In the heat of transition, there is a tendency to tell ourselves things which are not true–and they become barriers to being our most positive, productive selves. Eckhart Tolle in his book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, calls these negative thoughts “mental phantoms,” originating from our intellect or ego and steering us away from healthy behavior. Worrying about things like past mistakes and future uncertainties prevent us from being optimally effective.

Example “phantoms” might include:

  • “I should have had a much stronger reply to the employer’s question, “Tell me how you would manage that situation when the deadline had past and your top performer was on vacation?”
  • “I don’t know what I’ll do if the proposal is not endorsed by the planning committee.”
  • “There’s no way I’ll be able to handle the disappointment of not getting that job.”
  • “I’m sure Jane thought I was thoughtless and incompetent when my presentation went too long.”

There’s always a time for constructive self talk. And of course, we learn from mistakes and need to plan for future situations. But Tolle tells us to not get burdened or obsessed with these issues. The situations often aren’t true or as bad as we may think and as a result, we don’t know how to manage them. Our spirit retreats when we need all the strength and confidence we can get.

Yes, reflect on how things might have been done better and think ahead to avoid pitfalls. But do it in a context of faith in yourself, your community and a “higher power” where truth, resilience and wisdom can be found.


think hard on what “phantoms” may be getting in the way of your progress in transition. Write two or three down and share them with a colleague.

Thomas Bachhuber, Ed.D., President of the Board and Executive DirectorThomas Bachhuber, Ed.D.
President of the Board and Executive Director for The Center for Life Transitions. Tom is responsible for overall Center leadership and strategy. His individual coaching/counseling as well as workshops and retreats focus on integrating leading career development ideas with spiritual exploration. Read more.