I’m often asked, “What’s the first thing a business owner needs to do to take his or her to the next level?” My answer is almost always the same: get rid of his or her brain junk. Yes, brain junk is that evil stuff that gets in virtually every entrepreneur’s way—the mental baggage that we all carry that tells us, “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not worthy,” “You don’t deserve it,” or “You’ll never make it.” It’s ugly, it’s stinky (phew!), and frankly, it’s a big bunch of nonsense. Well, it’s time to take out the trash.

JunkyardIf your brain looks like this, fear not. I’m going to teach you how to clean house!!!

Tweak #1: Identify and Assess

The first thing you have to do is find out what your brain junk is. How big a mess do you have on your hands and what’s it all about? I have my clients start by walking around with a pad of paper and a pen and writing down every negative thought that they have for a full 24 hour period. That gives you a good sense of how many times a day you’re thwarting yourself, but when your list is complete, you also want to look it over and organize it into trends. What are the commonalities? What are the trends in your brain junk?

Often, just becoming aware of what your issues are is a big step toward resolving brain junk. Sometimes knowing something’s an issue can be enough to open your eyes to it when it does come up.

Tweak #2: Track It Down and Check Validity

Next, go back into your life history. Where does your brain junk come from? Most often, brain junk is old, historical junk that we got from our parents (who, in turn, got it from their parents—don’t get down on your mom here; she probably inherited the junk she passed on to you!), teachers, employers, and others along the way. The older it is, the more ingrained it is.

Once you’ve tracked down the origins of your brain junk, ask yourself a big, important question: Is it true? Are you really not deserving of success? Are you really not good enough? Ask yourself these kinds of questions and then, if you think they are true, ask why. For example, you might not think you’re good enough to be successful, but only because you think your skillset is up to par. That statement right there should give you a good indicator of what your next step should be (The answer is STUDY! You should STUDY! Increase your skills and knowledge!) But often, if you can’t come up with a why, or if your why sounds like an insult (e.g. “I’m not good enough to be successful because I’m not smart enough.”) then that’s a bunch of stinkin’ thinkin’ nonsense and that means it’s brain junk.

The point here is to determine which brain junk is valid and has a solution (hint: if it’s valid, it most likely has a solution) and which is just a big fat lie and needs to be wiped from your thinking.

Tweak #3: Wipe It Clean.

So you’ve started dealing with the brain junk that kinda has a point by studying and improving what you need to work on, now it’s time to get rid of the junk that’s just nonsense and has no place in your brain. One of the most effective ways to do that is through what I call the “Sesame Street” technique.

If you’ve watched Sesame Street, you may remember this classic moment:

When you use the Sesame Street technique, wiping out your brain junk kind of works like that. Let me explain: you’ve identified some key negative thoughts that pop up from time to time in your brain. The Sesame Street technique starts with you going back to that list of negative thoughts from the first step and identifying the positive equivalents to those negative thoughts. For example:

Negative Thought Positive Equivalent “I’m not smart enough.” “I’m an intelligent person with many gifts and skills.”

Using our example, each time you hear “I’m not smart enough” pop up in your brain, you’re going to immediately tell yourself, “I’m an intelligent person with many gifts and skills.” Now, at the beginning, it’ll be like that Sesame Street video, where there’s a bit of a time lag between the moment when you have initial negative thought and the moment when you remember to replace it with its positive equivalent. But just like that video, the more you work at this, the faster you’ll replace the negative thought with the positive one, until eventually, with enough practice, instead of even having the negative thought, you’ll actually just have the positive though instead, transforming you from a person who thinks she or he isn’t quite smart enough to be successful into a person who is quite intelligent with many gifts and skills. You’ll find yourself taking on more challenges and stepping outside of your comfort zone more because you’ll be better equipped and more confident to handle it.

Of course there are many more tweaks to getting rid of your brain junk, but this is the best place to start. Now, go get started clearing away your own brain junk, and share your thoughts in the comments below!