The word “can’t” is probably the only four-letter word I never heard in my 24 years as an FBI agent. I learned early in my career that negativity would impair my ability to analyze a tough case that looked impossible to crack.

Once you allow a negative thought to take root, it can change the way you look at your life. Everything from business to relationships can become affected by your negativity if you allow it to raise its ugly head.

It might not be a lack of talent that holds you back in your business. It might not be a lack of personality that holds you back in your relationships. Instead, it might be the way you look at your life and relationships that prevents you from moving ahead.

Witnesses are always important in FBI investigations because they observe first-hand the sequence of events. In the same way, you need to witness your thoughts and observe them so you are in a better position to identify and eliminate their negative influence.

Here are 5 easy ways you can change the way you look at your life:

1. Avoid Use Words Like “Always” and “Never

Absolutes like always and never are rarely correct. If you use these words when confronted with an obstacle or barrier, you activate the limbic brain system. This produces emotions like fear and anger.

  • “My children never listen to me.”
  • “I never get recognized for my hard work.”
  • “Everyone always takes advantage of me.”
  • “I always end up on the short end of the deal.”

How To Make It Work For You: Think about how many times you use an absolute to describe a negative event. Have a trusted friend repeat how many times they heard you use absolutes like always and never in a conversation. Whenever you catch yourself thinking in terms of absolutes, stop, and find a different way to express your disappointment.

2. Pay Attention To Your Self-Talk

Studies have shown that our mental chatter is 70% negative. Deep down, we are more self-critical, pessimistic, and fearful than we convey in our conscious thoughts. We are wired for survival, and our aversion to pain can distort our judgment and the way we look at our life.

The brain’s negativity bias produces a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news. The bias is so automatic that it can be detected at the earliest stages when the brain processes information.

How To Make It Work For You: Question your negative feelings; don’t act on them without thinking them through. For example, when you feel guilty about something, be skeptical. Is the guilt trying to teach you something rational and helpful about your behavior? Or, is it an irrational response to a situation?

3. Change Your Memory Of A Negative Event

Once you draw a conclusion about yourself and your abilities, all you will notice is information that reinforces your beliefs. This is called confirmation bias, and your brain will discount new or different information that contradicts the way you look at your life.

For example, if you believe you’re a failure, that’s all you’ll remember about a specific incident or event—how you failed. The way you look at your life will become your reality. If you’ve drawn inaccurate conclusions about your talents and skills, you create self-limiting beliefs about what you can achieve in life. 

Research shows that new memories remain unstable for a short period of time after the event. During the unstable period, memories are coded and consolidated into your consciousness.

We can erase our fear if we can alter our memory of it, and the best time to do that is during the unstable period which usually lasts a couple of hours. If we can interrupt the coding and consolidating, we can change our memory of an unpleasant event.

How To Make It Work For You: If you experience a terrifying event or situation, the best thing you can do is replace that memory with a better one—right away. Take the opportunity to update and transform your memory. It is important, however, that you make sure your environment is safe before trying to extinguish your fear-conditioned memory.

4. Keep It Positive

Optimism is a soft and fluffy term that is seldom taken seriously by leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners. Much like the term happiness, it conjures images of toothy smiles and a Pollyanna attitude about life.

Positive thinking, however, has deep roots in serious research. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher, discusses how positive thinking can change the way you think about your life.

According to Fredrickson, a healthy balance of positive and negative emotions is essential to overall health. People should cultivate positive thinking in themselves and those around them because it not only nurtures psychological growth, it also fuels resiliency. Resilient people have energetic approaches to life, are curious and open to new experiences, and are positive thinkers.

How To Make It Work For You: As an adult, we need to give ourselves permission to play, and yes—smile! Play produces a sense of adventure, and that leads to contentment and joy as we build new skills. The upward spiral leads to new success, which leads to more positive thinking, and on it goes….

5. Stop Seeing Yourself As A Victim

Victimhood has become an American epidemic. If something goes wrong, we claim victimhood and blame someone else for our situation. We don’t like what someone says, or the way they look at us, we scream “micro-aggression” and seek a safe place where we know we’ll be coddled until our little tantrum ends. In the real world, not everyone is a winner and nothing is free.

We are mentally tough when we acknowledge and accept responsibility for our life. We cannot dodge responsibility for it. The worst thing we can do is take on the role of victim, make excuses, or blame others. This is a lie we tell ourselves, and it prevents us from reaching success.

How To Make It Work For You: It’s your choice if you let the actions of other people affect you in a negative way. If you always take things personally, you make yourself a victim of what others think and do. All this does is to give people power over you, and quite frankly, it’s self-absorbed to live this way. Do you really believe that everything is always about you?

Photo by alexandre saraiva carniato from Pexels

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” 


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