you learned how to brainstorm a list of what core needs we must address to best invert a thought.

However, for any negative thoughts, there are still many different inverted thoughts you can come up with. And that leads us to the next art—the next “Russian doll” as we build another layer on our quest to become happier.


The Art of Honing the Best Thoughts

Inverting a negative thought can be seen as the process of evolution.

Every time you try out an inverted thought, that new thought has traits that determine if it’s fit enough to survive. In your case, the “fittest” thoughts are the ones that actually make you happier. The less fit, which don’t stick around, are the ones that don’t address your core needs. They’re those “happy thoughts” that gloss over the surface and don’t change how you actually feel inside.

We learned yesterday how to come up with a smarter, “better fit” thought, by way of our bullet list of core needs.

But just like with evolution, the more variety we have, the easier it is to select the best. And by doing this, only the fittest will survive.

Let’s go back to our example from yesterday.

Your original thought about the job you’re applying for online:

“This is never going to work, I might as well give up.”

Your bullet list of core needs:

• Needs to help me feel more confident.

• Needs to reflect that things going wrong in my life aren’t all my fault, i.e. grant me absolution.

• Needs to give me some sense of empowerment or hope.

Now, instead of just finding one inverted thought, let’s try several. Get out a piece of paper when you do this step. The more, the better!

Let’s do five:

1. “I’m actually happy with my job, but I might as well give this application a try in case it’s a good opportunity. I can always say no if I don’t want the job.”

2. “I’m scared of applying for this job, but if I don’t take risks like this, I’ll stay stuck in my current job.”

3. “I’m doing this, no excuses. I need to learn to be more confident and this is perfect practice.”

4. “Applying for this job is very important to me because I’m taking charge of my life. I’m going to do this because I deserve to be happy and this is one step in that direction.”

5. “This might just work and I’ll be so glad I gave it a shot!”

You’ll recognize the fourth one in bold because that was the “better” thought we picked yesterday, but notice that the others are also pretty good. I’ve tried to make every one of them a winner, in fact.

But only one will survive — the fittest one!

To see how we decide this, we’ll now learn the fourth step in our process:

Step 4: Develop the thought that resonates the most with the feelings behind your core needs.

When we look at those five examples above, we can hone it by thinking of the core needs identified (self-confidence, absolution, empowerment).

Think of each core need as a feeling that you are in need of:

• self-confidence = confidence

• absolution = relief

• empowerment = hope

Your original negative thought carried a lot of negative weight, in each of these areas of core needs:

• lack of self-confidence = helpless

• lack of absolution = burdened

• lack of empowerment = hopeless

We will explore where these come from in lesson 5, but at this stage what’s important is that with your list of core needs come key feelings that the “fittest” thought needs to make you feel.

You can always improve these lists by making more—and applying the same process we learned today.

That said, there are some tricks to accelerate you to better horizons.

But that’s for tomorrow’s lesson!



Repeat today’s exercise with a negative thought you want to improve.

Now, from patterns you’ve noticed in your negative thoughts, write down a bullet list of your core needs. What emotions lie beneath each?

Pay attention to how each inverted thought on your list makes you feel. Specifically, how does it make you feel with respect to each emotion behind your core needs?

The one that hits them all will resonate. Like Goldilocks, train yourself to know when it’s “just right”.


Recommended book

Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg


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