How to overcome negative habitual thinking

Lisa Stephenson

Lisa Stephenson is the author of Read Me First (Major Street Publishing), and draws on decades of experience as a global speaker, leadership consultant and success coach. She is also the founder of the global, Australian-based consulting firm, Who am I Projects.

One of the greatest challenges facing senior leaders today is what’s going on in their own head.   

We have developed a range of terms to identify the negative noise that occurs daily: Negative self-talk, negative thinking, negativity bias, negative attitude, negative mindset, and we could go on. Let’s also remember that the self-help industry thrives on us all thinking we need to be on a constant quest to do and be more. An Amazon search on ‘confidence’ brings up more than 30,000 book titles.  

Which triggers the question: What is undermining our confidence?  

If you’re in a senior marketing role right now, you will have priorities competing for your time and you’d be very aware of the need for you to be both innovative and strategic. Expectations of leaders have never been higher than they are right now. Marketing executives with responsibility for people, results and culture will understand the need for emotionally intelligent leadership.  

Here are some useful questions to explore:  

  • Do I know the negative thoughts I have that get in the way of my personal and professional success?
  • When was the last time I did an audit of the beliefs I have that no longer serve me?
  • Do I consciously reframe my negative thoughts into positive thinking?
  • What else is possible for me if I changed 5 per cent of my daily negative thoughts, to positive ones?
  • Do I truly understand the impact of negative thinking on my team?

That mass of tissue in your skull, also known as your brain, creates every feeling, belief, thought and memory you have. Every action you take is because of a thought produced by some of the one hundred billion nerve cells doing their job. Your ability to learn is absolutely a reflection of how you exercise it.  

In my work as a success coach, I’m frequently calling on clients to change their mind, flex their thinking and adapt their behaviour for better results. To do any of that effectively, the first step is identifying the current negative thinking that is getting in their way. Current research tells us that 95 per cent of our thinking is habitual. That in itself is probably not blowing your mind, but did you know that 80 per cent of those thoughts are negative?  And here is the opportunity!  

If you’ve ever wondered what true potential really means, and if you’re finding the mental load of your role heavier, then this article is a great place to start. Our brain is always ready for change, we just have to tell it what to do.    

Here are my top 10 strategies for overcoming negative thinking:  

  1. Be curious about everything that’s new
  2. Make a list of your negative daily thoughts (awareness is key)
  3. Write out the positive thoughts that will support your success, thinking and decision making
  4. Ask questions that you don’t know the answers to so your brain can create new pathways
  5. Create a culture within your team that rewards positive thinking
  6. Be solutions-focused and apply an optimistic lens when it’s appropriate
  7. Limit your exposure to negativity people and external influences when it’s in your control
  8. Seek out a mentor who role-models a robust, positive and healthy approach to life
  9. Take responsibility for you and the impact you have on others when you get it wrong
  10. Document your new positive thoughts so that you can reinforce them. 

So, is there a magic ingredient to personal and professional success? Yes! Understanding why you behave, think and feel as you do is critical to your performance in life. Consciously managing your own thinking can change how you do everything from relationships to responding in crisis.  

Overcoming negative thinking doesn’t mean you will be positive all the time. It means you will be emotionally healthy, self-aware and look for a way forward.  Enjoy the ride.

Tags: staff development, mindfulness, leadership

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