Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
If I were allowed to hang anything on my walls, I’d make 10 copies of this quote, frame them, and plaster them all over the house. That way, I’d constantly be reminded I need to think positively. And man, do I need a reminder!
Positive thinking has never come easily to me. Has never come easily to anyone in my family, really. They taught me to expect the worst from people. To always look for the catch in everything. Never to get my hopes up too much, cos things never turn out well for you.
And they were right. Things never turned out well. But now I don’t think that’s because the world is an ugly place and everyone in it a jerk out to take advantage of you anymore (although there are lots of bad people around). I now blame it on my negative thinking, and its power to shape my actions, and behaviour.
An example? I’ve never made friends easily. That’s because I have big trust issues. I thought that I needed to be perfect for people to like me, and, as I obviously weren’t, people had to have a secret agenda to want to be friends with me. Once they’ve got what they wanted, they’d leave. And they’d always leave.
So, I never put much time and effort in those relationships. What was the point if they weren’t going to last? Instead, I made people jump through hoops to prove their good intentions, never giving them much in return. I was trying to protect myself. But all I did was pushing them way.
That’s the power of negative thinking. When we assume the worst, we act on it. And in so doing, we sabotage ourselves. Good news is, if we change our thoughts, we change our actions. Just like a negative thought can turn into a snowballing nightmare, a positive thought can blossom into a wonderful outcome.
It took me 30 years, but I’ve finally managed to beat negative thinking. Here’s how:
1. The Shoulds And The Shouldn’ts. Says Who?
Ahh, the shoulds and shouldn’ts. I had plenty. “Everyone should behave like this.” “I should be perfect.” “I shouldn’t make mistakes.” “I shouldn’t make a fuss.”
We all pick them up as we grow up – from our families, teachers, society -, without even realising it. They seem so normal. Universal truths that, if followed by all, would make the world a better place.
But they aren’t universal truths, are they? They’re just rules that we make for ourselves and others. When we break them, we feel guilty. When others break then, we get all judgey.
That’s the problem. Rules are good when they motivate us and help us go in the right direction. But, more often than not, these rules prevent us from living life to the full, restrict our options, and prevent us from being flexible, and even emphatetic.
Now, whenever a should or shouldn’t pops into my head, I ask myself, “will it make my life better or worse?”. Life is full of amazing possibilities when you step out of your comfort zone.
2. The Grey Zone Is The Best
I used to see the world in black and white. Everything was either good or bad. If I don’t get it perfectly right the first time, I’m a complete failure.
This kind of thinking leaves no room for improvement. For trying new things. For meeting new people. It keeps us from growing and become the best version of ourselves.
The truth is, we don’t have to be perfect. No one is. All we have to do is our best. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to make exceptions. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The grey zone is beautiful.
3. Jumping To Conclusions Will Lend Us In The Wrong Place
If I had a penny for every thing I missed out on because I just “knew” it wouldn’t work out or be awful, I’d be stinking rich. How did I know it? Well, I thought it, so it was true. Only, it wasn’t.
I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t know how something will turn out unless I try it. None of us does. Jumping to conclusions can lead us nowhere.
Or in the wrong place. Just think of all the times we assume the motivation behind people’s behaviour. “My boyfriend didn’t wash the dishes, as he had promised me, because he doesn’t care me.” Or, “My friend hasn’t called back yet because she has more fun things to do than talk to me.”
These explanations seem so obvious, but they’re often wrong. If we only bothered to ask, we’d find out our boyfriend just forgot because he was worried about some problem at work, and our friend was stuck in traffic. If we don’t, we may ruin a good relationship for nothing.
4. Get Out Of That Box!
Failure. Loser. Ugly. Idiot. These labels were plastered all over my box. Every time I made a mistake, the letters would get bigger. I had allowed my shortcomings to become me.
But they aren’t me. My mistakes are something that I do, not something that I am. Making mistakes is how we learn. If we never mess up, we don’t know what and how to improve. We should own our mistakes. Embrace them. Not let them define us.
So, take those ugly labels off your box, and while you’re at it, get out of it, too. And don’t put others in boxes either. You’ll be selling them short too.
5. Don’t Be A Negative Nelly
My grannie, bless her little cotton socks, is the queen of Negative Nellies. You could show her the most perfect, brilliant thing ever, and she’ll find something to criticise about it. Nothing is ever good enough. Actually, nothing is ever good at all. Needless to say, she’s always sad and depressed.
When all we see is a flaw, we rob ourselves of so many pleasures and opportunities. Nothing and no one is ever perfect. Everything is a mix of good and bad. Don’t let the latter take over. See things as they are. Enjoy the good, learn from the bad.
6. Surround Yourself With Awesome People
Did you know we are the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with? No wonder I was so negative! My whole family is, bless them!
But spending too much time with Negative Nellies does us no good. Instead, we should surround ourselves with positive people who encourage and support us, and help us see the best in life and ourselves. They help us become the person we want to be.
7. Switch Gears
We all get negative thoughts. Trying to make them go away won’t work. Trust me, I tried. But we can turn them into positive thoughts. For example, instead of thinking “This is too difficult, I’ll never make it,” try “This is difficult, but I can do it. I just need help/practice/that tool.” That way, we’ll be a lot happier, and able to find a solution to our problem, too!
8. Say Thanks
When we’re in a bad place, and everything seems to be going wrong, we lose sight of all the good that’s in our lives. Keeping a gratitude journal can help. Every day, write down three things you’re grateful for. Mine today are: my friends, health, and warm weather.
9. Just Breathe
Breath is so underrated, yet so important. Paying attention to our breath is the best way to ground ourselves back into the present, relax our bodies, and ease our minds. It releases our anxiety, so we can see things how they truly are. Not so scary anymore.
How do you beat negative thinking?
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