You Don’t Have to Think This Thought

It is an incredible power to realize all thoughts are optional. Unfortunately, having that epiphany once isn’t enough. You’ll need it time and time again – whenever a train of thought doesn’t serve you.

“My car’s service check is coming up, and it costs $1,000. I don’t have $1,000. Where will I get $1,000? When is the service check? September, I think. Maybe October. Okay, I have a few weeks. What can I do in those weeks to get $1,000?”


“Right now, I’m lying in my bed. It is Tuesday, 7:43 AM. I need to get up, get ready, and go to work.”

Then, you get up, get ready, and go to work. Everything else will fall into place.

When exactly will you fix your $1,000 problem? I don’t know – but I do know that you don’t have to fix it at 7:43 AM on a random Tuesday.

The pithy, self-help conform version of this habit is James Altucher’s thought labeling exercise: Useful or not useful? The real trick, of course, is to stop, step back, and do the labeling in the first place. In this case, you could insert the “Stop” after any one of the eight thoughts above, and the sooner you would do it, the better – for the faster you would focus on the task right in front of you rather than some faraway worry.

How can you get better at stopping sooner? Meditation. I’m sure there are other ways. Meditation is just the best one I know – the best way to remember that you don’t have to think this thought.