The 5 Negative Thinking Habits Holding You Back And How To Tackle Them

How to Manage Your Peers

Written by Claire Norburn

Professional Career & Leadership Coach and Mentor helping you get the best out of you and your team.

September 28, 2021

“Why do I do this to myself?”

How often do you find yourself thinking this?  You mind is doing 150mph around the seemingly endless racetrack of unhelpful, negative thinking?

You know this thinking pattern is making your life hard, yet somehow you do it over and over again.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not on your own.

So many thoughts

Thoughts are far more powerful than we give them credit for.

The average person has about 48.6 thoughts per minute, according to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California. That adds up to 70,000 thoughts per day.

Combine that with the research that shows human brains have a negativity bias, and you can see that managing the negative thoughts is a crucial battle.

Why does it matter?

Thoughts drive how we feel.

How we feel drives how we show up and behave.

So, if you’re thinking in a negative, never going to happen kind of way, you’ll likely be demonstrating behaviour to match. Which means you’re not getting the outcomes you want.

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”   

– Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s look at 5 of the most common negative thinking patterns and how to challenge them.

1.Mind Reading

You believe you know what someone else is thinking, and you assume they’re thinking the worst of you. That your presentation is terrible. That your idea is crazy. That you could have done better.

But the reality is, none of us are mind readers. We don’t know what anyone else is thinking. We’re making assumptions, and we all know what sort of an ass they make.

So, notice when you’re mind reading, and challenge yourself to look for the facts. What do you know? What don’t you know?

If you don’t know, ask.

2. Catastrophising

You’re constantly thinking the worst is going to happen.

If this meeting goes badly, they’ll definitely fire me. I’ll never get another job in this market. We’ll lose the house. We’ll be destitute and the kids will be eating out of bins.

An extreme example, but one I once heard from a client.

The truth is, it’s incredibly unlikely that the worst-case scenario is ever likely to happen. Layer that with the fact that if it does, evidence from previous difficult situations you’ve faced, tells you that you’ll deal with it.

So, ask yourself, what’s more likely to happen? And what will you do if it does

3. Focusing on the negative

Knowing that the human brain is pre-disposed to look for the negative, means it can be easy to fall into the trap of that being the only thing you see.

The hundreds of positives happening in your life get filtered out.

Out of the 10 pieces of feedback, you get hung up on the one negative, and forget the 9 positive ones.

At the end of each day, take a few minutes to look back and reflect on not just what didn’t go to plan, but what did. Challenge yourself to look for the positives.

4. What if?

What if people don’t like me? What if they think I’m an idiot? What if I do get the job? What if I don’t?

The list could go on and on.

When thinking about the future, it can be natural to get caught up in a ‘what if…’ cycle of thinking. This can be a helpful and creative process to help us plan ahead. However, the danger lies in the times we start to obsess about it. Constantly worrying what might happen, and unhelpfully combining it with catastrophising.

In ‘what if…’ situations it’s helpful to challenge yourself on the probability of the statement in question actually happening. And if it does, what’s your plan?

By turning the hypothetical into something real, you start to take control of it.

5. Listening to the inner critic

There’s an inner voice inside us all. Sometimes it’s helpful and sometimes it’s quite frankly just brutal.

The key thing to remember when your inner critic gets on a roll, is not to ignore it. The reality is it won’t just disappear by trying to pretend it’s not there. Because it is.

What you can do though, is learn to manage it.

Start off by becoming aware of it. Notice the loud intrusive thoughts that might be telling you that you’re not capable. That you’re not good enough. That you’ll embarrass yourself.

Awareness is the first step to getting the inner critic under control.

Be curious with it. What’s driving the negative statements it’s throwing out?

But most of all, challenge it. Ask yourself, would you speak to your best friend like that? I suspect not. So be kind to yourself and respond with self-compassion.

You’re not on your own.

If you can relate to some of these thinking traps, firstly, you’re not on your own. Secondly, it’s a positive that you’re becoming aware of them. The best way to tackle any negative thought pattern is to become aware of it when it happens, and then practice taking a step back.

Remember, just because you’re thinking it, doesn’t make it true. Look for the facts and consider what you could do or say that would be more helpful.

As a Professional Coach and Mentor, I help professionals better understand themselves, make purposeful career choices, and manage the self-limiting stories holding them back from fulfilling their potential.

If you want some help to get your negative thinking under control, and want to talk about how you can work with me, get in touch and let’s have a chat

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