& Positive Thinking (2)
In our Performance Stress section, we looked
Awareness, Rational Thinking and Positive
Thinking specifically in relationship
to performance stress. Here, we extend this
important tool to apply to all instances
of negative thinking.
This positive thinking tool also acts
as the basis of the next two tools, Emotional
Analysis and Cognitive Restructuring. Whereas
this tool helps with general negative thoughts,
Analysis helps you understand negative
emotions, and Cognitive
Restructuring helps you tackle negative
First, we look at “Thought Awareness”.
As you will see, this is a technique that
helps you understand your fears and negative
thoughts. We then look at rational thinking
and positive thinking as ways of countering
the negative thoughts that you have identified.
Using the Tool:
You are thinking negatively when you fear
the future, put yourself down, criticize
yourself for errors, doubt your abilities,
or expect failure. Negative thinking damages
confidence, harms performance and paralyzes
A major problem with this is that negative
thoughts tend to flit into our consciousness,
do their damage and flit back out again
with their significance having barely been
noticed. Since we do not challenge them,
they can be completely incorrect and wrong,
however this does not diminish their harmful
Thought Awareness is the process by which
you observe your thoughts and become aware
of what is going through your head.
In our Performance
Stress section, we use Thought Awareness
in thinking about an upcoming event. This
is one way of using it. Here you observe
your stream of consciousness as you think
about a stressful situation. You do not
suppress any thoughts. Instead, you just
let them run their site while you watch
them, and write them down as they occur.
Another more general approach to Thought
Awareness comes with logging stress in your
One of the benefits of using the Stress
Diary is that you log all of the unpleasant
things in your life that cause you stress
for one or two weeks. This will include
negative thoughts and anxieties, and can
also include difficult or unpleasant memories
and situations that you perceive as negative.
All of these can be looked at using the
techniques in this section. By logging your
negative thoughts for a reasonable period
of time, you will quickly see patterns in
your negative thinking. When you analyze
your diary at the end of the period, you
should be able to see the most common and
the most damaging thoughts. Tackle these
as a priority.
Thought awareness is the first step in
the process of managing negative thoughts,
as you cannot manage thoughts that you are
The next step in dealing with negative thinking
is to challenge the negative thoughts that
you identified. Look at every thought you
wrote down and rationally challenge it.
Ask yourself whether the thought is reasonable:
Does it stand up to fair scrutiny?
As an example, by analyzing your Stress
Diary you might identify that you have frequently
had the following negative thoughts:
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Worries that your performance in your
job will not be good enough
- An anxiety that things outside your
control will undermine your efforts
- Worries about other people’s
reactions to your work
Starting with these, you might challenge
these negative thoughts:
- Feelings of inadequacy:
Have you trained and educated yourself
as well as you reasonably should to do
the job? Do you have the experience and
resources you need to do it? Have you
planned, prepared and rehearsed appropriately?
If you have done all of these, are you
setting yourself unattainably high standards
for doing the job?
- Worries about performance:
Do you have the training that a reasonable
person would think is needed to do a good
job? Have you planned appropriately? Do
you have the information and resources
you need? Have you cleared the time you
need and cued up your support team appropriately?
Have you prepared appropriately? If you
have not, then you need to do these things
quickly. If you have, then you are well
positioned to give the best performance
that you can.
- Problems with issues outside
your control: Have you conducted
appropriate contingency planning? Have
you thought through and managed all likely
risks and contingencies appropriately?
If so, you will be well prepared to handle
- Worry about other people’s
reactions: If you have put in
good preparation, and you do the best
you can, then that is all that you need
to know. If you perform as well as you
reasonably can, then fair people are likely
to respond well. If people are not fair,
then this is something outside your control.
Often, the best thing to do is to rise
above unfair comments.
If you find it difficult to look at
your negative thoughts objectively,
imagine that you are your best friend
or a respected coach or mentor. Look
at the list of negative thoughts and
imagine the negative thoughts were
written by someone you were giving
objective advice to, and think how
you would challenge these thoughts.
When you challenge negative thoughts rationally,
you should be able to see quickly whether
the thoughts are wrong or whether they have
some substance to them. Where there is some
substance, take appropriate action. In these
cases, negative thinking has been an early
warning system showing where you need to
direct your attention.
Positive Thinking & Opportunity Seeking
Where you have used Rational Thinking to
identify incorrect negative thinking, it
can often be useful to prepare rational
positive thoughts and affirmations to counter
them. It can also be useful to look at the
situation and see if there are any useful
opportunities that are offered by it.
Affirmations help you to build self-confidence.
By basing your affirmations on the clear,
rational assessments of facts that you made
using Rational Thinking, you can use them
to undo the damage that negative thinking
may have done to your self-confidence.
Your affirmations will be strongest
if they are specific, are expressed
in the present tense and have strong
Continuing the examples above, positive
affirmations might be:
- Feelings of inadequacy:
“I am well trained for this? I have
the experience, the tools and the resources
I need. I have thought through and prepared
for all possible issues. I can do a superb
- Worries about performance:
“I have researched and planned well
for this, and I thoroughly understand
the problem. I have the time, resources
and help I need. I am well prepared to
do an excellent job.”
- Problems issues outside your
control: “We have thought
through everything that might reasonably
happen and have planned how we can handle
all likely contingencies. Everyone is
ready to help where necessary. We are
very well placed to react flexibly and
effectively to unusual events.”
- Worry about other people’s
reaction: “I am well-prepared
and am doing the best I can. Fair people
will respect this. I will rise above any
unfair criticism in a mature and professional
If appropriate, write these affirmations
down so that you can use them when you need
As well as allowing you to structure useful
affirmations, part of Positive Thinking
is to look at opportunities that the situation
might offer to you. In the examples above,
successfully overcoming the situations causing
the original negative thinking will open
up opportunities. You will acquire new skills,
you will be seen as someone who can handle
difficult challenges, and you may open up
new career opportunities.
Make sure that identifying these opportunities
and focusing on them is part of your positive
As we said in the last section, in
the past people have advocated positive
thinking almost recklessly, as if
it is a solution to everything. Positive
thinking should be used with common
sense. First, decide rationally what
goals you can realistically attain
with hard work, and then use positive
thinking to reinforce these.
This set of tools helps you to manage and
counter the negative thinking.
Thought Awareness helps you to understand
the negative thinking, unpleasant memories
and misinterpretation of situations that
may interfere with your performance and
damage your self-confidence.
Rational Thinking is the technique that
helps you to challenge these negative thoughts
and either learn from them or refute them
Positive thinking is then used to create
positive affirmations that you can use to
counter negative thoughts. These affirmations
neutralize negative thoughts and build your
self-confidence. It is also used to find
the opportunities that are almost always
present to some degree in a difficult situation.
article helps you learn from your emotions...