Unfortunately, people also tend to let negative thinking get in the way of working toward their goals. Have you ever talked yourself out of making some significant life changes or trying to meet a goal because you thought it would be “too hard” to achieve? If so, you’re likely allowing negative thoughts to get in your way!
If your thoughts tend to be negative, never fear–with some practice, you can work toward changing your thoughts to be more positive and supportive.
- Strive toward improvement–not perfection.
A common negative thought that gets in the way of making change and progress is the (entirely untrue) belief that we must seek perfection if we chase after a goal. Perfection is the ideal to strive towards. Every step you make towards perfection will improve your life. You also need to celebrate each step towards the ideal. Not look at the strides you make as failures because you did not reach perfection. If you do not have perfection as the goal, you will settle for what is easy to accomplish.
Verywell Mind suggests working toward accepting improvement over absolute perfection. Challenge yourself to work a little harder each day. Even giving an extra 10% of effort while working toward a goal will help you move closer to your desired results. Only settling for perfection will lead to big disappointment, but working toward improvement will encourage you to continue, even when things get hard.
- Look into cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods to restructure your negative thinking habits.
CBT sounds intimidating, but it simply refers to a toolkit of strategies you can use to replace negative thoughts with better, more positive ones.
For example, one method of doing this is called cognitive restructuring. Again, this isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Cognitive restructuring takes some time, practice, and patience to master. Still, it will achieve what its name suggests–you will learn to restructure your thinking patterns to be more positive, motivational, and forward-thinking.
To do this, you identify a negative thought, identify it, and then replace it with a less distorted version that gives you a clear mental picture of reality. Often, our bad or negative thoughts are fueled by fear or worry–this means those negative thoughts cloud our minds with “what ifs” that can stop us from taking a chance to make a change or try something new. Learning to identify, label, and change thoughts takes quite a bit of practice. Below is an example of what this might look like:
- You have a negative thought: “I don’t know why I even bother trying to learn this….I know I’m going to fail my test no matter what.”
- You identify the negative thought: “Talking to myself like this isn’t helping my situation. It makes me feel even more worried about my upcoming test.”
- You replace the negative thought with a more truthful one: “My teacher told me what I need to review to do well on the test, so I am going to spend time studying it tonight, so I feel prepared tomorrow.”
- Practice basic mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of putting yourself “in the moment.” Mindfulness means you take a moment to assess your current situation, feelings, and environment. It can be used as a tool to quiet a busy mind and bring yourself back to reality, particularly if you struggle with stress management and anxious thinking.
For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to close your eyes, draw in deep breaths, and focus on the “here and now.” You can take a few minutes to run through these questions to bring yourself back into the current moment:
- What does the temperature of the room feel like?
- What can I smell in the room right now?
- What does the floor feel like under my feet?
- What sounds can I hear?
- How do my clothes feel against my skin?
By focusing on these “right now” questions, you can bring your mind back to focus on the present.