Here’s one of those unavoidable facts of life: Garbage stinks. Whether it’s the can in your kitchen or the big one fermenting in the garage, trash reeks.

Thank goodness for that. That smell is like a built-in alarm. One whiff and you know it’s time to get rid of it.

Trash also lives in our heads: all those thoughts, beliefs and opinions (or “TBOs” as we like to call them) like “I’m not good enough.” It’s too bad this kind of mental garbage doesn’t smell.

Well, actually…

TBOs can reek just as badly as regular garbage. When we allow our negative thoughts to take over the driver’s seat, everything just feels rotten, like that feeling of “yuck” you get when you dump the moldy leftovers into the kitchen sink. Also, garbage attracts garbage. Start tearing yourself down in one area and your mind will likely go after a second and a third until you’re shredding yourself mercilessly.

You know the milk is going bad when you sniff the carton and get that Uh oh, better not drink this feeling. You can use your feelings the same way to gauge whether a TBO is starting to spoil. The next time one pops into your head, ask yourself what’s coming up. Fear? Anxiety? Defensiveness? The urge to pull back?

It’s not that these feelings are bad. A certain amount of fear or anxiety keeps us on our toes and motivates us to take action. However, if these emotions debilitate us and squelch our enthusiasm and energy, it’s a sign that the TBO is going the way of curdled milk and moldy cheese. It’s time to get rid of it.

That’s when you want your brain to kick into autopilot and toss that trash right then and there. So introduce a little smell into your thoughts! When you catch yourself in a self-shred cycle, try this simple exercise and see if it helps you toss the trash that’s getting you down.

1. See the trash. Picture the mass of emotion and negativity that you’re feeling as a big pile of garbage. See the green trash bags, the broken eggshells, the banana peels and the chunks of dirty white Styrofoam.

2. Find the culprit. Identify the thought, belief, or opinion that keeps adding more garbage to the pile. Are you telling yourself that no one will love you or that your business is doomed to fail?

3. Make it stink. Imagine the worst, stomach-turning smell you know, the kind that even a split-second whiff makes you jump back, grab your nose, and shout, “Eeew!” Give that nasty stink to the garbage TBO.

4. Toss that trash. If you’ve really stunk up that negative TBO, you’ll know exactly what to do next: get rid of it. Imagine yourself throwing “I’m not good enough” into the can or grinding its smelly mess up in the garbage disposal.

5. Enjoy. This is the best part. The smell is gone because you tossed the trash. In its place, imagine the fresh scent of emptiness: the aroma of fresh pine needles or new rain on a grass-covered hillside. Now that the garbage is gone, you can see things completely differently.

So the next time you find garbage thoughts are piling up, give it the stench of old, disgusting trash. That’s going to help you clear your mind, jumpstart your life, and keep your head garbage-free.

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