The world is full of obstacles and hardships, but one of the biggest forces holding us back is often our own minds. Personal development coach Gary John Bishop's new book Unfu** Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life is a guide to liberating yourself from this constant stream of negativity and developing thought patterns that will get you ahead in life. It stems from a simple premise: We may not be able to control everything around us, but we can control how we think about it, and that can shape everything else in turn.
In a confrontational, no-nonsense tone, Bishop draws from his experience as a coach to illustrate the most common traps people fall into and how to get out of them. The advice is sometimes funny, sometimes inspirational, and sometimes difficult to hear (or take). Throughout the digestible 219 pages, he reminds people to take responsibility for their thoughts and behaviors — a refrain that comes off a bit shaming and cliché at times but also helps cultivate awareness of the areas where we really do have power.
"It's completely normal and often appropriate to experience negative thoughts and emotional states. What exacerbates those experiences is our desire to make them go away. It really is the equivalent of scratching an insect bite to somehow heal it. We get drawn in by whatever we authentically give our attention to," Bishop tells Bustle. "Do what lights you up, what inspires you, what calms you, what interests or provokes you, and do that thing FOR that thing rather than to make something negative go away."
Each chapter of Bishop's book is centered on a mantra Bishop uses to help people think more positively and constructively. Here are the mantras and the accompanying tips on letting go of the negative thought patterns that are holding you back.
1. "I Am Willing"
To an extent, we have the lives we're willing to put up with, Bishop explains in the book. Even if we've faced adversity, we can choose whether we let it get us down or make us stronger. People often complain about aspects of their lives that are actually in their control, and arguing that these things are out of your control can become a way of defending them. Bishop makes the point that if you don't like something, you should change it, and if you really don't want to change it, you should admit that and be grateful that you actually have what you want.
2. "I Am Wired To Win"
Instead of viewing the aspects of our lives we don't like as failures, Bishop advocates reframing them as wins. Why? Because, even if it was unconscious, you created the life you have (to an extent, at least). Somewhere in your subconscious, you decided it was the life you wanted, then you "won" by attaining it. Acknowledging that you're winning at the game you chose to play can instill confidence in your ability to win a different game.
3. "I Got This"
We all have those days where one thing goes wrong and then everything just seems to spiral out of control. Bishop believes this often happens because the first thing sets off a chain of negative thoughts. In these situations, it helps to have some perspective and realize everyone is dealing with problems and many people are dealing with worse ones. In fact, you've probably dealt with similar things in the past, and you've gotten through it before. There's no reason this time should be different. You got this.
4. "I Embrace The Uncertainty"
From watching weather forecasts to asking our partners to never leave us, we dedicate much of our lives to avoiding uncertainty. But we actually can't. The weather forecast could be wrong, and your partner could leave you tomorrow. Unpredictable events should be welcomed, because they allow new things to happen, says Bishop. When we hang on for dear life to safe, predictable lives, we get stuck in a rut. Our success is proportional to the risks we take.
5. "I Am Not My Thoughts; I Am What I Do"
People spend too much time waiting to have a revelation so that they'll finally change, or waiting to feel more motivated so that they'll work harder. But that's not how self-improvement works, says Bishop. You have to be afraid of change, lack motivation, and go after what you want anyway. Your thoughts are not an excuse to avoid improving yourself. Successful people aren't successful because they thought interesting thoughts. It's because they did interesting things, even when their minds didn't feel like the minds of successful people.
6. "I Am Relentless"
Bishop puts it this way: If you're wandering through the jungle in search of civilization, you spend most of your journey not knowing if you're a mile or a hundred miles away. But you have to keep going and trust that whatever that distance is, it's getting shorter and shorter. This is often how it feels when you're working toward a goal. You may, for example, go weeks training for a race and not see any decrease in your times. But you have to persist and trust that months or years down that line, that improvement will come. The most successful people don't all see results quickly, but they keep going even when they don't see results.
7. "I Expect Nothing And Accept Everything"
Most suffering boils down to unmet expectations, says Bishop. Often, we don't even realize we have an expectation until life falls short of it and we end up unhappy. The way to be happy, then, is to get rid of our expectations and accept whatever comes our way. It's only when we lean into our circumstances, instead of wishing they were different, that we can make the most of them.
All that said, changing your thought patterns is not enough to change your life. "Your life will not change by feeling or thinking differently," Bishop tells Bustle. "We have become so addicted to wanting to feel different, more confident, more calm, more powerful, more whatever that we lose sight of the single thing that can actually change your life, i.e. your actions. If anyone is serious about changing the trajectory of their life, they must change what they do."