Everyone talks about having a strong mindset but no one is talking about HOW to do it. Until now. In this episode, I am sharing examples and how-tos for creating a more supportive mindset to navigate the everyday challenges of motherhood.
You’ll learn five steps to take to stop negative thought patterns so you can feel less anxious, overwhelmed, and frustrated.
Whether you’re struggling with kids who don’t listen, yelling and snapping at your spouse, or feeling like the home is always a mess, this episode will show you how to reframe all of it so everything feels a little bit lighter and more solvable.
In this episode, you’ll see how mindset really is the answer for how to change any area of your life. It’s life changing!
Welcome to Mom On Purpose, where it’s all about helping moms overcome challenges and live their best lives. My hope is by being here, you are more inspired to become the mom you are made to be. I’m Natalie, your host, a wife, boy, mom, dog, mama, Chicagoan, and former lawyer turned professionally certified coach. If you’re here to grow, I can help. Let’s go.
Hello my friend. Welcome to the podcast. Today we are talking about clean thinking. This is one of the most profound tools that has impacted my life when it comes to doing mindset work. And it’s not just that it has changed my mindset, it has completely changed the way that I show up in my mothering, in my marriage, in my home, in my business, in every aspect of my life. This tool has really helped me, and I’m going to give you some examples of that.
But I want to start off with just having you think about how you show up in your life. What are your top emotions and why do you think that is? On default, we typically think that our emotions are created from our circumstances. So let’s say your child says, I hate you, and you immediately feel mad and you think he is so disrespectful. The reason that you feel mad is because of the thought, he’s so disrespectful. It’s not because he said I hate you. And through doing mindset work, you can take a much different approach, not where you’re so happy that he said that, but where you aren’t making what your kids say or what your spouse does mean something about you. So instead, you might adopt a mindset like, I wonder what’s going on with my son to have said that. He must be in a lot of pain right now.
So you shift into curiosity and compassion and that helps you show up as a much more empowered mom. And just through little micro examples of taking a look at what you’re thinking, identifying the thought and the feeling and the action, you then can change the thought again in a way that’s really helpful for you and completely change how you show up for your family, for your self, for your marriage, for all of it, it is life changing, my friend. The crazy thing is that we are not taught this growing up. So what happens is on default as adults, we have these automatic thoughts about our lives, about our circumstances, about ourselves, that we think so quickly, we think automatically on default, and we think that they are facts. So let me give you a perfect example. I used to think I am so type A, I used to think I am just more alpha.
I created this identity in my mind based on the evidence that my brain picked up, and I really used that as a fixed mindset to limit myself. And I just thought it was a fact. I thought me being type A is a fact. I thought me being more alpha is a fact and it was not true. I went on a huge transformation a few years ago that completely flipped this on its head, and I want you to know that if you identify as a certain way, like I’m angry or I’m overwhelmed, or I’m not a morning person, whatever you think about yourself is an identity that you’ve created or maybe someone gave to you and you took on for yourself, but it doesn’t have to be the way that you think about yourself in the future if you don’t want it to be some of the identities you probably want to keep, but some you want to change.
And the way to get started with changing your life and changing your relationships and changing the way you show up so that you’re less overwhelmed and more empowered is to get to what I call clean thinking. With clean thinking. We are just going to take a look at what we are thinking and put it into for the sake of this episode, we’re going to call them buckets. Buckets are facts, thoughts, feelings, actions, and separating out everything that we think into one of those buckets. So you’re just going to start with one challenge that you are facing and write it down and put it into one of these buckets. And I’m going to go through a lot of examples with you because it can get a little bit tricky, but once you get really good at this as a skill, oh my goodness, my friend, the sky is the limit.
It really is. So life changing. I was coaching someone and she said, I am with my kids all day and I don’t get a break. And she felt exhausted. Now just think about those buckets. We have the fact bucket, we have the thought bucket, we have the feeling bucket, and we have the action bucket taking the sentence, I’m with my kids all day and I don’t get a break, I’m exhausted. Where would you put that? Now she was telling me this as if it was a fact, but it’s not a fact. Facts are like the math. It’s 80 degrees outside. I weigh 147 pounds. My husband said in quotes, what did you do all day? Whatever someone specifically did on a specific day or specifically they said at this specific moment in time. That is a fact. The facts are the math. Whenever we summarize the facts, whenever we interpret the facts, whenever we evaluate, that puts us into the thought bucket.
And people often think that by saying it’s a thought that it can’t be true, but that’s not what I’m saying. And that’s not the case at all. You can have true thoughts. So if your sister-in-law says, I don’t like you, you’re not a good mom, why can’t you ever be on time? And you have the thought, my sister-in-law isn’t very nice. That’s still a thought, but it might be a thought you want to continue to think. So just because something is a thought doesn’t mean you don’t want to think it. It just means that you want to know that you can change it if you want to. The facts, we often can’t change. You get a diagnosis, your kids are fighting at bedtime, whatever the facts are, they are the math, they just are. We put them in the fact bucket. But the way that the brain works is that on default, it creates stories, very colorful stories to help us make sense of the world and our lives and to help us problem solve.
And this is really useful for survival. This is the survival part of the brain that thinks very quickly on default and wants to keep you safe and doing well. The problem with this is that typically in our modern everyday lives, our survival is not at risk. So you feel really frustrated because you get activated and you think a thought like my kids shouldn’t be fighting. But that is just coming from that primitive part of the brain preferring things to be calm. Instead, what you can do is you can rewire your brain to teach it. It’s not a problem if my kids are fighting, I can hold boundaries, but I don’t have to be dysregulated when that’s happening. But that will not happen on default because of the way that the brain is wired. The brain is wired for survival. It is wired to scan for danger, and it thinks that yelling and your kids’ fighting is dangerous. It doesn’t know that it’s totally fine. And so when you learn how to manage your brain, the impact of that is that you can stay totally calm during meltdowns. This has changed my life. When my son is having a tantrum, I don’t feel dysregulated. I can feel calm and I don’t yell and I don’t try to fix it. I can hold boundaries and I can validate his feelings all at the same time. And I promise you, my friend, this is not something that was intuitive to me. I had to learn it.
So going back to the example, I’m with my kids all day and I don’t get a break, I’m exhausted. There’s no fact here. And this doesn’t mean that it’s not a true thought. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a thought that she wants to think, but it is a thought. So all we’re doing here with clean thinking that I want to teach you how to do is categorize the sentences that you’re thinking. So I’m with my kids all day and I don’t get a break is a thought, I’m exhausted. I would put that in the feeling bucket. I feel exhausted. I’m with my kids all day and I don’t get a break is a summary. If we wanted to make it a fact, we would say since, you know, last year, January 1st through December 31st, I have been the primary childcare for my kids beginning when my husband goes to work at 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM when my husband comes home or something like that. Do you see how with facts we have to make it really specific. I like to imagine my lawyer self presenting evidence to a judge in a court of law. I can’t just present some summary of things, even if the summary is true.
And the value of this, of putting these thoughts in buckets and getting really specific with the facts is that you get to see how much power you have over your thinking. For example, the thought I don’t get a break, what does that even mean? And I don’t mean to say that that’s not true. I genuinely mean what does it mean? Do you mean you want time to yourself away from your kids? Do you mean you want time with a friend? Do you mean that you want X, Y, Z? I don’t really know. We all rest and restore and feel rejuvenated in different ways. Maybe you want more sleep. I don’t get a break is just an interesting way to interpret the facts in a way that probably if I was coaching this person right now, it’s probably not that helpful. And so what we want to do with clean thinking is separate out facts from the way that we’re thinking and feeling and taking action so that we can choose deliberately how we think about what’s happening in our lives.
So you want to pick one day and get really specific with what’s happening with your kids and the time that you’re spending, and then notice what you’re thinking, how that thought makes you feel. And then the next part is we want to come up with better feeling thoughts. And this does not mean going to, I love every day. Every day is amazing. I don’t want to turn you into a robot. The point is not to think positively all the time, but instead it’s to think deliberately. You might have a really empowering thought, thinking something like today was a hard day, but I did my best and that is good enough, I’m a great mom. Do you see how that is so much more kind and loving and supportive versus kinda feeling like you’re at the effect of your life? You are never at the effect of your life.
You always have a choice. So getting to clean thinking is helpful because it helps you see that not only do you have a choice in how you think, but you have a choice in what you do and what you don’t do. Always my friend, always, always, always over on Instagram someone submitted this example for this podcast, by the way, if you’re not following along, the handle is mom.onpurpose. She said, “my husband uses his phone when I speak, that’s a fact, and I make it mean I’m boring and he doesn’t find me interesting”. So this is really interesting and this completely gets at my point of getting really good at this skill of putting things in buckets because my husband uses his phone when I speak is not a fact, it is a thought. It is a summary of the facts.
So to make this a fact, we would need to say on this date, when I said this thing to my husband, he picked up his phone. It would have to be one specific instance of the facts to make it a fact. And maybe you wanted to list 10 facts, right? Because you’re trying to put in the fact bucket your thought, which is my husband uses his phone when I speak. That’s a summary. Even if it’s true, it’s a fact. But here’s what I want to offer to this person. Why would you want to keep thinking this thought? Often we think, okay, I want to keep thinking that he uses his phone whenever I speak because it’s the truth. I don’t want to be delusional, Natalie. I want to think whatever is true, but there are so many different things that are equally true. So instead of trying to figure out what’s true externally, what we want to do is decide what we want to think on purpose that feels true to us.
I never want you to think a thought that you don’t think is true, but there are hundreds, probably thousands of alternative ways of thinking that feel true. So if you feel disconnected in your marriage, it’s because of what you’re thinking and you might want to feel disconnected. But this person said she wanted to feel more connected, but she’s thinking, my husband is always on his phone when I speak. That is not a fact my friend. That is a thought. And as long as you think that thought, you are going to find evidence of it because there’s a sub thought in there, something like, if my husband really was interested in me, he wouldn’t be on his phone. That is your most painful thought. Your husband is on his phone, that’s his action because of whatever he is thinking and feeling in that moment. And I wish I could change your husband for you, and you absolutely can make requests, but a much easier route for you to increase connection in your marriage for your sake, not for his, but for yours, is to get to clean thinking.
And just notice that you are thinking, my husband uses his phone whenever I speak, completely disempowers you from feeling how you want to feel. Presumably. Presumably you don’t want to feel disconnected. Presumably you want to feel connected. So what you can do here is you can notice what you want. And she gives us this hint here. She says, I’m boring and he doesn’t find me interesting. Instead, you can decide what you want to think about yourself. I think I’m really interesting, start practicing that thought. So often we want from other people to give us what we can give ourselves. They can’t give it to us the way that we want it. They’re not even good at making themselves happy. How can we expect them to make us happy? The good news is you can learn how to get to a place of clean thinking and reprogram your brain for happiness.
Your brain is programmed for survival. It is not programmed for happiness. So to this person, I would say start thinking it’s none of my business. Why my husband picks up his phone. It’s totally fine. I’m not depending on him for my happiness. I got me. I like me, I’m interesting, I love me. When you practice those thoughts, you will feel connected to yourself and then you can come up with better feeling thoughts to feel more connected to your husband, which is so much easier when you’re coming from a place of connection, connection to yourself.
Okay, another example. Someone said the house has toys on the floor, dishes in the sink and laundry to be done. Those are the facts. And she said, this house is a mess. Now are those facts? Yes and no. Maybe there are toys on the floor, dishes in the sink and laundry to be done. However, it’s so vague that if you just think about submitting evidence to a judge, you couldn’t really submit this. They would say, tell me what kind of toys. Tell me how many toys. Tell me what day it is. Tell me the number of dishes in the sink. Tell me more about the laundry. It’s not mathy enough, it’s not specific enough. Whenever we are looking at the facts, we want to make them really, really specific. And the reason for this is that so often we want to change the facts in order to make us feel better. We think that because there are 10 dishes in the sink, we feel defeated. We feel like we are doing a bad job, we feel inadequate, but it’s never the facts. But in order to show our brains that, in order to show our brains that it’s actually our mindset, we have to show our brain what the mindset actually is, which means we have to separate out the facts.
So in this example, I would say to this person, how many toys are on what floor? What floors on every floor? Probably not. There are probably some spaces in your house without toys on the floor. So are there seven toys on the floor? Are there 17 toys on the floor in the living room and in the playroom? Get really sciency. Make it like a math equation. There are four bowls, 12 dishes, three pots and pans, and 10 spoons in the sink. When you make it that specific, then you can separate out what you’re thinking. It becomes so much easier to see what your thoughts are, what your mindset is. If your mindset is this house is a mess, how does that make you feel? For some of you listening, it’s not a problem at all. You might think, I love that we have a full life with family living here.
It’s totally not a problem. So you might keep the thought, my house is a mess. But for most of the clients that I have helped with this challenge, the thought my house is a mess, is actually something they’re making mean about themselves. That they’re not a good enough wife, mom, homemaker, my house shouldn’t be a mess, is really what they’re thinking. My house is a mess and it’s not okay. And a simple shift is not. My house is perfectly clean. Again, I never want you to think a thought that you don’t think is true, but there are so many alternative thoughts that you can think that will feel true. For example, you can think a thought like my house is a mess and it’s totally fine. Or We have a full life with family living here and I love it.
Or I’m going to figure out a better system for picking up and cleaning our home. I got this. These may or may not be your thoughts. The point is that you separate out the facts from what you’re thinking so that you can see that your mindset determines how you feel and how you act in your life. If you want to show up different, if you want to have more calm, if you want to stop yelling at your kids and feel more connected in your marriage, if you want to have more ease with what’s going on in your home and how you take care of your home, the way is to start with clean thinking, separating out your thoughts from your feelings, from the facts so that you can just take a look at it because our brains are brilliant and you are so smart, it thinks really quickly.
And those default automatic thoughts create some problems for us. And the way to solve those problems is to slow it down and come into a membership like the Mom On Purpose membership, and you will be able to get coached and get kind of the full course on how to coach yourself so that you can pull apart these thoughts and create a much more empowered mindset. This also goes to identity, which I talked a little bit about already, but it comes up so much that I want to reemphasize it here. When you say, “My child is disrespectful,” when you say, “I’m so frustrated” when you say “he’s inconsiderate”. Whenever we put labels on ourselves and on others, those are all thoughts. And I know you, I know your brain and I know that you have the best of intentions and your brain is so smart, it is coming up with these labels based on a lot of evidence.
I just want you to pause and ask yourself if the label is helpful. Is it helpful for you to call yourself an overwhelmed mom? Is it helpful for you to call yourself a frustrated mom? Or would it be more helpful for you to separate out your feelings and put them in the feeling bucket and call yourself an amazing mom who in this moment is feeling frustrated, a really great mom who in this moment is feeling overwhelmed? That’s all we’re doing here. These simple shifts will have a profound impact on your life, and it’s not just with your kids and with your spouse. I was coaching someone recently in the membership and she said, I was ghosted by my friend, and she started that off with that specific sentence. What bucket would that go in? Is that a fact or is that a thought?
My friends that is a thought. It’s her interpretation of what had happened. And the only way that you can show up in your life feeling more empowered, more connected is to take a specific fact and then change your mindset. Because I can’t help you at all. If you think the fact was I was ghosted by a friend, what does that even mean? For example, if I said that to my grandma, she would have no idea what I’m talking about, right? Ghosted is a word that we use to kind of summarize and interpret the facts. And it might be a true thought I was ghosted by a friend might be true. It’s still a thought. So we put it in the thought bucket and then we ask ourselves, is this thought helpful? Is it helping us show up as the friend who we want to be for our sake?
So for her, we had to get a specific fact to see what had actually happened. And once we did that, then she was able to change the narrative, change the story around this friend to have more compassion for her, and to let her be whoever she wanted to be without making it mean that she had done something wrong. So often we attack other people’s actions to ourselves. We think that their actions mean something about us, but their actions, we gotta give back to them. Their actions mean something about them. What you make about it mean about you is 100% within your control. Your primitive brain is wired for survival and that includes caring so much about what other people think. So it is normal to go into the comparison trap. And by normal I just mean that it’s typical because of the way the default brain is wired for survival.
It’s not wired for happiness, it’s not wired for fulfillment. So it you can separate out that comparison trap thought from the facts. You can then create better feeling thoughts and feel so much more empowered and connected in your everyday life. I was coaching someone and she said, my teenagers don’t listen to me. And I said, that’s not a fact, my friend that goes in the thought bucket. She says, no, you don’t understand. They don’t listen to me. And I said, when you think that, how do you feel? And she said, I feel disrespected. I feel disconnected. She was not feeling any positive emotion. And I said, you can feel connected and supportive and strong or however else you want to feel with respect to your teenagers, and you can still hold boundaries. We often think that if we are going to think positively about something, that means that all of a sudden we’re not going to have standards or have any rules or have consequences or anything like that.
And that is not at all what I’m suggesting. What I’m suggesting is that you do this work for your sake so you feel capable of navigating challenges. So you never have to feel stuck. You never have to feel out of control like you don’t know what to do next. Instead of my teenagers don’t listen. You can think a thought like my kids are good kids and I want to figure out what’s going on with them because I’m not going to allow them to come home past curfew. Instead of what this client was doing was labeling them as disrespectful. When we give other people labels that don’t serve them and that feel terrible for us to think even if they’re true, it’s not helpful for us nor for them.
So when we give people in our lives the benefit of the doubt, and we choose labels on purpose, it benefits us and it benefits them. And that doesn’t mean that we change the rules. It does not mean that we don’t hold boundaries. It just means that we separate out identity from actions. We continue to think our kids are really good, amazing kids, and if they are taking actions that don’t reflect that we approach it with curiosity, with love, we strength, we still hold boundaries. We can say, you’re a good kid and I won’t let you throw your book bag when you come home. Instead of they throw the book bag and you say, you’re so disrespectful. Do you see how that combines the identity with the actions? And now we’re doing to repeat that and we’re going to look for evidence that they’re disrespectful and then they’re going to live into that as well.
So clean thinking is about separating out how we think about ourselves, our lives, and other people in it, including our kids, our spouses, our friends, our families, everyone. We get a choice in how we think about other people and ourselves and our lives and the way we think determines how we feel. And we can show up and still hold those boundaries and feel compassion and connection and love for ourselves and for others when we choose more empowering thoughts. That is my cell to you to practice clean thinking. So just take some sentences in your head, jot ’em down on paper and ask yourself, is this a fact? Is this a thought? Is this a feeling or is this an action? I didn’t touch on actions because I think actions are the easiest to see. I ran three miles. Pretty easy to see that you’re running is an action.
I ate a sleeve of Oreos. That is an action. I did X, Y, Z or I didn’t do X, Y, Z. My alarm went off and I snoozed it for 10 minutes. Sort of like an inaction. I avoided talking to my husband. That is an inaction. I yelled at my kids. That’s an action I coach on yelling all of the time inside the membership. The reason that you yell is because of what you’re thinking and feeling. So when we put yelling in the bucket of actions, then we just put our curiosity investigator glasses on and we explore, okay, what was the fact? What was I thinking in that moment that that thing happened? How did that make me feel? And then that is the reason why I yelled. So for example, if your kids are fighting at bedtime, one kid pushes the other kid, the other kid yells loudly.
Your thought is, my kids shouldn’t be fighting at bedtime. My kids should listen to me. And you feel frustrated and then you yell. And again, all we’re doing right now is putting things in buckets so that we can better understand ourselves. Because through understanding we can change. We often can’t change our circumstances. Sometimes we can. And hey, I am in, if you ask your kids, Hey, in the future, could you please stop fighting at bedtime? And they say, yes, mom, I hadn’t thought of that. Let’s do that. Then I am in. Let’s do that. But as you know, as you can tell by laughing, that is not what happens. So when we can’t control the circumstances, what we can do is we can better control ourselves. We can change the way that we are thinking to say, oh, I thought this was going to be the season of being calm and relaxed before bedtime, but I was wrong.
This is the season of having kids who are kind of rambunctious and wild round bedtime. And that’s okay. I can use this as an opportunity to uphold boundaries and help my kids learn the skills that they need to learn to get to bed at night. Do you see how this combines what they’re doing with you? Being a strong, connected, sturdy mom? It is so much more helpful because then you can feel connection, calm and strength, and you can still hold boundaries. So what I’m not suggesting is that you go to the other end of the spectrum that’s like that all or nothing thinking. Either I’m controlling them and really mad that they’re fighting at bedtime, or I just throw my hands up in the air and I say, who cares? It doesn’t matter. Anyway, fight all you want. That is not what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting that we stay away from that all or nothing thinking, and we come to the middle where we do care.
We just don’t feel so frustrated and yell. And the way that you do that is by changing the way you’re thinking about it. But the only way you can change the way you’re thinking about it is to identify the current way that you are thinking. So take an example from your life, a very specific one. Like yesterday at 7:00 PM this is what my kids did. Exactly. Ask yourself, could I submit this to a court of law? Is it that facty? Then ask yourself, what was my thought about that? How did that make me feel and what did I do? We’re just examining ourselves here because that’s what we have the most control over. And when we do this repeatedly over and over, we slowly change each and every area of our lives. If you want help with this, I would love to coach you on it. You get a course along with written coaching and group coaching. It’s an amazing community. Come inside the Mom On Purpose membership, and I can help you get to clean thinking so that you can change your life forever. I love you, my friend. I’ll see you next week. Take care.
Thank you for being here and listening. Now, head on over to momonpurpose.com/coaching to learn more about the Mom On Purpose membership, where we take all of this work to the next level.