Everyone has negative thoughts throughout the day. How positive our lives are is determined by how we deal with those unwelcome negative thoughts. You can ignore them, you can accept them as truth or you can confront them head-on in a rational way. These negative thoughts can drag you down and suck the life out of you if you let them, affecting your self-confidence and self-worth. Negative thoughts can rob us of our full potential as human beings and can create a “black hole” of self-fulfilling prophecies.
Unlike a real black hole however, you can escape this one.
Here are three reasons people have negative thoughts (and how to avoid them):
1. Fear of The Future
People naturally fear the unknown and the unknowable. People have tried to predict the future for all of human existence, from looking at cracked turtle shells to observing the flights of birds to throwing sticks or bones on the ground. People fear the future and what it might bring. Will it bring fortune? Or disaster? Science has gotten pretty good at predicting outcomes in the short-term within a closed system like elections or the weather. But the average person really worries about the future and spends a lot of time thinking about what is going to happen in the short and long term for them.
Many people try to maintain a positive outlook on the future and think that they will succeed or achieve some goal they have set for themselves if they just keep trying. Others are plagued by thoughts and fears of failure and disaster. We waste so much time and energy worrying about things that haven’t happened yet and may never happen. We are paying interest on a credit card we haven’t used yet.
The future doesn’t exist. Fear of the future stems from a perceived lack of control about your future. One of the best ways to retake control is to make a plan for the future. A step-by-step road map for where you want to be next month, next year or next decade. No plan survives contact with an enemy and our enemy is the fear of the future. But a plan of action gives us some measure of control over our life. We know where we want to be and more or less the steps we need to take in order to get there. Outline small, achievable and short term goals that will lead to a larger more complex long-term goal. A plan will help reduce the fear of the future, and by extension, reduce the number of negative thoughts that pop up from time to time.
2. Anxiety About The Present
We not only fear the future, but we worry about the present. We worry about whether the kids made it to school alright, about things that are happening at work when we aren’t there, about whether we left the lights on in the house or whether we locked the car door. Worry is an extension of fear, fear that we are forgetting something important. We are so overloaded with information, much of it needless or useless, that we have a hard time remembering the things that are actually important to us. The fear of forgetting something important combined with daily reminders on the news of people making those rare but catastrophic mistakes due to forgetting eat at our minds. We are so pressed for time that forgetting to do something sets back our very tight schedule the next day, and if it happens too much, then we are hopelessly behind on the things we need to get done. So how do we combat that fear?
The easiest way is with organization and routine. Make a to-do list for the day before you get started. Make a master to-do list for the household so that partners and children know what needs to be done and who needs to do it. Eliminate the anxiety by taking back control of your daily life. Don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself and delegate some things to the rest of the family. If we are all pulling together, then the load is that much lighter for everyone.
3. Shame In Your Past
Sometimes we do things that we aren’t very proud of. We do things that we are embarrassed about. We do things that don’t turn out the way we thought they would. Shame of those past mistakes or failures can bubble up on occasion. When they do, we can wallow in them like a pig in the mud or we can acknowledge that they happened and refuse to let them drag us down. Everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. So why do you expect yourself to be perfect?
The best way to deal with mistakes is to learn from them. Look at what you did and then ask yourself what you could have done differently or better in that situation. Once you have your answer, then put your past behind you. It is gone. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it. Don’t beat yourself up for making a mistake unless you have failed to learn from that mistake. Do you keep making the same mistake over and over again? What can you do to break that cycle of behavior? Maybe avoid places or people that are involved in you making that mistake time and again. Avoid behaviors that lead to the mistake in the first place. Take back control of your present by learning from your past rather than chaining yourself to it. Once you have broken the chains to your past by learning from your mistakes, you are free to pursue your future and to enjoy your present.