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The Highlight Reel: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Oct 06, 2021

 by Aubrey Patterson


In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article that found the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, of which 80% are negative, and 95% were repetitive thoughts from the previous day.

Our minds too often focus on the negative, and even worse, create a playlist that loops all day long.

Another study that same year (Leahy, Study of Cornell University), identified 85% of our worries never materialize and that 97% of our worries are baseless.

Now, not all negative thoughts are created equally. Being aware of danger can help us survive, but most negative thoughts are wasted mental calories, serving only to create pessimism and useless drama.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habit.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny. (Lao Tzu)


So how can we surface and nurture positive thoughts?

The highlight reel, an exceptionally powerful tool from David Nurse's book, Pivot & Go, shifts our thoughts from negative to positive:

  1. Recall a moment when you were at the top of your game. Perhaps you taught an incredible lesson to wide-eyed students, or you delivered a great speech to an engaged crowd, or you had a great time with your kids that left everyone wanting the moment to never end.
  2. Next, visualize yourself during this moment. This might seem a little awkward at first, but as with any exercise, you'll build muscle memory with practice.

Accessing a reel is an effective strategy in a difficult moment, but if we want to get the most out of this process, we should make it a habit to replay our highlight reels at least three times a day during routines like brushing our teeth or driving to work.

This isn’t an aspirational model.

We can actually do what we are imagining and pivot our self-talk toward being positive.

Imagine the possibilities if we replaced our tired negative playlists with positive highlight reels.


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