Seven deadly thinking styles
Whether in a relationship, your career, financially or personally, bad thinking habits can really slow your progress, create conflict or knock your confidence. So, I thought I would present a list of my top 7 deadly thinking styles. I’ll explain a little about each, and give some suggestions to help avoid them.
1: Think the worst
When making decisions or wondering about an event in the future. Many people naturally worry that things won’t turn out well. Focusing on bad outcomes, however, is a recipe for increasing your anxiety.
It’s true we must consider the risks in some situations, but we also need to think about the good things that can happen. People often tell me that they imagine the worst outcome so that they won’t be disappointed. Well, living life on the basis of avoiding that one emotion – ‘disappointment’ – seems to me a very limiting way to be. You miss the joy of anticipation, the pleasure of satisfaction and the fun of an adventure.
Instead, why not think up ALL the things that can happen – good and bad.
This may seem an odd one. Isn’t being ‘hopeful’ the domain of the optimist and the positive thinker? That’s true that It can be good to imagine a positive outcome, but the word ‘hope’ implies that we are handing it over to fate.
If you are broke and you hope to win the lottery, you will probably stay poor. Gamble if you want, for the pleasure of it, but DO practical stuff, study, and plan too! Don’t hope, plan.
How many times have you said, or heard someone say, ‘Everyone hates me’, or ‘there’s never enough money’ or ‘I am an utter failure’.
When we are feeling low, we tend to generalise or globalise our experience. Blaming everyone, everything or the universe can only make us feel helpless, and it just isn’t EVER true!
If you have made yourself unpopular, some people may dislike you – maybe even hate you. But most people don’t have feelings either way because they don’t know you. There will usually be a handful of loved ones, close friends or relatives who like you, or even love you, no matter what.
In monetary terms there is an abundance of money, it is just a case of finding ways to earn it or making better choices about how to spend it.
Nobody is a failure in everything they do, and every failure is an opportunity to learn and improve.
If you find yourself or others, making global statements or gross generalisations, STOP and challenge the generalisation. Everybody? The WHOLE universe? A failure in everything?
4: Take it personally
Some of the most frustrating arguments between two people happen because the people involved take everything personally. Do you ever get a sinking feeling when you hear a police siren on the motorway and wonder what you’ve done?
We live inside our own heads, and it can be very hard to look at things objectively or see thing from others’ point of view.
So, when your partner is angry and shouting even though it seems to be directed at you, think of it as something they are dealing with. Don’t make excuses, or explain, just listen, and acknowledge their feelings.
5: Make assumptions
Appearances and behaviours can be deceptive. Beware of coming to conclusions based on appearances, past experiences or traditional views.
If you see a homeless person, what do you think? Are you filled with pity? Do you decide they are spongers? How do you know what brought them to that state?
Don’t judge, find out, if you can. At best give the benefit of the doubt and keep an open mind. When we see other people or situations it can be very dangerous to make assumptions because we filter things from our own experience.
6: Put yourself down
It’s said to be a particularly British pastime, self-deprecation. But I find that people all over the world have a natural tendency to criticize themselves. It’s a behaviour we often learn as children. Our parents and teachers tell us not to be boastful. We are encouraged to be modest and ‘hide our light under a bushel’.
So, when we could say nice things about ourselves, we often feel uncomfortable doing so.
When you think about it though, saying bad things about ourselves, even just in our heads, is bound to contribute to a lack of self-esteem. Without good self-esteem we can’t be confident, and we will avoid risks and not put ourselves forward. The outcome is stagnation, which often leads to depression.
When you do something good, celebrate it. Even if it is to yourself, or just with close friends. Know that you did a good thing and admit it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of!
7: Categorise yourself
As we go through life, we can become aware of certain traits or patterns in ourselves. We may notice that we are quick to anger, or that we tend to avoid meeting new people. Others too may point things out to us. How many have had the experience of a family member saying, ‘You’re just like your father/mother’.
Some of these patterns and traits may be real, and some may be perceptions.
Whichever is the case, it can be very tempting to define ourselves by these characteristics. “I’m a shy person.” “I’m stupid.” “I’ve got an addictive personality.”
Once we put ourselves in a category, we make it very difficult for ourselves to change, because to change would mean us being something different from what we are.
So, it’s very important to be aware of aspects of ourselves, and to talk about them in specific ways.
For example, you might say “I struggled to talk to people at that event today, maybe I need to work on my self-confidence.”
“I couldn’t work out how much change I needed to give that customer, I need to brush up on my arithmetic skills, or just get a calculator.”
“I’ve noticed that I can sometimes get hooked on certain things, I wonder what makes me do that?”
What are your most deadly thinking styles?
In putting together this list of the seven deadly thinking styles, I’ve had to pick out the negative thought patterns that I believe have the biggest impact on our confidence and well-being. There are many more.
Are there thinking habits that you believe should be in this list? We all have certain ways of thinking that can be less productive. What do you think should be included?
This great book from Martin Seligman really explores some of the classic thinking styles. This is an affiliate link so I earn a small commission for sales.