Do You Respond Negatively?
A couple days ago I was on the inside lane of a four-lane street headed into town – two lanes in each direction, with lots of stops and starts. The traffic was heavy and the cars were travelling fairly close together.
Without notice, the young woman driving in the car ahead of me, switched lanes with a sharp turn into the path of a driver in the outside lane, barely missing his car.
Clearly furious, with hardly a moment to think, he laid on his horn while jerking his car into the inside lane, doing the same thing to me that she was guilty of. Only he then immediately cut sharply back in front of her car, coming inches from causing an accident.
I’d be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that my first thought was, “Jerk.” But my next thought was, “He’s so angry with her that he never even looked to see if there was another car in the left lane. He’s retaliating.” His actions based on, what appeared to be, an automatic negative response, could have ended in disaster for all of us. Fortunately, it hadn’t.
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever experienced anything like what I just described? Am guessing you have.
Most people react to a negative situation with negative thoughts, but not everyone acts on those thoughts in a negative way. They’ve trained themselves to think differently – and for good reason.
If you are one who typically responds negatively, are you truly aware of the consequences?
In the case of the driver mentioned, it could have resulted in an accident or, at worst, a fatality.
Most negative thoughts do not lead to death. But habitual negative thinking – unconscious negative thoughts – can lead to other maladies – like illness, chronic stress and depression, heart disease, poor relationships, job loss, energy loss – the list goes on.
A major key to good health, better relationships, job promotions, extra energy, greater joy, more peace, and an overall more successful life, is to get control of your thought life. Get control of your thought life and you get control of your life. As difficult as it may seem, it’s totally possible. It just takes a desire to become more aware of what you’re thinking at the time you’re thinking it, and make the decision to reframe your thoughts. Positive thoughts lead to positive behaviors, and that leads to more positive results.
If you have a tendency to respond negatively about anything and are ready to make a change, here are some helpful suggestions. Get yourself a journal or a spiral bound notebook and capture the following:
- Identify an area in your life where you’d like to think more positively. Is it work? A relationship? Yourself? Life in general?
- The moment you experience something that results in upset or disappointment or a letdown or any other negative thought, push pause. Think about your thinking. Then ask yourself: What just happened to trigger that negative internal reaction? What was I thinking? How did that thought impact how I am feeling?
- Ask yourself: Will this thought get me where I want to go? Does it give me energy? Does it lead to peace? Does it enhance my own self esteem? Does this thought build up or tear down? Will it get me the outcome I desire? If not, then ask yourself the next question.
- What thought will? OR, given what IS, what positive thing can I do to move forward with greater energy and joy and productivity?
For example, many years ago I served on a board with a man whose personality I found offensive. Needing his support to accomplish my goals, a more positive relationship was required. He wasn’t about to change so the change had to come from me. I made the decision that whenever I caught myself thinking negatively about him, I’d look for something good to say about him – focusing on his strengths, not his limitations. In other words, I’d reframe my thoughts and respond in a positive manner.
For example, one time we were in a meeting, and he started bragging about something he had done. Recognizing my irritation with him, I pushed pause and reframed on the spot. My reframe led me to say to him, “That’s what I like about you, Milton. You’re good at organization and implementation, and you’re not afraid to let others know of your strengths.”
All that was true. It just took me recognizing the truth in what he was saying as opposed to being irritated with, what seemed to me at the time, his bragging. As a result, he felt good about himself, he felt good about me, and, in truth, I felt better about me, too.
After years of making this change, our relationship evolved into friendship and advocacy for one another.
(If you’d like to go deeper into ways to transform your relationships, click here.)
- Create a two-column chart. Consider those things you tend to think negatively about: yourself, another person, work, etc.
- In the first column, write out what you tend to say when you talk to yourself.
- In the 2nd column, write out a more positive response for each.
Negative Thought Reframed Thought.
|She talks too much.||She speaks with joy and adds positive energy to any discussion.|
|We just don’t have the resources to do the job.||If we’re resourceful, we just might find a solution we’ve never considered before.|
|No one ever tells me.||I’ll ask for what I want and provide the best way to notify me.|
Whenever you find yourself exaggerating the negative, filtering out the positive, blaming, complaining, anticipating the worst, or engaged in any other negative thought pattern, pause. Reframe with something that allows you to move forward with positive energy. You’ll accomplish more, be happier, find yourself smiling more often, experience more positive relationships, and like yourself better, too. And the best part? Do this consistently and you’ll actually change your habits of thought.
As Norman Vincent Peale stated: “There is a basic law that like attracts like. Negative thinking definitely attracts negative results. Conversely, if a person habitually thinks optimistically and hopefully, his positive thinking sets in motion creative forces, and success, instead of eluding him, flows toward him.”
Discover the power to be found in your habits of thought and what you can do if you think negatively – you can get it by going here now.