How to Overcome Negative Thoughts

Karin Carr business coach looking nervous against a stone wall

I have spent a lot of time learning to manage my mind, and specifically learning how to overcome negative thoughts. I don’t know about you, but my brain is a bully. In fact, I have so many more negative thoughts in a day than I do positive thoughts. My brain loves to tell me about all the mistakes that I make, and I used to beat myself up over them over and over again. I would lie in bed at night and replay the day, thinking of all the things that I should have said but didn’t, things I should have done but didn’t, and things I did that were total disasters.

Can you relate?

I started learning how to overcome negative thoughts a few years ago.  To say that it has been life-changing is the understatement of the year. When you can learn how to manage your mind and take control of the thoughts you are having, stop indulging in useless feelings like confusion and overwhelm, your whole life will change.

Researchers tell us that the average human has 6,000 thoughts a day. 80% of those thoughts are thoughts that we had yesterday and the day before, and the vast majority of those thoughts are negative. So in essence we are telling ourselves bullshit stories that keep us feeling like crap about ourselves, and we repeat them somewhere around 3000 times a day.

Are you kidding me? And we wonder why we don’t have the business, the relationships, the money that we want!

So how do we overcome negative thoughts?

The simplest thing to do is to decide to stop thinking those things. Let’s say that you want to make videos to promote your business but you think you need to lose 20 pounds before you would be willing to get on camera. You could decide today that instead of thinking, I need to lose 20 lbs. before I can make a video, you will instead think that you are amazing on camera and nobody cares what size pants you wear.

Now I said it was simple, not easy. Your brain will offer you the old thought over and over and over again until your new thought becomes your new default. You are basically brainwashing yourself. When my brain offers me a very unhelpful, negative thought, I literally hold my hand up like a traffic cop and say to myself, “Stop. That is old programming. That’s a lie. I don’t think that anymore.” And then I state my new thought.

I have to practice this all day, every day for a long time before it becomes automatic. But eventually it does. It becomes my new default thought and becomes my new identity, my new reality. But it doesn’t just happen because I thought it one time. I have to think about it a lot and practice this new thought. A lot!

Thoughts Are Optional

If your negative thought is not helping you in any way then you don’t have to keep thinking it. Your thoughts are all 100% optional. You can decide what you want to think. These thoughts are simply sentences in your brain that you say to yourself so frequently that you believe them to be the gospel truth. But they are not. They are opinions, they are not fact.

I like to do a brain dump each day. I grab a blank sheet of paper and I just empty my brain on to this piece of paper. What am I thinking right now? Why am I worried about this? What am I afraid of? Where do I feel inadequate? What feelings of unworthiness am I trying to avoid?

Then I look at all of those things and just pick a single thought. Let’s say your thought is, “I can’t make $100,000 because I’ve never done it before and I don’t know how.” That’s not very inspiring, is it? You can decide to change that thought to something that is far more helpful. What about, “I am committed to reaching my goal no matter how long it takes.”

That’s it. You are committing to the actions that you will take, you’re not committing to the outcome. There’s a big difference. When you commit to the goal of making $100,000 and you fall short, you beat yourself up for being a failure. You tell yourself all the reasons why you knew it would never work, why you’re such a loser, and you make it mean things about yourself that are not true. But when you commit to the actions you will take, you are willing to try all kinds of different strategies. You try something and it doesn’t work, so you try something else. You are committed to taking actions until you hit the $100,000 goal and you don’t make it mean anything about you as a person if you try something that isn’t successful.

The strategy wasn’t successful. It doesn’t mean that you are not successful.

Steps to Help You Squash Negative Thoughts

If you truly want to learn how to overcome negative thoughts, this will probably be a process but you can absolutely do it with practice. Start with 5 minutes a day. Do a brain dump of everything that you are telling yourself. Pics of things that are not useful, that don’t make you feel good. Decide what you could think instead. You don’t have to choose a thought that is so ridiculously out there that you would never believe it in a million years. Don’t tell yourself that you will do a TED talk if you are terrified right now of public speaking.

But you could choose a thought that is just a few degrees less awful than the current thought. Instead of thinking that you are terrified to speak to a group of people, change that thought to something like, I am learning how to get better at public speaking. Or, I am committed to raising my hand and asking a question at the next company meeting.

Something that you can believe right now, even if it’s just a baby step. Because remember… babies eventually learn to walk, and then they run. They don’t take baby steps forever. And neither will you. 

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