“I wish I could just stop the negative thoughts!”

I find a surprising correlation between my clients’ challenges each week – a common theme always seems to emerge among them. It’s surprising because, in most cases, these clients have never met one another. Their shared concerns are often the inspiration for my e-zines.
This week, the common theme among my clients was negative thoughts. Whether it dealt with goals focused on personal health or business, there it was, staring my clients in the face- a negative thought.
Before we get to how to tackle this issue however, let me tell you a little about how thoughts work. You don’t need coach training to recognize the ‘Thought-Emotion-Action’ trio at work in your life. For example, if I think I’m a good sales rep, then I feel more confident and relaxed which, in turn, helps me to be more comfortable and friendly with potential prospects.
You can also imagine that the reverse would be true. For example, a colleague of mine always assumes that people think she’s unfriendly and mean. These thoughts make her feel defensive which prompt her to be edgy and suspicious of those around her. She’s creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: her negative thoughts about herself trigger her negative actions, and these actions generate a negative reaction from those around her, all of which confirms her perception that people believe her to be unfriendly and mean.
Most people associate emotions with actions, but they forget that the real culprit is the thought itself that causes the emotion which then causes the action.
One other thing I know about thoughts at work is that the brain thinks in signal transmissions between two receptors called Neurons. When the same thought keeps re-occurring in the brain (i.e. “I must smoke”), these neuron pathways become stronger and thicker. Breaking these pathways is difficult. One research paper suggests that 90% of people on a strict diet after heart surgery are unable to quit their old habits of smoking, drinking and eating artery clogging foods even though they know they will die quickly if they sustain these habits*.
It takes a lot of concentrated effort to consciously switch the patterns of thought. From my hero, Dr. Wayne Dwyer, I have learned some solutions to help break the negative thought cycle.
First, notice the thought:
As soon as you catch the negative thought, say to yourself, “Oh boy, there is that thought beating me up again”
Next, step outside of yourself and become a “compassionate witness” to the whole scene:
Empathize with yourself as you would watch a beloved child or a feeble elder or even a defenseless puppy being treated harshly. Tell yourself “It’s okay, I know why you’re having these negative thoughts, but please do not hurt this person anymore”
Replace the thought:
Finally, switch the thought to a positive thought you’d like to make true.
If you keep thinking “I will never hit that weight target by Xmas”, switch the thought instantly to “I will look beautiful and slim by next Xmas”
Reinforcement Step: Visualization
Over 70% of the world’s population thinks in pictures (called “visual processing” in Neuro Linguistic Programming). To reinforce your new positive thought, imagine what you actually want in a single picture. For example if you are afraid of losing your job, imagine a scene where your boss is giving you a raise or that you’re signing a contract for a newer and better job. How does positive visualization help you get to a more successful outcome regarding your fear?
Similar to how my coworkers’ negative thoughts created her negative prophecy, you are more likely to act in a manner where you’re deemed promotable if you feel confident and good about your work than if you act suspicious and paranoid about being fired.
Visualization is, after all, the tool that athletes and highly motivated professionals use to achieve their goals. In research conducted on visualization**, two basketball teams of equal standing were compared. One team practiced on the courts as they always did and the other team stopped actually practicing on the court and only practiced visualizing the drills. The results of the test were astonishing – researchers found that both teams improved their skills equally even though the second team never even touched the ball during the test duration. The secret was that when they visualized playing, the players always imagined getting the ball through the hoop 100% of the time whereas in real practice this could never be true.
The research is a huge tribute to the power of visualization. As they say, if you can see it, you can be it. So, what’s going to be the next negative thought that you stop in its tracks?
With kindness as always,
* Secretan, Lance-“ONE: The Art and Practice of Conscious Leadership”, 2006
** NLP Practitioner Training Manual, Bennett and Stellar University, 2004



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About Chala

Chala Dincoy is a Marketing Strategist who helps B2B service providers reposition their marketing message to successfully sell to corporate clients