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Stop Denying Your Negative Thoughts and Start Embracing Them

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Over the years, many of the talking heads and pundits in the personal development and success science industry have talked about the immediate replacement of negative thoughts with positive thoughts. The logic behind that particular behavioral strategy seems to make sense on the surface. Think about it, when a negative thought rears its ugly head, we should immediately dive into the repository of positive thoughts that we have available to us so that we could immediately begin to dwell on it.

Even further, some gurus of the genre suggest removing any chance of having a negative thought by the constant repetition of affirmations. Again, tried-and-true motivational technology that is very workable and still useful. I would suggest, however, that you view the above behaviors as tactics more than strategies.

I will further suggest to you that you do not abhor your negative thoughts but rather embrace them, examine them, and place them under a spotlight. My reasoning behind this goes back over 100 years into psychology with stimulus/response, that is, the cause and effect of certain behaviors. Many individuals look at a negative thought as a causative driver. The negative thought exists as a cause, and our behavior toward that cause will determine the effect.

So, following this logic, if an individual has a negative thought which makes them feel sad, and that sadness causes them to binge drink, by removing the negative thought you’ll have removed the motivation for binge drinking. Doesn’t that sound kind of silly? The suggestion here is to turn off the negative thought so that it will turn off the consumption of alcohol.

Of course, this makes sense if we view the negative thought as a primal force in behavior. So, what if we started to think of the negative thought more as the result of something else? It means that the “something else” must change first. What if we took a different approach? What if we looked at a negative thought as an effect of some larger causal factor?

“You’re going to go through tough times – that’s life. But I say, ‘Nothing happens to you, it happens for you.’ See the positive in negative events.” – Joel Osteen

By reversing the cause-and-effect motion of negative thinking (saying that the negative thought is an effect), we now can ask a deeper, more penetrative question: Why are we thinking that negative thought? What is the underlying cause of that specific train of thinking? By reversing the cause-and-effect relationship of negative thinking, it allows the negative thinker to assume the role of diagnostician!

Below is a three-step process you can use to examine your negative thoughts, the role of it in your life, and how you can get rid of them:

1. Simply acknowledge the negative thought

Recognize the fact that there’s a negative thought in your mind instead of trying to go through a process of emotionally overlaying positive thoughts on top of it. Can you see how this exacerbates the issue? You have a negative thought, you immediately recognize that it must be changed, and you frantically scurry through the museum of your mind to find a positive thought to replace it.

In the meantime, while you are trying to find that positive thought, you’re feeling anxious, nervous, and guilty! When you finally find a positive thought to replace that negative thought, the normal process is to squash it. But you can’t! It’s like trying to get rid of weeds by covering them with rocks.

They will always find another way around the rock. It is the same with negative thoughts. Consequently, try acknowledging the negative thought.

2. Affirm the negative thought

It is a part of you. Instead of denying its existence, accept that it is there in front of you and that you are now willing to deal with it. If any of you reading this are dog lovers, you will know that the best way to get a dog next to you is by attempting to push it away from you. Every time you push the dog away it gets closer. This is the same with negative thinking because the harder you push the closer it gets.

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.” – Michael Jordan

3. Acquit the thought

Give it permission to leave you. Thank it for its past importance in your life and allow it to be on its way! At this point feel free to replace the negative thought with a positive thought. What will begin to happen when you place the negative thought under the spotlight is that you will see how insignificantly small it actually is.

This is a process I’ve been using for quite some time, and it works! Oh sure, I still use affirmations on a daily basis; as a matter fact I have them right here in front of me. I find that affirmations are a tremendous way to stay positive because it doesn’t allow any room for bad things to grow. But since the average person thinks 60,000 to 65,000 thoughts per day, let’s face it, a few negative thoughts have to squeak in there!

The best advice that I can give is to not freak out over a negative thought. Acknowledge it, affirm it, and acquit it! This is magic. Watch what happens!

How do you handle negative thoughts? Let us know your tips below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Biagio Sciacca, known to his friends as Bill, was a lifelong resident of Pittston, PA. He is the owner of Intelligent Motivation, Inc. a global consulting and training firm specializing in management and leadership training as well as psychological assessment for hiring and staff development. He is the author of several books relating to goal setting, and his third book, Provocative Leadership, is publishing soon. Now residing in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, he divides his time between his international coaching and training clients, writing his next book and wandering aimlessly on the beach. Feel free to contact Bill at bill@intelligentmotivationinc.com or schedule a call with him by going to www.intelligentmotivationinc.com and clicking on the “set up a call” tab.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Kari

    Dec 12, 2018 at 2:50 am

    I tried denying my negative thoughts for a long time. I didn’t want to be unhappy or angry. But, over the years, I’ve worked on replacing my negative thoughts with more positive ones. Especially using gratitude. The more gratitude I feel, the less negative thoughts can touch me.

    Lately, I’ve been taking a course by Srikumar Rao on resilience, and I’ve found that I can stop dwelling in them without having to work on finding something more positive to think about. I do this by asking myself if I can take any action to make things better, and if I can, I do. If I can’t, then I let it go because there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve also come to the realization that nothing is permanent, so why permanently focus on something negative?

    • Biagio W Sciacca

      Dec 31, 2018 at 3:22 am

      Hi Kari, Thank you so much for the heart-felt comment. Yes, gratitude is the axis that the universe turns on. I wish you the best in your lafe travels…Bill

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Success Advice

How to Overcome Stage Fright in 5 Simple Steps

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Fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia (which literally means fear of the tongue) is the apprehension that one experiences when speaking in public. It’s reported that 1 in every 4 individuals reports some sort of anxiety when presenting ideas in front of an audience. Regardless of one’s personal or professional background, being able to communicate ideas confidently and eloquently is of utmost importance. So, how can you overcome stage fright?

Here are 5 simple steps to help you overcome the fear of speaking publicly or in a group:

1. Success Visualization

A great deal of the fear we experience stems from the negative self-talk that goes on in our minds. Thoughts such as “I don’t think I can do it; I’m going to forget my notes; what makes me think people want to listen to me?” The first step in trying to counter the negative self-talk is through what I call Success Visualization. It’s a well-known scientifically-proven fact that the best way to counter negative mental chatters is with positivity.

Find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed for at least 15 minutes, create a mental image of the speech being a complete success. See the audience cheering and learning. See the equipment working properly. See yourself sharing your ideas with confidence. After all, no one goes to a speech to see a speaker embarrass themselves. Visualize what you want (success), not what you dread.

2. Purposeful Practice

How many times have you heard this well-intentioned advice: “Practice makes perfect”? You might wonder, “I’ve practiced over and over again, why am I not improving?” We’ve been told to practice, but no one ever told us how. In his bestselling book Peak, Anders Ericsson introduces the concept of purposeful practice that he defines as a focused process toward a well-defined and specific goal.

What we’re all engaged in is called naive practice, which is repeating a particular task and expecting to get better. That kind of practice as it relates to public speaking is highly ineffective. There is a myriad of skills that need to be mastered in order to become an effective public speaker. As such, purposeful practice is the right way to go since it allows you to focus on one skill at a time with timely feedback on what is and what isn’t working. Always practice with a goal in mind!

3. Energy Reversal

Science claims that we experience the same physiological changes whether excited or stressed. Our adrenal glands release epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol which are the flight or fight chemicals. From a physiological perspective, being ready to fight, or afraid, ready to run away, are two sides of the same coin. Henceforth, we can channel that same energy resulting from stage fright to psyche ourselves up for the speech.

Positive affirmations such as “I am excited! I rock”, can help trick your subconscious mind into believing that you’re excited. Our subconscious mind is impersonal. It doesn’t discriminate or rationalize, it accepts as true and brings to us whatever we suggest. Positive powerful autosuggestions sink deep into our subconscious mind, and manifest themselves in the way you feel, think, and act. Never tell yourself not to be afraid! Well, I mean always tell yourself you are excited and ready to rock.

4. Action

No great results are to be obtained without consistent and persistent actions. Many of us attend speeches, workshops, and seminars expecting to get the desired outcomes right away. It doesn’t work that way, it never did, and it never will. The three previous steps mean nothing if you don’t have a structure that you can use to help reach your goal.

Knowledge alone won’t bring any result. Knowledge coupled with deliberate, systematic actions, will. What are you going to do? Are you going to join a local Toastmasters Club? How many times a week are you willing to practice? Do you have a support group? You reading this article is vibrant proof that you’ve had enough of stage fright. So, why not grab a pen and paper, and write your next action?

5. Know your purpose, audience, and materials

Three things must be absolutely clear in your mind before giving a speech: Your purpose, the audience, and your materials. First, on a blank sheet of paper, at the very top; make sure you have this question answered: Why am I doing this? Or in the form of a similar statement: By the end of my speech, the audience will have learned. Without a purpose to give you direction and bring value to your audience, you don’t have a speech.

Next, Who am I talking to? Before getting on stage, basic information about the audience’s age group, cultural background, and level of knowledge is essential. Those insights empower you to appropriately frame your message, so you can engage the audience and get your message across more effectively. Speaking isn’t about you, it’s all about the audience.

Finally, make sure you’ve mastered your materials. Specifically, the introduction, main ideas, and the conclusion. Part of why we are afraid results from doubts of not being fully prepared. Never get in front of an audience without having fully mastered your materials. Complete mastery of your materials will boost your self-confidence which will, in turn, reduce your public speaking apprehension.

I hope these techniques serve you well as they have me and the many others who’ve attended my workshops. Your willingness to try, fail, and improve is what makes magic happens. As you may have realized by now, all you have to do to transform your fear from a foe to a friend is to S-P-E-A-K despite your fears.

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Success Advice

3 Steps to Overcome Your Brain Biases and Become a Better Leader

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If I asked you what time it was, you would likely look at your watch or a clock and read the time out to me. And if I were to ask you where you were, you would likely tell me the exact place, city, or state. If I were to then ask you who you were, you would likely identify yourself by your name, demographics, and perhaps a work description. On the surface, answering these questions correctly would indicate that you were not delirious. But are these answers technically correct?

Biological research indicates that superficial orientation to time, place, or person is actually far from accurate. Rather, leaders might benefit from tending toward a non-dual awareness of the world, or at least offer themselves the opportunity to see the world this way. For time, place, and person, the biological realities differ from what we might initially think.

1. Don’t let the past dictate the future

We are not ever-present in the moment, nor should we be. In the human brain, the past, present, and future are all represented at the same time. Although we consciously organize our experiences using this segmentation of time, each of these networks can intrude upon the other. In fact, what you remember can influence what you can imagine for yourself in the future as well.

As a leader, ensure that you frequently examine your memory for positive reminders and biases, take advantage of your presence circuits by incorporating mindfulness practices into your day, and use your “possibility” circuits to imagine or simulate future scenarios. In fact, in the brain, imagination is a lot like reality.

Using all three components at all times will help you to become aware of biases and could also help you escape traps or an impasse. For instance, when a possible solution for product development is vague, thinking in terms of what you want and then reverse-engineering this process to make what you imagine could be helpful.

Walt Disney saw great success after building Disneyland in Anaheim, California, but outside interests began crowding his theme park. When he decided to build another park in Florida, Disney didn’t let the experience of California dissuade him. He expanded his vision to something greater — a city of tomorrow. He created fake companies to secretly purchase acres upon acres of land near where Interstate 4 intersected with the Florida turnpike so his company could develop the area around the theme park.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

2. Think beyond your reach

We are not where we think we are. The notion of “place” has become increasingly irrelevant in a globalized world. With the increasing interconnectedness of societies, cultures, and economies, leaders need to be careful not to think of themselves too locally. When leaders are global in their thinking, they are likely to elicit more widespread cooperation from international markets.

Ask yourself, “What communities beyond my local community do I want to impact?” and “What communities am I impacting?” When you take this approach, it can help your advertising strategies, for example, become more congruous with specific or global markets. Also, leaders who think globally will be more aware of competition from afar and opportunities for collaboration, too.

Jack Ma can be credited with being a global thinker for founding Alibaba, allowing Chinese consumers to access domestic and international markets that they could not previously access. By moving into e-commerce, online banking, and cloud computing, Alibaba has expanded into India and Southeast Asia. Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform has even enabled farmers in Rwanda to sell coffee in China. This is a perfect example of thinking beyond your reach.

3. Connect the body and mind

We are not what we think we are. We are made up of 50% human and 50% bacterial cells. And water comprises 60% of our body weight. So we are basically bags of water and bacteria — with a dash of human cells thrown in for good measure.

Also, though we might think of ourselves as being separate from other people and things, many people or things you encounter in your life are stored in your brain’s memory centers. Our brain tissue contains images, voices, and other attributes of people and things, too. We are not actually as separate as we think.

Take care of your bacteria, and they will take care of you. Having the right balance of bacteria is of paramount importance to effective functioning because the wrong balance can make you depressed or anxious. Taking a probiotic can help restore this balance. Understanding that you are part human, part bacteria can change the way you take care of your moods by essentially reminding you to take care of your gut.

Mindy Grossman, the CEO of WW International — formerly Weight Watchers — is a good example of someone who understands the mind-body connection. Grossman has led the company’s focus from strictly weight loss to wellness through healthy habits. Part of the transformation includes a partnership with meditation app Headspace to help members maintain a positive mindset.

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” – Mahatma Gandhi

When you engage in non-dual awareness by recognizing that your brain fuses and connects time, places, and people, your leadership capacities might also be enhanced. As Warren Bennis, founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, suggests, “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.” And your “self” is more intriguing and mysterious than you might first imagine.

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3 Ways to Optimize Your Life for Success

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Welcome to the 21st Century! The era of the Internet and computers, lack of focus and superficiality. I know it sounds scary, maybe a little more exaggerated, but it’s true. We live in a world of short posts and 3-minute videos. We barely engage in deep learning, deep thinking, and deep focus to produce iPhone-level products or services. So, the majority of us are actually a failure, thousands of miles away from achieving our life goals and business visions. How do we turn things around? We need to optimize our lives.

Here are 3 tried and tested tips that will help optimize your life for success:

1. Upgrade your sleep

When I started my freelance writing career—about seven years ago—I was passionate and excited at the beginning. I’d fill my To-Do list with 6-10 items, worked until 12 am, set my alarm to go off at 3 am, and had my running shoes close to my bed before I went to sleep. However, I barely accomplished anything. I usually became weak and bored before noon.

I noticed that I was putting a huge strain on myself. I was sleep deprived, which is the primary reason why I didn’t have the energy and the drive to accomplish my tasks. Many studies have shown that sleep-deprivation affects productivity.

As soon as I began increasing my sleeping time from 4 hours to 7 hours, my whole life changed. I started producing a lot and earning a lot more than before while also improving my health. With more sleep, I get the emotional energy and willpower I need to read, learn, and optimize my career.

“By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.” – Arianna Huffington

2. Read every day

I get it. You’re in the middle-class struggling to survive. You simply have enough to deal with. Reading? That’s not included on your to-do list. Well, if that’s you, then you’re not alone. The global literacy rates are at an all-time high at 84 percent, which means people don’t read as much anymore.

We already have enough on our plates. In fact, a study by the National Endowment for the Arts has found that the reading culture among American adults has drastically declined. That’s a big issue in our world.

Nothing can prevent you from reading, not even your plate that’s chock-full of other life’s priorities. If you want to produce more and impact the world around you, you’ve got to read more and learn more.

Take a look at the visionaries and business titans in our world. All of them are avid readers and avid learners. Bill Gates is a bibliophile and Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, reveres books. In fact, Knight customized his library to the extent that, before you enter into his library, you have to take off your shoes and bow.

So, what would you do next? Take Roald Dahl’s advice, captured in this beautiful line of the poem: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray / go throw your TV set away / and in its place, you can install / a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

3. Use Pomodoro to time yourself

You can’t go far in life if you can’t stay totally focused on a task. If you want to achieve your goals, you have got to stay laser-focused on a single task before jumping on to another. Why? Because goals are not achieved in one session, they’re achieved in a series of tasks, one after the other.

To install the focus habit in your system; therefore, you need to use a time-management kind of “system” that will keep you firm and attentive on a specific project. Pomodoro is that time-management tool that will help you stay focused.

It’s an excellent app that lets you set a timer for a particular task. You can set it for 30, 60, or 90 minutes and stop working when it goes off. I use it all the time, and I can’t imagine my work life without it.

“I know when I stay focused, good things will undoubtedly happen.” – Marc Trestman

Optimizing your life for more power, passion, and productivity is not about working hard late at night or running multiple projects at a time. It’s about maintaining your health and recharging your energy (having a deep, quality sleep), updating your knowledge (by reading every day), and staying focused on a project—until you accomplished it (by using Pomodoro technique to boost your concentration).

Of course, developing these sets of habits is not easy. You’ll fail and get frustrated, but as the productivity guru Robin Sharma beautifully puts it, “all changes are hard at first, messy at the middle, and beautiful at the end.”

Which one of these three ways to optimize your life resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts below!

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If You Want Your Business to Grow, You Need to Increase Your Capacity in the Following 4 Areas

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Every entrepreneur must come face to face with the reality that there is only a limited amount of time, money, and people that you can use within your current position. The question is how do we increase or maximize the things that we find limiting?

As we walk through our hectic and often over packed ten, twelve, or fourteen hour work days, one of the questions that we should be asking is “What can I do to get more, to do more?” Instead, we just put our heads down and plow through the ever growing mountain of work. We are limited by capacity.

Webster’s dictionary defines capacity as “the maximum amount that something can contain.” As an entrepreneur, we have to be a little more creative than the average person and find ways to increase our capacity.

Below, we’ll identify the four areas where we need more capacity and ways to get more with less:

1. Time

Every human on this planet is granted twenty-four hours a day. That is it. Your capacity is a total of twenty-four hours. Within that amount of time you must manage several different demands. Our goal is to buy back our time, when we can, and operate at peak performance when we are accomplishing our daily task list.

First, without staying in performance shape, you will lose the ability to stay at optimal performance levels. Our bodies are truly a machine with an amazing capacity, but when it is abused by lack of sleep, improper nutrition, and lack of exercise, you are reducing the capacity at which you are able to work and function. The closer you are to peak performance, the more you are able to accomplish in a shorter amount of time.

Second is our mental condition. Here is what my experience has taught me. If I am mentally rested, I can think and make decisions faster because I can reason more quickly in addition to understanding the circumstances and information at an extremely fast pace. 

When your brain is healthy, it becomes easier to absorb and process information at a lightning fast rate. Taking the time to allow your brain to rest will give it the ability to function at peak performance.

Third is our ability to train and delegate. So often, entrepreneurs are control freaks. No one can do it as good, as fast, or with the same passion as they can. While that may be true in most cases, you are only one person with twenty-four hours in a day. 

You’ve got to delegate and accept people’s help. If you add one person that’s willing to give you eight hours of work a day, you have now bought back hours in your day to focus on activities that will generate more income and grow your business. Why wouldn’t you want to add more hours to your day by delegating out the appropriate task to qualified individuals?

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar

2. Money

Money tends to be a sensitive topic. We all have beliefs that were formed through our childhood on the concept of money. With many different views and beliefs on this topic, let’s just focus on the fact that money is a tool that will either help grow the company or a tool that limits a company’s growth.

It is always amazing that the faster a company grows, the greater the challenge of money becomes, and this could potentially cause the company to implode on its own success. How do we then increase the capacity and have more money available to keep the company healthy?

Here are a couple of things to watch out for: 

  • Keep an eye on your budget and get accurate figures. 
  • Look at your Accounts Receivables. If they get too long, they could cause significant cash flow issues. 
  • Find investment opportunities. There are many private investors that are often willing to invest in companies that have true growth with solid foundations. 
  • Look at additional profit generators, products, or services that fit within your current business model. 

Each of these are ways to increase the capacity that money contributes to the growth of your business.

3. Space and Supply

I will never forget exactly where I was standing when I had a manufacture call and tell me they were unable to supply anymore products. They had sold us everything they had, and they weren’t going to have anything available to sell for at least another six months. At that time, we were selling customer printed t-shirts and had tens of thousands of orders that we needed to fulfill within the next thirty days.

Space and Supply are tied closely together. Space is often associated with the production. Do you have a space large enough to meet the demands of the supply? If production can only create 1,000 products a day and buyers need 5,000 a day, there is a conflict. 

A business needs to understand that challenge, and there are only 3 solutions to this problem: The business figures out how to increase production within the current workable hours, adds more workable hours with the equipment and space, or adds more equipment and space to increase production.

Space and supplies are assets that can be used towards the business advantage. Here are a few questions to ask when making decisions based on space and supply. 

  • Evaluate your supply channel. Are they able to maintain a solid supply of your raw product materials to match your growth as a company? 
  • Are there back up supply manufactures that can create a safety net for your raw products? 
  • Evaluate the amount of space you have available along with the time the space is usable. Can you run a second or third shift with the current space and equipment?

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. People

Your employees are likely going to be the most important way to create more capacity. We talked briefly about delegating to qualified individuals to increase capacity around your own personal time. The next phase is to create more capacity by adding additional, trained people. 

You need to create leaders of leaders instead of you being the leader of followers. Don’t miss this because the greatest of all companies focuses on increasing their capacity by training leaders of leaders and not just a loyal following.

Entrepreneurs tend to be a lonely bunch of souls. Too often, we are misunderstood and looked at with slight amount of annoyance. Others just don’t always know how to take someone that is passionately thinking outside the box. 

People skills are a must in order to have more than just yourself work to achieve that dream. As an entrepreneur, develop the social skills to work with individuals that are different than yourself.  

Here is a 3 step plan to have great capacity with people as your allies:

  1. Start by learning how to delegate your own tasks to buy back your time. Identify the tasks that are easiest to delegate and document how you do them. This will give you a specific job description, set achievable goals, and create a daily action plan that is now something that is teachable. 
  2. Use this system and apply it to the other things you are currently doing. I would suggest building out an organization chart and dividing the different tasks you do within the company. Then create a plan that will allow you to hire the right person and move you onto the next area in the organization that you will systematize. 
  3. Finally, create the culture. Culture is like a child, it will grow whether or not you pay attention to it. So be intentional. Learn what it takes to build a culture that attracts the employees that want to be there and grow with the company. 

Each of these four areas has an incredible amount of potential to increase your capacity, and allow your business to grow. Don’t attempt to tackle everything at once. Identify just one area that you will commit to grow within the next three to six months. Take action and implement. 

What is your next step? Share with us below!

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