Imagine you are about to deliver an important speech and you are worried about your speaking skills as the last time your presented it didn’t go very well. You keep playing the scene over again and over again in your mind – as the speech get closer and closer, it is all you can think about.
Potential presentation disaster
This happened to me early on in my career and it was almost a disaster until my boss shared with me some thoughts about positive and negative thinking. This example from my past demonstrates the power – and danger – of negative thinking. Recent research about negative thinking has shown how it can make us dissociate from the wider world and instead focus on the one thing – the thing that is making us feel angry, scared or bad about ourselves. If left unchecked, our self-esteem, confidence and performance will suffer.
As you would expect, the opposite is true of positive thoughts. They help us to open our minds, to see new possibilities and to develop new ideas and perceptions. For some people, looking at things from the perspective of the ‘glass half full’ rather than ‘half empty’ is something that comes easily; others like me find it harder. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost, as I have learned how to think more positively about things.
Step 1 involves making a conscious effort to not give in to negative thoughts. Recognise your negative thoughts, write them down and then reflect on how you can turn them around – after a little practice, this will become a new habit.
Step 2 involves fostering positive thoughts. If you are like me, you will find this easier to say than to do! I would often find negative thoughts ‘creeping’ back into my head without me noticing. To combat this, as soon as I noticed a negative thought, I wrote it down and then added why it was not true or why it was an exaggeration.
Step 3 involves keeping positive thoughts live in your mind. I did this by writing out positive thoughts on index cards and carrying them around with me or having them on my desk.
I also used other techniques such as meditation focusing on positive thoughts – my good friend Tony Robbins calls this ‘flooding your mind’. A research study published in the Journal of Research in Personality showed that writing about positive experiences can also help to change your mind set.
For me, thinking positively means breaking free from negative thoughts and looking for solutions and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. I know positive thinking will not make me a world class sprinter no matter how positive I am, but a positive mindset will help me to be fitter and to run faster as I become more committed to training and practice. Banishing negative thoughts and filling your mind with positive ones is something you do have to practise to get better at, but ultimately positive thoughts will open doors that you may otherwise have walked right past.
To keep up to date, why not subscribe to In the Loop: