On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.
I receive a daily dose of inspiration from bestselling authors and coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff. Here’s an excerpt from a recent email:
Why do we think negatively when we know better?
Because thinking negatively, expecting “the worst,” seeing the downside of positive situations, and even downright expecting failure, all convey a kind of backwards-thinking, emotional insurance policy. It goes something like, “If I expect a tragedy, then I won’t be disappointed when it takes place.”
Of course, this is NOT what we truly want or need in our lives. So how can we stop talking ourselves into these thinking traps? Let’s take a look at two powerful ways to quiet the negative inner voice that leads us astray:
1. Start focusing on the grey area between the extremes.
Life simply isn’t black or white – 100% of this or 100% of that – all or nothing. Thinking in extremes like this is a fast way to misery, because negative thinking tends to view any situation that’s less than perfect as being extremely bad. For example:
• Rather than the rainstorm slowing down my commute home from work, instead “it wasted my whole evening and ruined my night!”
• Rather than just accepting the nervousness of meeting a new group of people, “I know these people are not going to like me.”
Since 99.9% of all situations in life are less than perfect, black and white thinking tends to make us focus on the negative – the drama, the failures, and the worst-case scenarios. Sure, catastrophes occur on occasion, but contrary to what you may see on the evening news, most of life occurs in a grey area between the extremes of bliss and devastation.
2. Stop looking for negative signs from others.
Too often we jump to conclusions, only to cause ourselves and others unnecessary worry, hurt, and anger. If someone says one thing, don’t assume they mean something else. If they say nothing at all, don’t assume their silence has some hidden, negative connotation.
Thinking negatively will inevitably lead you to interpret everything another person does as being negative, especially when you are uncertain about what the other person is thinking. For instance, “He hasn’t called, so he must not want to talk to me,” or, “She only said that to be nice, but she doesn’t really mean it.”
Assigning meaning to a situation before you have the whole story makes you more likely to believe that the uncertainty you feel (based on lack of knowing) is a negative sign. On the flip-side, holding off on assigning meaning to an incomplete story is a primary key to overcoming negative thinking. When you think more positively, or simply more clearly about the facts, you’ll be able to evaluate all possible reasons you can think of, not just the negative ones. In other words, you’ll be doing more of: “I don’t know why he hasn’t called yet, but maybe… he’s actually extremely busy at work today.”
Being able to distinguish between what you imagine and what is actually happening in your life is an important step towards living a happier life.
Note: I highly recommend subscribing to Marc & Angel’s website.