10/28/14 James Winston
If you find yourself in the pattern of negative thinking, how do you feel? Are you functioning at your best, or do you feel irritable, exhausted, unmotivated, and down.
Our thinking starts a chain of events: “I think, so I feel, therefore I do.” We can fall into thinking traps, such as that all-or-nothing thinking (if it can’t be perfect, I won’t do it at all), being our own worst critic (I’m a failure), ignoring the positives (bad things always happen to me), and catastrophizing (focusing on the worst case scenario).
But the positive is that there are clear strategies to overcome negative thinking patterns when you feel challenged, uncertain, or discouraged. Quite often we just need to erase those negative precursors – impossible to possible and unable to able – to change our pessimism to optimism. So what are your thinking traps? Check out the ten (10) common thinking traps below and learn and how to escape the negative and embrace the positive.
- Open your eyes and your mind: Sometimes we get into black and white/all or nothing thinking. This will direct us towards a one-way, no win solution. Consider all the possibilities by removing the blinders and consider the shades of grey.
- Life has many options and lots of positives: One general event may mushroom into a string of perceived negative happenings with a never ending path. Redirect your thinking to consider each event as just that….one event. Overgeneralizing will get you into a corner.
- Fact versus fiction: I feel it so it must be true. Counteract this line of faulty belief systems with facts. Negative emotions feel very strong but are quite often mired in the past with no rational link to today’s experiences. Shake them off!
- Practice positive mental exercises about yourself: We are our own worst critic. By collecting all the garbage in our heads, we buy into the negative thoughts that hang around long after their usefulness was useful. Counteract these phrases like the plague. Examples of “I always mess up” with times when you were very successful with an accomplishment or recent project.
- The world is bigger than you: Think of a time when you saw yourself as the cause of things wrong. You assumed you were the cause of some problem, and hung your head low because you were feeling worthless…once again. You pass someone in the hallway and they don’t speak, in fact don’t even see you. You immediately think you have done something wrong and are already preparing your resignation because you know they are on their way to HR to say what you did wrong. Slow down! They weren’t even thinking about you. They had their own issues to solve and problems to ponder. Depersonalize most interactions and you will feel much better.
- Positive motivators work: When we practice “should” on ourselves, we are assigning some punishing negative viewpoint to something we are thinking about, and forgetting we have choices. Substitute, “I CHOOSE to do x” instead of, “I SHOULD do x”. It has a very different feel to it.
- Good stuff happens to you: Yes, it does; however, sometimes people don’t feel comfortable accepting good things and so they block them or ignore them to keep the negative train of thinking going. By ignoring and not counting the good things that do come your way, you keep deceiving yourself that the world is a bad place.
- I will not guilt me or others: By using must, ought, and should (see number 6), we assign blame to others and live in a negatively reinforced pattern of behavior. These statements towards others are laced with anger, frustration, and resentment. Explore where this is coming from and what it does for you.
- See through the glass clearly: When we are disappointed or somehow uncomfortable with an outcome, we may mislabel someone, and this is highly emotional and strong language. It is protectionism gone awry. Become aware of your feelings and check for overly sensitive statements and comments when you label someone when you are hurt or angry with yourself or others.
- Conclusions come at the end: When we jump to conclusions by fortune telling or expecting others to mind read without checking facts, we do ourselves a big disservice. Keep to facts and check things out.