Looking at how we think and making changes to be successful
1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
Sometimes we see things as being black or white. Instead of recognizing shades of grey, we can be guilty of thinking in terms of things being all good for all bad.
It’s easy to take one particular event and overgeneralize how it applies to other situations. If one thing in the week goes wrong, you may think that the whole week is bad.
3. Filtering Out the Positive
If nine good things happen, and one bad thing, sometimes we filter out the good and hone in on the bad. Maybe we declare we had a bad day, despite the positive events that occurred or we look back at our performance and declare it was terrible because we made a single mistake. Filtering out the positive can prevent you from establishing a realistic outlook on a situation. Developing a balanced outlook requires you to notice both the positive and the negative.
Although deep down we understand that we don’t really know what other people are thinking, it doesn’t prevent us from occasionally assuming we know what must be going on in someone else’s mind. When we think things like, “He must have thought I was stupid,” we’re making inferences that aren’t necessarily based on reality.
Sometimes we think things are much worse than they actually are. If you fall short on meeting your goals one week you may think, “I’m never going to achieve my goals,” even though there’s no evidence that the situation is nearly that dire. It is easy to fall into catastrophizing the situation when your thoughts are negative.
6. Emotional Reasoning
Our emotions aren’t always based on reality but, we often assume those feelings are rational. It’s essential to recognize that emotions, just like our thoughts, aren’t always based on the facts. We must create a balance between our emotional mind and our rational mind. This is often referred to as a wise mind or balanced mind.
Labeling involves putting a name to something or someone. Instead of thinking, “He made a mistake,” you might label him as the mistake, calling him “an idiot.” Often, these labels are based on isolated incidents and are not accurate.
Although none of us know what will happen in the future, we sometimes try to predict what will happen. We think things like, “I’m going to be embarrassed if I talk to him/her,” or “If I do my homework, it won’t be good enough anyway.” These types of thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies and are not correct.
It’s often easy to personalize things. If someone doesn’t call back, you might think, “He doesn’t care about me,” or if a friend is upset, you might assume, “He is upset with me.”
Comparing ourselves with others can ruin our motivation and successfulness. Looking at someone who has achieved much success and thinking, “I should have been able to do that,” isn’t helpful, especially if that person had some lucky breaks or competitive advantages along the way.
So what do we do??? Once you begin recognizing thinking errors, you can begin working on challenging those thoughts. Look for exceptions to the rule and gather evidence that your thoughts aren’t 100% true. Then, you can begin replacing those thoughts with more realistic thoughts.
It is important to recognize if you have thinking errors and continually challenge them as you go throughout your life. Thinking errors are common and if we are unable to recognize the ones that we have, they will hold us back in the areas that we are working to accomplish in our lives.
Jeff Openshaw LMFT