Skip to main content

How to Stop Old Patterns of Thinking

My passion is to inspire and coach people to achieve what they want to get out of life.

If you can't change your thinking, you can't change yourself

You are what you think.

You are what you think.

Change The Way You Think?

How do you change the way you think? The majority of the population thinks that it just happens. Rarely, do we look at the process and how the mechanism works? You are only limited to what you can envision and accomplish by what you think. What you believe, feel, perceive, imagine, or achieve is based on your thinking. To gain a good understanding you must start with the statement, "You are what you think." This statement is a truism of life.

Making positive changes to your thinking process that last over time is not easy. Everyone is programmed, positively or negatively, throughout their life starting from the day they are born. Those thought patterns are ingrained after years of practice. Dysfunctional behavior and feelings caused by old thinking patterns result in unsatisfying relationships in the way one performs with self, career, esteem, others, and health. What is programmed into your mind affects how you think, feel, behave, or how you react to life situations.

But after analyzing decades of clinical research and case studies, I have discovered there are a few simple things you can do to snap the cycle of old thinking. So let’s see what we can do to change.

Power Over Thinking

Think you are locked out of changing your thoughts?

Empower Your Mind. It is all up to you!

Empower Your Mind. It is all up to you!

8 Ways to Change Your Thinking Pattern

Here is an assignment to help you to identify and then begin to change your pattern of thinking.


To change your old patterns of thinking you first have to recognize what your thought patterns are. Thought patterns are a collection of thoughts embedded in your subconscious mind. If you think about it, thought patterns are a grouping of beliefs which are filed in your mind. To see the patterns of your thought, you have to put them down on paper. So to gain some visual structure for this assignment, lay out a piece of paper in front of you and on the left side of the paper write down these eight thought areas.

1. Relationships with self

2. Relationships with others

3. Career

4. Finances

5. Worth

6. Health

7. Body Image

8. Spirituality

Make sure there is space to write under each life area, so you can write down all the thoughts that correspond to each area. Below is an example:

Relationship with self – “I am not intelligent.”

“I am smart.”

Scroll to Continue

“I do not like myself,”

Worth – “I am not worthy.”

“I am bad.”

“I am will never be successful.”

After you have filled in each life area, study all the thoughts you have written down Now that you have gone this far, answer the following question.

Is your pattern of thinking positive or negative?

Now that you have established what your thinking pattern is, you have to identify where the embedded belief that created your thought came from. Not all your thoughts originated from your creation. Growing up your mind accepts views from others sources all the time.

Next to each thought, mark down where it originated such as; self, parents, family (sister, brother, uncle, aunt, etc.), authority figure, teacher, mentor or religious figure.

Such as:

Relationship with self – “I am not intelligent.” – Brother Tommy

“I am smart.” – 3rd Grade teacher – Mrs. Jones

“I do not like me.” - Me

Then review your completed list and determine whether your thoughts come from self-statements or others in your life. Identify whether your thoughts are beneficial and which are destructive.


Relationship with self – “I am not intelligent.” – Brother Tommy – Others/Destructive

“I am smart.” – 3rd Grade teacher – Mrs. Jones–Others/Destructive

“I do not like myself.” – Me- Self statement/ Beneficial

Thought Shifting

Be mindful of your thoughts

Be mindful of your thoughts

Positive Tips for Changing Thought Patterns

Restructure Your Thought Patterns

Set the aforementioned paper aside and get a new piece of paper. On the new piece of paper write down the same 8 life areas in a column on the left side of the paper. Then this time create new specific positive thoughts that you want in each life area.

Know that vague and general thoughts are a formula for doom. When your mind is given vague and general statements, it does not understand. Your mind will get confused, become paralyzed, not accept the new thoughts and in return go back to the old familiar patterns. So, be specific in what you want.

Embedding Your New A New Thought Pattern

How do I get my brain to accept my new thoughts? Embedding your new thought list is accomplished through action, not willpower. This action is done through focused practice. Take your new create a list of thoughts, call now you want to embed into your subconscious (call the new list of positive thoughts - Positive Life Affirmations or PLA). Examples of a few possible powerful PLAs you can put on your list are - I am happy, I am healthy, I am prosperous, I am whole and I am productive - to name a few. Add statements of positiveness you would like to be front and center in your conscious stream of thoughts.

Examples of a few possible powerful positive PLAs you can put on your list are - I am happy, I am healthy, I am prosperous, I am whole and I am productive - to name a few. Add statements of positiveness you would like to be front and center in your conscious stream of thoughts.

Then set up a daily schedule on your calendar. Commit to several times a day (morning, afternoon, after dinner or before bedtime) to say these PLAs for thirty (30) days straight. During each daily scheduled time, read your list 4 times in a row with emotion and accent to each statement as you repeat each.

The most important time for your subconscious mind to absorb is just before you go to sleep and first thing when you wake up. Why? Your subconscious mind will percolate on your PLAs the whole time you are asleep. In the morning when you wake after your say your PLAs, your subconscious mind will look to manifest that list in your life.

There are two keys to embedding new thoughts into your subconscious mind:

#1 Practice, practice and practice your list some more. The more and longer you repeat your positive life affirmation list the quicker the new thoughts will embed.

Understand that repetition by someone else or self-repeating is how the old negative thoughts got into your subconscious mind originally. So through practice, the new thoughts will be accepted. Let’s look at an athlete who wants to win gold and become an Olympic Level Athlete. The way to reach this goal is by practicing his or her skills over and over again until performing increases and the skills are mastered. Then skills are performed without thinking.

#2 Being emotionally attached to old negative thoughts or excited emotionally by the negative thoughts is how distorted, diluted and negative thoughts were accepted and stored in the subconscious mind in the first place.

A stranger can say whatever about you to you and your subconscious mind rejects it. But the smallest criticism from someone you are emotionally attached to hurts to your core.

So make your list (no more than 10 positive life affirmations), repeat them at scheduled times and feel them as you repeat them. Guaranteed they will stay with you.

Make a Firm Commitment

The hardest part of pulling off change is getting started, keeping your motivation and following through consistently on your commitment to practicing your new PLAs. To conquer your resistance, make a firm commitment to yourself to change. Follow consistently every day on your schedule times and practice, practice and practice more. Do not lose your focus. It takes time. Take it one day at a time.

Do not think about how many days you will have to practice. It is easier to conquer daily mile markers than anticipating the whole journey (30 days).

The more you follow through with your commitment to self and carry out your schedule the less reluctant and resistance you will face.

Make Your Environment Support Your Change

Many of us are blind to the reminders of our old ways of thinking that exist around us. Unconsciously reminders shape your behaviors and trigger you to think in old predictable patterns. You tend to be blind to remembering your old ways of thinking and how they hurt you. Stopping your practice too soon can cause you to go back to and react to old patterns. Then self-sabotage behavior is not far behind. Make sure that you take out reminders of your past and replace them with supporting associations and experiences. Be excited about a new beginning.

Just remember: Change isn't an event: it is a process.

© 2010 Bill Tollefson


Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on June 24, 2019:

Dear Stephanie,

Thank you very much for the nice comment. Hope the exercise helps you. You are so right, our thoughts are so important to how we live our lives. What is more important is to know our core beliefs that generate our thoughts. Hope you read more of my HUBs.

Stephanie Fredricksen from Utah on June 18, 2019:

I love this article and can't wait to try out the exercise you included. I think it's so rare yet so important that we examine our thoughts. Thank you for sharing this!

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on June 10, 2019:

Dear Gupi,

I want to thank you for your comments. I hope you try it because it does achieve results. Let me know how it works for you.

Coach Bill

Gupi on June 09, 2019:

Thanks for sharing that advice, will definitely try it

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on September 06, 2017:

Dear Janey, Thank you for your comment. I am glad you found the information in the article valuable.

Janey on September 05, 2017:

I'm going to try this out . I need this so bad.

Johne124 on August 25, 2015:

Some really quality blog posts on this internet site , saved to fav. dabdcgefeece

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on May 21, 2015:

Dear fpherj48,

Paula I am so glad that you are following me and that you plan to read all my HUB from bottom to the top. Please continue to make comments on them all. It will be very helpful for me and let me know what you might want to know know about.

Also check me out on Tweeter, Pinterest, Facebook and my two blogs - and as well as my websites - &

I will also follow you.

Blessings, Dr. Bill

Suzie from Carson City on May 21, 2015:

Hello Dr. Bill.....Just today I chose to follow you. I'm beginning at the bottom and plan to work my way up your list of hubs. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and found your video very positive.

I do know what a strenuous march UP hill we have when we realize we need to do some serious work on our old patterns of thought. It takes time, focus and effort. However, as some of the comments have noted, it certainly is worth the blood, sweat & tears.....Thank you. UP+++ tweeted & pinned... Peace, Paula

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on July 16, 2014:


I really appreciate that you validated me and my ideas. It feels really good. Yes, live in the moment. It is all we have. Yes we can replace bad self-talk with good truths.

Read this HUB on 6 ways to calm your Inner Critic (self-talk) -

Thanks for reading and commenting . Please be a follower of my HUB, I will in kind.

thefedorows from the Midwest on July 15, 2014:

So true, Dr. Bill. Thoughts are powerful, either life-giving, or not. It is a moment-by-moment choice to "take every thought captive" and replace bad self-talk with positive truths. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on December 10, 2013:


Thank you for your comment.

I hope you read more of my HUB articles

Also check out my websites and learn more from more articles and videos.

Blessings, Dr Bill

flip on December 09, 2013:

is it really all about thots or is it about practicall thinking

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on October 07, 2013:

Isy –

I want to thank you for reading this blog and for your comment. I know you are afraid and feel like your thoughts are out of control. You can turn it around. Please also read three more of my HUBs that will help you to understand what you are going through and that it is normal.

1. is Addiction: The Truth

2. is Thought Addiction Assessment: Are My Thoughts Addicting

3. another HUB that explains how your core beliefs drive your thoughts and emotions

In my 42+ years as a therapist and now Life Coach, I have helped many to stop thought looping. Do not give up hope. Find out more at and download my free eBook on Personal Philosophy. The eBook will explain a lot more and see that you can change those dark thoughts to positive ones

Blessings, Dr Bill

Isy on October 05, 2013:

I have been feeling as though there must be something really wrong with my health because my back really hurts and I feel just down. I can't get rid of these thoughts... It happened since a month and when I try and say I am getting myself back on track I have dark thoughts as I have 3 children on my own and worry... I worry about future work, my children etc... How can I turn this around. I so want to be positive

Alice Hadaway on June 07, 2012:

Thank you for a great article. I am doing research for a nursing paper addressing changes in a pattern of thinking and how to apply it personally to my work area. I hope to return and read more! Thank you

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on February 02, 2012:

Paul33 - I am glad you enjoyed my HUB and I hope you read more of them. Blessings

Paul on February 01, 2012:

Thanks for the article, my life coach Sonali has helped me with this issue also check her out -

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on January 03, 2012:

sunkentreasure - Thanks for your Secrets of Life. Very informative. I am sure it will give inspiration to many.



Look for the beauty

in everything you see.

Walk in peace

showing kindness


The secrets of success

are motivation

and dedication

Happiness is

what you make happen

for yourself.

Caring is

going to the ends of the world

for a stranger.

Be useful with your life.

Whatever you are doing

put your whole

being into it 100%

Loving is

pleasing your loved one everyday

in a 1000 different ways.

Control your mind

you are its master

Be in control.

Live your life

without hurting or


Believe in yourself.

Have respect for yourself.

Walk through life

always with a song.

© Bernard Levine

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on December 30, 2011:

You are welcome Jynzly. 2012 will be better and more fulfilling for you.

Jenny Pugh from Marion, Indiana, USA on December 29, 2011:

Thank you too Dr. B. Tollefson and more bessings to you in the whole year to come.

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on December 29, 2011:

Jynzly Thanks for sharing your process. It was very brave and authentic of you. Keep it up and reset your whole mind. Happy New year.

Jynzly on December 29, 2011:

Actually, what I did was telling myself "I, Jenny, am beautiful." just like that in first, second, and third person. I wrote it every 8:00 a.m. 20 times a day for 21 days then said it aloud in first, second and third person too, every 8:00 in the evening on that same day I did the writing; while my favourite music was playing and as I look at myself happily in the mirror. The effort is just actually within ourselves...or mind for that matter, to get the desired results.

Thanks again, I do hope that people would have courage to do these very important things for themselves...It's a wonderful life.

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on December 29, 2011:

Jynzly - You are welcome. I am glad you saw positive results with the process of changing old thinking patterns. I have used this with other people and had the same positive results you did.

It is a fact that when you think you are beautiful (or any positive belief), and accept it into your mind then it becomes true and new thought manifests its self in your life. Shifting to a new set of thoughts works and it is not hard. You just have to be consistent to install a new pattern.


Jenny Pugh from Marion, Indiana, USA on December 29, 2011:

So true; I did it myself and the result is amazing. Not only do I feel beautiful but everybody would say I am beautiful when It used to be I was considered the "ugly duckling" among my cousins.

Thank you Dr. Bill Tollefson, your hub is wonderful.


Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on October 27, 2011:

waes-hael - Thank you for reading this HUB and writing your comments. I know it has been talked about for years and only we should do it. People need to be taught a skill and then practice it. Consistency and hard work are operative words. Thank for your suggestions. Follow more HUBs. I have some good tips on others to help one change and get out of thought addictions.

waes-hael from The Netherlands on October 27, 2011:

I like the idea of setting some time apart to reprogram your thinking. An entire industry has been built under the premis that by changing your thinking patterns you will change your life. People like Louse Hay and Wayne Dyer have been talking for years about basically the same ides all in their own unique language.

From my own example, I can tell that changing one's thinking is possible yet it takes time and effort. I use meditation, affirmations and auto-suggestions as tools to achieve possitive results.

I will check out your book. Thank you for the hub.

Barbara Bethard from Tucson, Az on July 18, 2011:

I am way ahead of you Doctor; and sir, thank you

barbara b

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on July 18, 2011:

Hey Barbara B - Thank you for your validating comments. Please read my other articles which many have tips on how you can to improve your thinking which in turn will improve your life.

You are welcome.


Barbara Bethard from Tucson, Az on July 18, 2011:

I write and read on HubPagees and one of my hubber friends suggested I check out Dr Bill!

I am so glad I did!! T

hank you HappyBoomerNurse!

Most of all thank you Dr Bill!

I think this will help me more than the cognitive thinking therapy tool

I hope so!

barbara b

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on June 11, 2011:

Thank you DayLeeWriter ~ That is a real honor that you would put my quote above your desk. Change in thinking is possible. Hope you read more of my HUB articles on thought.


Debra Cornelius from Georgia on June 11, 2011:

"..It is easier to conquer daily mile markers, than anticipate the whole journey." ....YES! I'm posting that statement above my desk! As I work on changing my thinking ....great hub.

Urska from Slovenia on March 23, 2011:

Paradigma shifts in our thinking are very powerful.

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on February 21, 2011:

Negative thoughts are generally triggered unconsciously in course of our daily lives in the form of root beliefs and programming. Rooted beliefs and programming disempower you and run in the background of your mind. The great thing is it is possible to shift these so that the negative thoughts no longer affect you any longer.

Kim Harris on February 21, 2011:

I like how this is written - in a way that makes it easy to do! I'm due for a maintenance examen on cognitions that have "slipped in" undetected in the past few years. I think after I do my my own, I may use it for a group. The book/DVD looks interesting too. Thanks for sharing Dr. Bill.

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on December 09, 2010:

There are many different methods and this is just one of them. I tested and used this method with survivors of repetitive abuse and traumatic life events for over 14 years with great success. Thank you taking the time to read my article.

ItsThatSimple from Florida on December 09, 2010:

Some people call this method positive self talk. I agree with the principle of talking to ourselves and building ourselves up with positivity rather than being critical of ourselves.

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on September 13, 2010:

You are correct. While you are correcting your thinking or programming, one has to put the new thinking into behavior. I call that developing an Action plan. Thank you for your comment. I am sure many people who read this will learn that a person has to "do" as well as “think” anew.

dante kelly on September 13, 2010:

I'm no doctor but I do have life experience,true my thought have caused me to do many things I knew to be wrong.I'd go to treatments for addictions and I'd hear you have to change how you see yourself and the world around you.For me it didn't work like that,I had to start living myself into a new way of thiking,I couldn't think my way into a new way of thinking.I make conscious choices to do the next right thing every day.Even though those old thoughts come I just don't act on them.It take work...

sanely54 on August 02, 2010:

Hi Dr Bill

This was so hard for me to do but with your help I have done but continue everyday to work on loving myself. After almost 20 yrs of being disablied I am now working full time in Kansas. I miss you!

Pat on August 01, 2010:

I went through a program that Dr. Bill had in Ft. Lauderdale a few years ago and he changed my life. You CAN truly change your thought patterns. It is very hard work, but is well worth your time.

I learned to love myself for the first time in years as well as how to manage my thoughts when it comes to my abusers values, etc.

Through a lot of hard work, allowing myself to feel, being able to safely express my feelings, etc. I was able to take my life back into my own hands.

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on July 30, 2010:

Thank you for your comments. Do not fear your own thoughts. If you work with your thoughts, they will work with you and change. All it takes is recognition and consistency.

sanely54 on July 29, 2010:

I am one who is a believer in changing my thoughts and the horrid thoughts abusers gave to me. I can now say I love myself and I am a wonderful person. It took about 4 years but Dr Bill Tollefson is so right. thanks Linda

Bill Tollefson (author) from Southwest Florida on July 12, 2010:

Yes it is possible with consistent practice and commitment. It does not result in a thinking or feeling of superiority, just confidence. I have used this with survivors of servere abuse and trauma as well as veterans from war, and all have been successful when they completely followed throu. Good things rewarded and accepted when one works hard for themselves and believes.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on July 12, 2010:

Is it really possible to change your imbedded thoughts about yourself like this? This may result in a feeling of superiority, don't you think so? Of course one should eliminate 'false' ideas of self caused by ignorant parents and teachers, but would the active achievement of goals, or some positive experiences, not automatically change the negative pattern?

Related Articles