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Think: "First Thought Wrong"

Updated: Mar 3

What?! What does that even mean? Wrong about what?!

I first heard "FIRST THOUGHT WRONG!" from Mark Lundholm, a hilarious commedian who has lived experience with addiction.

As an addiction specialist in my counselling career, working with change has been my 'bread and butter'.

Whether it's an addiction to drugs or alcohol or to food, sex, work, gambling, shopping... the list goes on, all have one thing in common...

It is driven by a desire to 'change' how we feel.

What does that have to do with confidence or performance?

And isn't our 'first thought' usually our intuition?

Well, we have many goals to change in some way, perhaps get rid of old habits like procrastination, laziness, perfectionism, and self-sabotage to name a few so we can feel a sense of achievement, reward, pride, satisfaction, and freedom for example. Or to start new healthy habits like working out more, learning a new skill, and eating better to feel strong, energised, successful and all of the previously mentioned feelings above. These are all things that improve both our sense of confidence and overall performance.

Whatever the goal, it often comes down to change...


Now when I say 'first thought wrong', I don't mean, don't trust your intuition. This is different.

When it comes to our 'first thought' when trying to break old habits, it's less your intuition talking and more about well-established neural pathways. By that I mean, familiar ideas firing together in your brain due to repeated action and reinforcement of behaviour.

Behaviours are reinforced because the last time you did them you either:

a) Received pleasure; or

b) Avoided pain

And your brain remembers or learns that if "I do this again, I will get the same result."

When it comes to INACTION toward our goals, we're often:

* Receiving pleasure by doing something more enjoyable or 'easy' in the moment like eating yummy food and vegging out in front of the tv instead of writing down that business or project idea; and/or

* Avoiding the discomfort of taking risks, potentially failing if we try, maybe losing: energy, time, resources and so on...

This repeated behaviour can create 'neural highways' that fast-track these actions (or inaction) again in the future.

The more we act on impulses to avoid or do other 'more pleasurable' things, the more we reinforce these neural pathways and strengthen these habits, making them HARDER to break.

This is the basic premise of our learning and conditioning.

So, when trying to make changes and exposed to a reminder of your old habit, your mind will conjure up thoughts to maintain your old ways... they might be:

Minimising: "It won't hurt if I just leave it for one more day."

Justifying: "I worked really hard so I deserve another hour of TV."

Fortune telling: "If I try I will fail anyway, so I may as well just give up now."

Mind-reading: "People will hate it anyway, what's the point?"

All-or-nothing thinking: "If I can't do an hour workout, there's no point exercising today."

The above are examples of 'thinking traps' or cognitive distortions according to Cognitive Behavioural approaches in psychology. There are others, but these are super common when trying to break old habits.


Change may be hard, but it is POSSIBLE thanks to NEUROPLASTICITY.

Without going into a full explanation of what this is, essentially we can create new, neural pathways through our choices and behaviours that are more aligned with our goals and who we would like to be.

We can START by CATCHING ourselves when these unhelpful thoughts come up. From there we can begin to create new behaviours and habits.

So, if this comes up for you, remember: "FIRST THOUGHT WRONG."

1. Don't believe everything you think

2. Catch yourself when you fall into those thinking traps

3. Find an opposite action to what you would usually do

4. Practice, Modify & Try Again

I would love to hear from you!

Have you had difficulties with making a change?

Whether that's breaking old habits or starting new ones, get in touch to let me know about your experience.

There are many many strategies that can help facilitate change and working one-on-one with an experienced counsellor or coach can help with exploration and strategising what will work best for you according to your goals. Contact me if you would like to explore one-on-one support.

Or follow me on instagram or Facebook #renewedhorizonstherapy to learn more and get the latest on upcoming events.

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