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2 Ways to Stop Your Negative Thoughts From Sucking the Life Out of You

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One of the greatest powers we have is the ability to have thoughts. Yes, sometimes those thoughts become negative or detrimental and they don’t serve us, but sometimes those thoughts are empowering and can take us anywhere. But have you ever asked yourself where your thoughts come from?

Most of our thoughts are self-created; in other words, they come from us. We can learn something or hear something or see something, but everything that happens after that is created by you. Why that’s so important to understand is because your thoughts are your greatest superpowers, and you have the ability to make them your trusted advisors instead of your biggest critics.

If you are the author of most of your thoughts, that gives you the power to create ones that serve you…if you choose to. Thoughts are choices, and the choices we make determine how we feel, how we sound, what we pursue in life, what we don’t pursue in life, whether we’re healthy, whether we’re not healthy, and whether we give certain things a try or never try them. 

Those choices are the key ingredients to our self-confidence, our self-esteem, and our self-worth. Other people don’t create any of those things for us. Ever! We create it all, and if your life isn’t where you would like it to be, you can begin making it different by using that superpower in ways that serve you.

Start with self-awareness

Example #1:

Do you have thoughts in your head that are contrary to what people have told you over the years? For example, maybe you’re a good artist and people have told you over the years you’re a really good painter or that you draw so well. But when they say, “You’re a really good artist,” your response is always, “Really? You think so?” or “No, I’m not that good.”

What you’re thinking or choosing to believe is the exact opposite of what everyone else is telling you. That’s a problem. If you hear multiple people telling you that you are good at something (especially when they don’t have to), begin to believe them instead of your dismissive thoughts.

Example #2:

Do you have thoughts in your head about something someone said to you one time, years ago, that you’ve spent the last several years telling yourself over and over and over? For example, maybe you were at a business event and you tripped and a coworker said, “You’re such a klutz.” From that day forward, you became extra super careful because you were so embarrassed by tripping that you took on that one thing that one coworker said in a moment when maybe it was true for a second, but you’ve been so careful and cautious since because you constantly are reminding yourself, “Don’t be a  klutz. Don’t fall down or trip. Don’t embarrass yourself.”

It was a one-time event that you could have laughed off in the moment and said, “Yep, the gravity is really strong right there!” Chances are, it would have been forgotten by all as soon as the conversation went to the next topic. Instead, it was a choice to take on the identity of a klutz for years after the event, and that has continued to affect your behavior, making you uncomfortable in business situations.

“Your beliefs, either positive or negative, helpful or hurtful, largely determine everything you do and how you do it.” – Brian Tracy

The first step to using this superpower is to take out your head-trash

Sit down and do a thought inventory. Just like you would do in a warehouse full of crap, it’s time to declutter your thoughts. Beginning today, really start paying attention to your thoughts. Which ones are reoccurring? Write them down and make a list. As you start to notice the thoughts that come into your head regularly, ask yourself, “Where did those thoughts come from?”

As you discover thoughts during your excavation that are completely made up and have zero validity, purge them. How do you do that? Use these two tools:

Tool #1 – Acknowledge it’s not real.

Say to yourself out loud, “That’s a ridiculous thought, because it’s not true!”

Simply acknowledge to yourself that it’s not real; it’s completely made up and a lie. Remind yourself that the reason you have that thought over and over is because you’ve created a habit. The more you say to yourself, “That’s not true,” when the thought pops up, the quicker it fades away because you’ve replaced it with something that stops it in its tracks.

Tool #2 – Practice more positive self-talk.

That doesn’t mean you have to get all Pollyanna about your life, but rather to become more balanced with your thoughts. Chances are, if you’re a negative self-talker or a negative thinker, you never give yourself the whole story; you only give yourself half the story. I call this the ‘partly cloudy, partly sunny approach.’ When a weather forecaster says it’s going to be partly cloudy, she is also saying it’s going to be partly sunny because, in order for one or the other to happen, both have to be present! If you’re a pessimist or a negative thinker, you will always be looking at the partly cloudy side of everything (“yeah, but…”) and you will miss the fact that it’s also partly sunny.

People who are extreme positive thinkers have the same problem, as they only choose to see everything as partly sunny and miss the partly cloudy, which sometimes includes challenges that need to be faced. But negative thinking is often more detrimental than positive thinking is, so we’ll stick to the topic at hand. You’re allowed to continue choosing to look at partly cloudy, however get in the habit of also seeing the partly sunny side. If you only have half the story, you don’t have the story.

This simply means that every time you complain about something or think ‘that can’t happen,’ flip to the other side and see the whole picture by thinking, ‘If it could happen, what would that look like?’ or ‘Maybe it can’t, but maybe it can.’ Give yourself a chance to see the possibilities or the other side of the negative thought you’re having, because it’s always there! There’s always another side. Using this tool will help you to get out of the negative-thinking hole a lot faster.

You are the author of your thoughts.

Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you have to listen to it or believe it. Which ones you choose to listen to and believe is your choice. As the author of your thoughts, you can make choices as to which ones you’re going to keep and which you’re going to edit out. Listening to too many negative, made up, or untrue thoughts will never give you a positive outcome in your life. However, by getting in the habit of seeing both sides, and choosing which thoughts are keepers and which are head-trash, is up to you and will change your life.

Robin Sacks teaches smart people how to shift their self-talk, body language, and mental attention, so that they show-up in a more powerful, confident, and effective way, no matter what the situation or who is in the room. Professionally, she is an award-winning journalist, award-winning author, professional speaker and confidence coach. Personally, she's a mom, wife, and friend. Robin has facilitated personal and professional development programs focused on Public Speaking, Executive Presence, and Self-Confidence internationally for companies including Microsoft, Panera, and American Greetings. Her own professional experience includes being an on-air talent for NBC and ABC network affiliates, during which time she trained Emmy award nominees and an Emmy award winner. Robin's coaching clients range from young athletes to Fortune 500 Executives. Get inspired anytime at https://www.robinjsacks.com. If you're ready to jump right in, check out her online course, Owning Your Confidence.

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