Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Unfortunate Power Of Negative Thinking


I've never been a really negative person. I'm a skeptic for sure. Ask me about my own abilities though, and I'll tell you that I think I can do anything I set out to do. But I do know that there are people out there who have a negative outlook on things. They don't think they can and they end up being right.

I have been told that the rationale behind thinking negative or for expecting the worst to happen is that the worst most likely won't happen. When it doesn't, then it makes things great when they turn out better than expected.

I can't claim to understand this type of thinking and I also don't have a clue what makes one person confident or positive in themselves and another completely negative. I also have no evidence whether one person is more successful. If I had to guess, people who believe in themselves probably achieve more. To me, it's simple logic. Because they think they can, they probably do end up being more successful in life.

Negative thinking spills over into your mental well being and shows itself in the form of negative self talk. If you find that you put yourself down by saying bad things about yourself, then you are putting up an additional roadblock to your success. While an occasional burst of self doubt works its way into everyone's brain, consistent questioning of one's abilities or self worth is a trait you might want to consider working on.

The reason is that the mind is a powerful thing. It's really a supercomputer in your head that I don't think any one knows what  it's maximize potential power is. The thing that I do know is this. If you ask your mind a question, it will work to find an answer to it.

Ask the mind questions like "why am I such a loser" and your brain will start coming up with reasons why you are indeed such a loser.

Additional negative questions of the brain provide additional confirmation of why you fail all of the time, why people don't like you and in general why you are a horrible person.

Once you ask these questions often enough over a long period of time, you convince your brain that all of the answers it provides are true and that you were correct in thinking those questions up in the first place.

Imagine, if you will, working with a person who actually told you what a loser you are to your face day in and day out. There's a good chance you'd be pretty angry at that person and would probably try and remove yourself from seeing that person. You wouldn't tolerate it if other people talked to you that way or at least you shouldn't.

Why then, tolerate it from yourself?

If you find yourself in this loop of negative thinking, what should you do?

The first step is to acknowledge that it's a learned behavior like any other bad habit. For some reason, you got hooked on it like a drug and now you are an addict but just like a drug, you can stop taking it.

Next, if you are a person who verbalizes your negative thinking out loud and not just internally to yourself, then at least don't say them to other people. Keep your negative thoughts to yourself. The reason this is important is that just like your mind, the people you interact with can come up with answers to your negative questions as well and there is no sense in convincing any more people of your self doubt.

The next step to reversing this habit is to substitute negative questions with positive ones instead. Write down the questions that you ask yourself on a regular basis and write down alternative substitute questions that are more positive. Instead of asking yourself why you are such a loser, ask yourself how can I become a winner?

Granted this step might be extremely difficult if you are practiced and well conditioned negative thinker. But look for ways to ask yourself "how can I.." and "what can I.." questions.

You'll might be surprised that your brain can answer some very positive questions as well.

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Michael Kuhn

Black Belt Project: Build Mental Strength


Great piece. Have you ever read Seneca or Marcus Aurelius? I think there is a lot to be said for the stoic version of negative thinking... I'm increasingly skeptical of the Ra! Ra! anything is possible self-help stuff. You are correct of course, It's terrible how irrational and negative thoughts can be.

I haven't read them. In fact, I didn't know that Marcus Aurelius had written his Meditations so you taught me something new. If you are talking about Ra Ra like cheerleading then I wholeheartedly agree. I have seen enough of that. It goes back to something I wrote or said in a podcast. What is needed are people with solutions who show you how to succeed at something besides selling people books and materials on how to succeed.