Are you drinking poison on a daily basis without even knowing it? Most likely, you are. Negative thoughts limit our potential, drain our energy, and create dis-ease in our physiological and psychological states. Click & Tweet! Like ingesting poison, accepting these thoughts is a silent killer of our well-being. Here I’ve identified types of poisonous thoughts you may be ingesting daily. I’ve also provided you with the antidotes to restore your energy, improve your relationship, and restore your sense of well-being.
Types of Poisonous Thoughts
Self-limiting beliefs are self-imposed limitations on our actions and goals based on what our beliefs about what is possible. Our beliefs serve as the horizon that frames our understanding of ourselves and our world. We shape our behavior to conform to such beliefs. For example, it was once believed that humans could not run a mile in under 4 minutes. Once Roger Bannister broke that record in 1954, it expanding our thinking about what was humanly possible. Now highly trained athletes commonly run a mile in less than 4 minutes. That is the power of breaking a self-limiting belief.
All of our self-limiting beliefs begin with the phrase “I can’t because….” I can’t do that because I’m not good enough. I can’t do this because people will reject me. I can’t try because I will fail. Once we pronounce that we can’t we have imposed an upper boundary on what is possible and we limit our dreams and behaviors to remain within this narrowly defined limit. Through this thought process we condition ourselves to play small, not to try, and to shrink our desires. Self-limiting beliefs are a silent, but deadly, killer of our passion and potential. Click & Tweet!
Fundamental attribution errors
Psychological research has documented a pattern of behavior known as the fundamental attribution error. These pattern reveals that we are much more likely to attribute the cause of a person’s behavior to internal factors (character traits), rather than external factors (situational causes). Thus, the person who cuts us off in traffic is doing so because he is rude and selfish, not because he’s just received a call that his son has been taken to the emergency room. The interesting thing about this attribution error is that we do it with everyone, but ourselves. When we are running late, it’s because there was heavy traffic or something unexpected happened; while when others are running late we assume they are just irresponsible.
The fundamental attribution error leads us to see the world as a dangerous place filled with people who are fundamentally unlike us. On an individual level, it produces feelings of isolation and disconnection from others. On a larger level, it undermines group trust and shared identity. Our heightened feelings of fear, stress, isolation, and anxiety are consequences of a daily diet of this particular brand of poison.
Fixation on the negative.
Have you ever gotten feedback on your work or performance that was overwhelming positive, but afterwards you exclusively go over the critical component of the feedback? Trust me, you are not alone. Many of us have the deadly habit of fixating on, almost to the exclusion of everything else, the negative events of our life. So when I give a talk that was well-received by most of the audience, I may spend the rest of the day thinking about the one person in the front who sat with her arms crossed and didn’t laugh at any of my jokes. We may frame this to ourselves as a necessary step for “improving”, but this fixation on the negative impedes our development.Whatever we focus on becomes magnified. Click & Tweet! When we fixate on the negative events that happen to us, our perspective of ourselves and our life becomes disproportionately negative. Instead of seeing our strengths as well as our weaknesses, our challenges seem to loom large and our perceptions of our strengths shrink in comparison. Our energy is drained and we begin to see ourselves as incapable, incompetent and unworthy. We may try to act as if that judgement is not true, but the content of our self-limiting beliefs reveals what we truly believe about our power and potential.
The poisonous thoughts that we ingest on a daily basis damage our bodies, emotions, and relationships. However, solving the problem of negative thinking reconnects us to ourselves, our community and provides us with the energy and resources needed to pursue our life goals.
Solutions to Negative Thinking
Physics teaches us that two distinct forms of matter can not occupy the same space at the same time. So you can not think poisonous and healthy thoughts at the same time. Rather than focusing on trying not to think poison thoughts, I encourage you to identify a replacement thought that you will begin to think about the moment you notice yourself ingesting a poison thought. Below I identify the antidotes: the specific replacement thoughts designed to counteract the effects of the three brands of poisonous thinking. Each time you observe poisonous thoughts entering your system, administer these antidotes and they will increase your joy, energy, and well-being Click & Tweet! .
Reading stories about people, like Roger Bannister, who have gone beyond what we think of as possible for ourselves challenges the validity of our self-imposed limits and encourages us to reach for more. Self-empowering affirmations also have the power to shatter those false limits and motivate us to take necessary steps toward achieving our goals. These empowering statements affirm our ability to grow beyond our past and achieve above our previous expectations. I encourage you to write down a specific affirmation that reminds you of the tremendous creative potential within you and review that affirmation daily. You can use an affirmation you’ve seen elsewhere or create your own for the specific circumstances of your life. By reciting these self-empowering affirmations on a daily basis, you will expand your vision of yourself and your expectation of what you can achieve.Some sample self-empowering affirmations are:
- My life is a flow, a well choreographed harmony of my values and interests. Click & Tweet!
- I am compassionate to others’ feelings without taking them on as my own.
- I accept and approve myself, I do not need the approval of others.
Acknowledgements of our shared humanity and dignitySupporting ideas that affirm our share humanity shatters our self-imposed isolation and makes collective action possible. Click & Tweet! We can replace our experience of isolation with an experience of social connection by choosing to adopt different thoughts. The truth is that this is our choice because we truly don’t know what motivates other people’s behavior. In fact, we are still in the process of discovering the complex forces motivating our own behaviors. Since our knowledge of others is always incomplete, why not start by granting them the compassionate light that we tend to use in assessing our own behavior? This is a cognitive version of the Golden Rule: think about others as you would think about you. This basic reframing allows us to recognize our shared humanity and replaces feelings of anger and judgement with empathy. Acknowledging our shared humanity and dignity promotes feelings of empathy and trust within us and our communities.
Expressions of gratitude
Gratitude invites us to focus our attention on the positive within ourselves and our world. Since what we focus on becomes magnified, practicing gratitude magnifies our positive emotions and supports an optimistic sense of our future Click & Tweet! . Psychological research reveals that people who practice gratitude regularly report higher rates of happiness, better relationships with others, less stress and better sleep. One way to incorporate gratitude into your life is to keep a gratitude journal. Writing regularly in this journal the things that you are grateful for increases your joy. By focusing your attention on the “small gifts” placed in your day, you solidify the memory and the positive feeling associated with it into your mind.Our thoughts are real things that shape both our internal and external reality Click & Tweet! . While we might not be able to exert full control over every thought that enters our minds, mindfulness allows us to notice and engage our thoughts in a manner that promotes our physical and emotional well-being Click & Tweet! . Once we notice the presence of poison thinking in our minds, we can quickly apply the needed antidote to restore our sense of balance and well-being. Practicing such mindful engagement with our thoughts on a regular basis reprograms our thought patterns. Now that you have the tools to do exactly that, doctor heal thyself!
I’d love to hear which poisonous thoughts are prevalent for you and how you replace them. Please share your insights and successful practices below for others to benefit as well.