Overcoming Negative Thinking
How do you approach unfamiliar situations? Do you expect to succeed, to thrive
when faced with new challenges, or do you expect to face problems, even failure?
Your view of yourself and your ability to cope is a powerful force that effects every
part of your life. There are countless studies demonstrating this fact. You may have
heard of a few of them like the elephant that is staked out with a heavy chain that it
cannot break. Once it learns that it is helpless, the chain can be removed and
replaced with a slight thread. The elephant could easily break the thread, but it
remains tied in place even when it thinks it is in danger.
Or, perhaps you've heard of groups of students randomly split into two IQ groups.
Students who are told their IQ is low begin to do poorly in school even if they
actually had a very high IQ while students told their IQ is high begin to do well even
if they actually tested low.
Any number of things in your past could have led you to believe that you weren't
good at something, that you don't deserve success. Unfortunately, once you get in
that cycle, it quickly becomes a trap. You expect to fail, so you do fail which gives
you more reason to expect to fail next time which of course you do, and so on and so
on until you can barely imagine yourself as successful.
Imagining yourself successful though is the key to breaking out of that trap. Just as
those students who tested poorly were able to improve in their schoolwork when
they believed they were smart, you can teach your mind that success is easy when
you believe in yourself.
The trick is understanding that your mind doesn't know the difference between what
has actually happened and what you've imagined has happened. That's why Olympic
level athletes will often spend time visualizing themselves performing perfectly as
part of their training routine. Imagining that you have done something, convincing
yourself so that you actually believe it, is the same as doing it to the mind. This is
especially true in the case of learned helplessness where it is the mind that was
preventing you from doing it in the first place.
If you're stuck in a cycle of learned failure, or even if you just haven't reached the
level of success that you desire, you should begin an immediate program of positive
reinforcement. Begin by paying special attention to the successes in your life.
Like most people, your day is most likely filled with a series of small successes that
pass unnoticed. Begin to pay attention to them. No success is too small. Your
looking for quantity over quality here. You finished typing that letter. Great, praise
yourself, reward yourself for a job well done. You pulled a file. Tell yourself of course
I pulled that file, I'm a smart person for whom success is a matter of course.
On the other side of the coin, refuse to dwell on the negative. If you find yourself
thinking about failure, drive it from your mind by reliving a successful moment.
Before you begin each separate task, imagine yourself succeeding. Tell yourself that
you are a smart, capable person who deserves to be successful. Keep repeating that
to yourself until you begin to take it for granted.
It sounds corny. You may even feel a little embarrassed, but give it a few months.
Once you learn to accept praise from yourself. Once you begin to expect success as
a matter of course, you'll be amazed at how former barriers to the growth of yourself
and your career will begin to seem like small, insignificant bumps that you can easily
step over on your way to enjoying the success you so richly deserve.
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