How to change negative thought patterns?
If you find yourself asking the question, how to change negative thought patterns this article is for you? Have you ever wondered why it so easy to see the negative things in our lives before we see the positive things? Even as a professor I have to stop myself from picking out the wrong things in a paper before seeing the correct things in a paper. This is something I have had to work on. A little later I will share with you how I am working on it.
Let me say, If you are not used to evaluating yourself in honesty and truth on a consistent basis, it will be hard for you to recognize even when this is happening. Even then there is always the denial phase that we go through. I know this because I went through it as well. It was a complete shock to me when I realized just how cynical I had become and how it was so very easy to see the negative before seeing the positive.
Once I accepted this was indeed the truth I began to carefully evaluate my thoughts and my behavior and one by one I began to see the pattern. It may take you a little while to realize, but you see you can then begin to do something about it.
I decided to write on this subject because just this very week I saw negativity rear its ugly head regarding a a big project I am working on. Not once has this person for whom the project is being done for, stopped to say thank you or to demonstrate that he sees the effort put into the project. But, what is painfully noticed, is all of the things about the project that is not right. I’ve come to realize that this thought process is human nature. Our world, our environments has made us so cynical that it’s hard to see the beauty when our vision is so tainted with so many other negative thoughts.
Now the real revelation came as I was sharing with a friend how sad it was that this person could not see the good things that were taking place in the project. At that very moment, the light bulb came on, and I saw that I was doing exactly what I was accusing him of doing.
Now, here’s the kicker, was I telling the truth about this person’s behavior? Absolutely! Were they telling the truth about some issues with the project? Absolutely! But how does any of mine or his complaints solve the problem? Well, it doesn’t. Here’s what’s happening. Because of the negative backlash, my teammates and I are going to get tired and not do the job with the enthusiasm we started out with. Let’s face it! Negativity is demotivating. Many people, particularly use it as a tool to motivate. Let me tell you. It doesn’t work.
Telling your child that he or she is not good enough or that someone else is better than they could enhance their competitive nature, but ultimately, the resentments and hurt from the spoken words meant to motive can cause a wound that may not ever heal.
Their competitive nature may propel hem towards some success in some areas of life. But the wounded spirit left unmanned and can lead to further complications down the road. Often acted out in many vices that are in the world today. That is one of the reasons why so many seemingly successful people tend to be alcoholics, drug addicts, or hide in shame while attending to other vices such as overeating and cheating, etc. The other thing that can happen is that due to the lack of motivation and let’s face it, heart put into the project, it will not turn out right. So the end results will be a self-fulfilling prophecy for him.
But what about my teammates and me? Should we allow his behavior to deter us from doing the job we set out to do. The obvious answer is no. But the truth is, who among us feel good about doing something for someone that is seemingly unappreciative. In all honesty, no one does.
Back to the revelation. As I was pondering this situation and my reaction I asked myself how I can change my thoughts about this situation? Now, of course, one of the first thoughts that came to me was that this person, we are working on the project for is not going to change his thoughts. Again, that’s a true statement, but how does it benefit me at this time to think that truthful, but negative thought? How does it help me to persist in this thought pattern? Simply put, it doesn’t.
When I am lecturing this subject sometimes, students ask, how is it negative if it’s the truth. Here’s the quick answer. The thought is negative if it does not propel you in a positive direction. This thought was very quickly driving me into a depression. A mindset that says stop! Let it go. Don’t do it. Now mind you, what I had to come to grips with is that these were not my thoughts. At least not my initial thoughts. So which thought was real? Which thought was mine. Was it the original thought that had me excited and gung-ho about the project? Or was It, this now lackadaisical, I don’t care thoughts?
The other critical question was who was I giving my power to? Was it this situation? This seeming unappreciative person? Or am I the master of my thoughts, my actions, and my behavior?
So I had to quickly make some changes. Here’s the truth of the matter. He will most likely not change his behavior. This behavior is a pattern and has become ingrained. The older we get, the worse it gets. We speak, live and walk in this type of behavior every day. Indeed, it has become a pattern. A bad pattern of behavior. So how do we change it? How do I change this pattern? Here are the following steps to changing your negative thought patterns.
Recognize the truth about you
Accepting the truth is sometimes very hard to do. This too has become a pattern, a way of life. The only way to break the destructive habit is to be completely honest with you. It’s so important to accept the good, bad and ugly about oneself. It is our imperfections that keep us humble, continually refining our character and striving toward the mark. Dealing with the truth that we often see the bad before the good is illuminating. Does that make you a negative person? Yes, pretty much! This is the ugly about me that I had to recognize. But the great thing about it is that I created this pattern so I can most certainly break it. I have the power, and so do you. Today, you can take back your power!
Commit to change
Recognizing the truth is good but for change to take place we must commit to making a change. Consistency is the key. We must be vigilant in discovering the truth about our behavior. We must carefully analyze ourselves at every opportunity and commit to changing the destructive behavior. Commitment equals dedication. Dedications equals demonstration.
Identify the cues
The next step is to determine the cues that cause us to persist in this pattern of negativity. How do we feel when this behavior crops up? What are you doing? What’s happening around you? What’s happening in your life overall? Are you at peace? Most often, we are not at peace. There is some upheaval that going on in our lives. Unfortunately, this event or circumstance happens to get the brunt of the negatively that’s inside of you and truly has nothing to do with this situation.
As you analyze yourself, you will begin to catch yourself when you are looking for the negative instead of the positive. As a professor, I realized that one of my cues was frustration. I am always in awe of how 80% of my students can read, hear and see the same thing and yet 200% of them get it wrong. So, I have noticed that if student A is a good student and following directions, it shows in their papers. After grading one or two of these papers, my body is relaxed whenever I get to student A and I am looking forward to commenting on the good things in the paper. Now, student B previous papers demonstrates that he or she does not take the time to read and follow the directions so in subsequent papers I began to look immediately for what’s wrong with the paper and not what’s right.
Breaking that habit was hard. But identifying the cues was enlightening. The bottom line is when I am feeling good I see nothing but the sunshine and good things. When I am not, I see the negative before the good. Now this is pretty much truth for all of us, but it is eye opening to recognize how often you are feeling good versus feeling bad.
Reframe the issue
The next step in the process is to reframe the issue. I love this word. REFRAME. What does it mean? Hers how I see it.
If we are talking about pictures. We would take the picture out of the ragged and broken frame and place it in a beautiful new picture frame. We have just reframed that picture.
It’s the same thing with words, expressions, and situations. We have to look at the situation from a different angle, from a different perspective. What helped me in the case mentioned above was two reframing thoughts.
First, I looked at it from his perspective. The person whom we are working on the project. It is important to know that this is a not a paid project. It is voluntary. I make that point because of the reframing thoughts would be I am getting paid to do a good job if this was a paid project.
However, looking at it from his perspective was a great place to start reframing. There was truth in what was said, just not expressed well, but that’s beside the point for my reframing. The concerns were legitimate. The way the words were spoken was not helpful. However, the message behind the words could lead to a better project.
Second, I had to look at it from my perspective of working towards refining my character. As stated earlier, I must stay true to myself. I cannot allow someone else’s negative behavior take me out of my own character of giving it my best. That’s my personal value. My personal credo is to do everything in excellence.
So even this, shrouded as it is in negativity, must be done in excellence. Moving forward several months in the future I will be happier with myself if I know that I gave it all I could. That I did everything within my power to make the project successful. Regardless of what is said even regardless of the outcome, I will feel good about my contribution.
And that’s the essence of reframing the issue. It’s turning it around to see the good and not the bad.
Now, this is not something that can’t be done once. It has to become a pattern. Because I live my life this way now, some of my friends who are used to seeing the negative first looks at me a bit differently. Most people want you to agree with them when they are in their negative rants. In fact, one of my friends bought it to my attention last weekend that growing up I was always the one to say smile and don’t let it get to you. She saw it in a negative light. Funny, how that works out huh? Something good like encouragement to behave appropriately in public was seen as negative. Like I wasn't true to my feelings. But the truth is even then I was reframing the issue. I refuse to allow someone else to dictate my behavior. I can indeed accept my emotions and honor my truth. But I don’t’ have to let anyone control my behavior and how I respond. I choose to reframe the issue.
From reading my story about recognizing my negative patterns, can you see yours or share with us what methods or tools you used to overcome. Some of us are still overcoming, and that’s okay. We would love to hear from you. What’s your best overcoming negative thoughts tool?