Sometimes our thought patterns get in the way of our success. These are automatic beliefs that we have acquired in life, but are not based on rational thinking. The trick is to sort out the rational from the irrational. And then try to change those ingrained thought patterns that are not good for us.
There are all sorts of negative thinking patterns that affect us, but basically, they fall into three broad categories:
- Control. People often think control is bad, but it isn’t always. Certainly you want to control your finances, keep track of what you spend and what you take in. Make sure your money is secure. You also want to control your work. Ensure that the quality you produce is topnotch, whether it’s a spreadsheet or a sculpture. If it’s your livelihood, it’s important to have some control. But when you try to control everything in your environment—especially other people’s behavior—then you spend all kinds of energy trying to do the impossible. You set yourself up for failure, because controlling other people is simply not realistic. At some point, you will fail. And probably make some enemies in the process.
- Duty. Some duties are honorable pursuits. You may feel you have a duty to take care of your aging parents, for example. Or perhaps you feel you have a duty to tithe to your church. Or maybe you feel you have a duty to serve your country in some way. The problem comes in when you spend so much time and energy thinking you ought to do something, or you should be something, that your own needs get lost in the bargain. This happens when people subvert their desires to make others happy. They put everyone and everything ahead of themselves and end up exhausted and running on empty, emotionally and physically.
- Accomplishment. Working hard to accomplish your goals is a laudable thing. Striving to overcome obstacles is certainly admirable. The problem comes when you sabotage your own efforts by insisting on perfection, from yourself and others involved. Because others will never measure up to your impossible standards, you take over in exasperation and try to do everything perfectly yourself. Which is also often impossible. You end up worn to a frazzle and frustrated. Perfection is a cruel master, and worse, impossible to achieve.
How to Overcome Limiting Thoughts
- Try to isolate what is limiting the choices you make by examining the rationale behind them. If your beliefs are fundamentally flawed, they will not serve your well.
- Try to understand how you came to believe this erroneous thing. Was it based on a childhood experience? Was it something an authority figure told you? What is the source of that belief?
- Take time to recognize how false this belief is, and the damage it is doing to you. In fact, this belief may have once served you well. But it is no longer, and you must understand the full extent of this belief before you can find the strength to let it go.
- Develop an empowering belief. This will replace the flawed belief, but make sure you don’t replace one flawed belief with another. Give yourself credit for being able to change negative thoughts and to embrace more positive thoughts.
It may take time to supplant your irrational, limiting thoughts with new ones. People sometimes have to take two steps forward and one step back. After all, these limiting thoughts are often ingrained since childhood. But persevere. Eventually you will succeed.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.