Whenever I’ve been hired to do a workshop in a corporation the individuals who hire me often relate that they want me to try to get the employees to realize that being negative is influencing the productivity and morale. Of course that makes sense not only in the workplace, but also with every relationship we have. Now, I’m not a proponent of trying to make all of us into Gurus of positivity. We need the ability to notice when things are not going well and to be able to discuss them. Unfortunately some people become habituated to being negative and need to learn to walk a more moderate path.
A good technique for reshaping negative thinking into a more optimistic mindset is to simply look long and hard at the way we talk about life. Researchers have proven that our brain patterns are defined in part by how we think—our brain is deeply affected by our inner dialogue; in fact, the language we use helps us create our ability to think positively or negatively. Optimists take credit for their successes and see bad events as flukes. Pessimists, on the other hand, blame themselves for anything that happens and often discount success.
Have you ever been with someone who just can’t say thank you when you give them a compliment—they’d much rather tell you what’s wrong with them? Dr. Martin Seligman has dubbed the dialogue of pessimism and optimism as explanatory story. He points to the fact that pessimists use the three P’s to explain themselves: personalization (“It alway happens to me!”), pervasiveness (“It happens to me every day in every way!”), and permanence (“ It will never end!).
This practically guarantees a life that contains a feeling of hopelessness and suffering. It also contributes to a sense of inner worthlessness and self-control. The more we think we are a certain way, the more we become that way. If we continually think we’re a failure, then before long, no matter what we do, we fail. If we go around thinking that we’ve been working so hard that we should be tired, it’s going to be awfully hard to access energy.
Over a lifetime, our brains create pathways that lead us down certain ways of thinking. As a result it is difficult to change our thought process. We are also at the mercy of how we were parented and the environment we lived in. However, it is possible to reframe our thoughts by doing the following :
1. Try to think about what you’re thinking about
2. Can you ask a trusted friend if they can be your “thought detective”? Have them help you investigate whether what you saying makes sense.
3. Lastly, don’t take yourself so seriously. Nothing is written in stone, except a tombstone.