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12 Common Yet Harmful Negative Thoughts Everyone Should Avoid

12 Common Yet Harmful Negative Thoughts Everyone Should Avoid

When going about your day-to-day life, it can be all too easy to fall into bad habits. Possibly one of the most harmful habits is negative thinking patterns. Because your thoughts determine your actions, getting in a rut of negative thinking can have a real effect on your life. While changing habits can be a challenge, getting out of the routine of negative thinking will ultimately make you a more effective person. The following 12 negative thoughts are all too common and easy to fall into, but can also be simple to replace.

“I’ll never be able to do that.”

One very common yet harmful negative thought is the word “never”. When saying we will never accomplish something, what we really mean is it will be difficult to undertake. However, by using the word “never” instead of describing the challenge accurately, we limit how much we can achieve. Instead of telling yourself you can never finish an undertaking, try looking at the situation as outside your grasp now, but one you could eventually work towards.

“They’re way better than me.”

Another very common negative thought we fall into is comparing ourselves to others. Particularly in the world of social media, it’s easy to see the best in others and the worst in ourselves. In fact, we don’t see other people’s bad days or worst qualities, so we should be much easier on ourselves. When you find yourself comparing your accomplishments to others, try to remind yourself that your only competitor in life is you. If you focus on your accomplishments and how you can do a little bit better each day, it won’t matter where others are because you’re making progress.

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“My failures will always outweigh my successes.”

Another negative thought many of us fall victim to is being overly critical with ourselves. In trying to stay motivated or focused, it can be easy to be too hard on ourselves. Much like comparing ourselves to others, if we focus on the negatives, it interferes with our ability to move forward. If you are prone to being overly critical on yourself, try and approach your situation with the same sentiments you would approach a friend in the same circumstances. Where we can be too critical with ourselves, with friends we tend to be more encouraging and forgiving. Approaching the situation as if giving advice to a friend can help you appreciate what you’ve done right and keep yourself going.

“I’ll never forgive him.”

Another easy way to let harmful thoughts get in the way of your life is to hold onto negative feelings or grudges too long. It is important to learn from our mistakes, so you shouldn’t forget, but letting yourself forgive will set you free. Once something has happened, there’s no going back. While you should try and remember what to do better in the future, dwelling on past circumstances only interferes with your ability to find happiness today. If you struggle with letting go, try to remind yourself that the only way negative situations have power over you is if you obsess over them.

“It’s not my fault!”

Another negative thought that’s easy to miss is blaming others. It’s never easy to clean up someone else’s mess, but when we overemphasize what caused the problem, it can impede our ability to overcome it. When you find yourself too concerned with blaming others, try to remember this only takes time away from finding a solution.

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“They’re being rude on purpose.”

Much like blaming others, judging others is a negative thought that holds many of us back. By judging others, we assume that we have all the information about a situation. In reality, there are often many factors and circumstances which we are unaware of. Judging others takes time away from moving forward in life, but also can have a negative impact on relationships and acquaintances. If you are prone to judging others, keep in mind that the only person’s head you are inside of is yours, and others often deal with things much more difficult than we know.

“I should have done it differently.”

Much like failing to let go of negative situations or decisions, being preoccupied with what you should have done can be harmful. When we fixate on the past, it makes it harder for us to move into the future. Not only that, focusing on alternate versions of our options is all guesswork, and there’s no way of telling that another situation would be better. Instead of focusing on what you could’ve done or what you should’ve done, work out what you can do today to better your current state.

“It’s already too late.”

Thinking that we are too late is another negative thought many of us are guilty of. By assuming that our moment has passed, we limit the opportunities we pursue. Rather than focusing on how other people or companies have succeeded where we would like to, try and search for ways that you could make yourself stand out. Often, believing it’s too late prevents the one thing needed most for success: just jumping in.

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“It’s way too hard.”

Another negative thought that makes us sell ourselves short is thinking a problem is too hard. By labeling an endeavor as too hard, we are less likely to take it on. When you find yourself thinking a task is too hard, try to think instead that the challenge is something you’re currently working on.

“They’re talking about me.”

Another negative thought pattern many of us fall into is thinking that we know another person’s thoughts. By assuming that a glance, or nearby whispers, are negative judgments on you, it can be easy to let other’s innocuous actions influence our own. In actuality, nobody knows what someone else is thinking, and presuming another person is judging us is just projecting our own insecurities. If you find yourself assuming other people think negatively of you, just remember that you’re not inside their head, and that same person is likely worried that others are judging them.

“I know this won’t go well.”

By assuming we know the future, we can fall into another negative thought pattern. Much like assuming we know what’s happening in another person’s head, assuming we know how a situation “should” unfold can negatively impact how we go about life. Though many of us feel intuitively like certain things will happen, blaming others or losing your cool when things go poorly, you run the risk of alienating yourself from opportunities that could be solutions.

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“That ruined my whole day.”

All or nothing thinking is another negative thought pattern that can be harmful. By failing to see nuances in life, we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We all have negative and positive experiences, but if you view every experience as the absolute worst or utter best, it will be difficult to appreciate moments that aren’t perfect, but are still enjoyable. Remember that most experiences are shades of grey, rather than black and white, and it’s up to us to make the most of them.

Featured photo credit: sad eyes/hannah k via flickr.com

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Alicia Prince

A writer, filmmaker, and artist who shares about lifestyle tips and inspirations on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

Are you stressed out and overwhelmed, wishing you had more time to do the things that really matter? Are you ready to do something better, something special in your life or your career?

You were born with a gift that no one else in the world can express like you. When you dance to your own music, you naturally develop your innate abilities and excel in work and life. You are a total rock star. But when you live someone else’s idea of who you should be, it throws off your groove.

Many people—maybe you—stopped following their dreams way too early in life because their talents were ignored, minimized, or shamed. They didn’t have the chops to win an American Idol competition or nab an Olympic gold medal, so they stopped expressing their inborn gifts altogether.

You don’t need to be an award winner to rock your life. Living your dream life is about discovering your superpowers and feeling vibrant and joyful when you use them. It’s about owning what makes you unique and finding like-minded people to support you.

Here are 10 success principles to help you live a rich and rewarding life on your terms that have worked with thousands of people in my workshops and will work for you, too.

1. Get a Hobby to Move Closer to Your Dreams

If you never became a professional dancer or a world-renowned author, it does NOT mean you should stop dancing or writing! These activities make you come alive, even if you “only” do them as favorite pastimes.

Engaging in a hobby is one of the most important success principles you can follow to move closer to your dreams.

When you try something creative for the first time or in a long while, you begin to see opportunities at work and in life that you were unaware of before. You also feel happier and more energized, according to a recent study from New Zealand.[1]

Some of my most burned-out executive clients reinvigorated their careers by discovering a creative outlet that refueled them after the workday ended. Research at San Francisco State University shows that having a hobby lowers stress and helps you succeed at work.[2]

So, give yourself permission to try new things and revisit old passions you gave up long ago. Setting aside just one hour a week for personal exploration can significantly change your life.

Who knows? Your creative outlet could transform into a thriving business or lead to a new profession down the road.

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2. Focus on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

Did you know that you are more likely to succeed when you develop your natural strengths rather than work on your weaknesses? The problem is that you probably don’t know where your true talents lie.

Here are a few options to help you discover your unique strengths. You can:

  • Take the VIA Character Strengths Survey[3]
  • Try Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment[4]
  • Answer a few Superpower Questions

Once you understand what makes you tick, you can use these skills at work and your personal life to get more done in less time. If you boost your unique abilities through practice and study, you can accelerate your career and become a leader in a field that matters to you. It’s worth investing in yourself this way.

3. Jumping off a Cliff is NOT Required

Here’s the deal: most people are too afraid to change. When participants first come to my workshops, they tell me they have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and fear that if they follow their dreams, someone will get hurt.

The old saying “leap and the net shall appear” does not comfort them. Because they are hesitant to plunge into the unknown, they believe their only option is to stay put where they are in life. Can you relate?

You do not have to sacrifice the life you have now to start a new one. I was a psychology professor by day and singer by night for years before I transitioned into a full-time music career.

Just take a little time out each week to do what enlivens you through a hobby, volunteer work, etc. Get a feel for it.

Is it what you really want? If so, increase the time you spend doing it and make the transition when the time feels right.

4. Give Your Inner Critic Some Love

The main culprit that keeps you from stepping outside your comfort zone and getting the life of your dreams is KCRP or K-CRAP – the radio station that plays 24/7 in your head. The moment you try to do something interesting with your life it slaps you down with such chart-topping killer hooks as “Who do you think you are?” and “You’ll never be good enough!”.

Have you ever noticed that KCRP’s mean-spirited DJ sounds like your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures who shut you down creatively? These folks don’t need to stifle you any longer (although they often still do) because your inner critic does it for them. That keeps you stuck in a rut.

To break free, try thinking of this DJ as a gruff old grandfather who gives you crap to keep you safe. Remember, this grumpy grandpa is woefully out of touch with the times. So, his stern opinions don’t really matter much, do they? Give him a pat on the back for his good intentions, and put your focus back on what makes you come alive.

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This success principle will give you the courage to venture into the unknown where you can dance to the beat of your own drummer.

5. Embrace Your Inner Weirdo

Many of us don’t go after our dreams because we’re afraid folks will find out how odd or strange we are. But our little eccentricities often turn out to be our greatest strengths. Yes, it’s good to be quirky.

Odds are, you lost track of your true passions and talents before you were even old enough to know you were getting off-track. You became slowly “adulterated” by learning to:

  • Take on family roles that don’t match who you really are.
  • Spit back what teachers taught you in school rather than risk getting bad grades for being original.
  • Hide parts of yourself that don’t seem acceptable to certain social groups.

The price for fitting in is that you may wind up leading a life that doesn’t fit you all that well. Your true calling becomes clear when you embrace what makes you different from others and allow yourself to stand out from the crowd, even if it feels awkward.

Often, the very qualities you view as your flaws are your greatest gifts.

6. See the Bigger Picture to Find Your True Calling

I cannot stress the importance of this success principle enough. Your true calling is right in front of you. But you may miss it because you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

To “see” it clearly, try widening your point of view.

Case in point: Maria felt she needed to retire early from being a police detective, so she could travel abroad. I encouraged Maria to think of ways that she could continue to serve as a law enforcer (a career she loved) and travel overseas at the same time.

A few months later, Maria landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police force to understand and embrace human rights procedures.

Like Maria, you are an everyday rock star capable of accomplishing greater things than you can imagine. Is what you’re looking for right in front of you, too? Do you have an inkling of what it may be?

Look beyond your day-to-day activities, your current job, and even the town you live in. View your life from an eagle’s perspective and be open to new possibilities.

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7. Try a Little Wish-List Magic

Pretend I’m your fairy godmother and I give you permission right now to be your most magnificent self. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy. Write it down on a wish list.

Get quiet. Be honest. Think big.

What would you like your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your spiritual life to be like? Jot down enough details so that your wishes seem tangible to you. Then, look at this list every morning before you start your day and every night before you go to sleep.

Sounds silly? It’s not. It works! Permitting yourself to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to manifesting it.

8. Take Breaks to Get Clues About Your Ideal Future

Did you know that working straight through to a deadline leads to diminishing returns? Research shows that taking a break for 15 minutes every 75 to 90 minutes can help you recharge, refresh your focus, and get more done in less time.[5]

Wait, it gets better! A Stanford study shows that walking increases your creative output increases by 60 percent. Doing repetitive activities such as walking, running, riding your bike, swimming, and sweeping allow solutions to problems to pop into your mind out of nowhere.[6]

What does this success principle have to do with creating your dream life?

These mini-breaks allow you to get vital clues for what to do next to attain your ideal future. Plus, you won’t waste precious time and energy getting lost in other people’s agendas.

9. Take Action on Your Inspired Ideas

Once an inspired thought pops into your mind, take action.

This is one of the most powerful success principles for turning your dreams into reality; the sooner the better. Whatever it is—from calling an old friend to taking a new route home—be sure to do it!

Pay attention to your oddball hunches. You need to go after what you want, not just dream about it. As comedian Jim Carrey warns,

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“You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

10. Count Your Rockstar Moments

Still not sure you have what it takes to get your dream life? This final success principle is guaranteed to help.

Make a list of everything you’ve ever accomplished. As you read back through it, put a star next to each item, and let it sink in.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good you’ll feel about yourself afterward. You’ll also see how effective you’ve been in the past at getting what you want. You’ve succeeded before, you can succeed again.

You already rock. You just need to own it. Trust me, you’ve got this!

Final Thoughts

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Following these success principles will help you find the time and energy to do the things that really matter and live with clear intention.

By spending just one hour a week doing something you love, focusing on your strengths and achievements, embracing what makes you different, and acting on inspired ideas, you can create a life that is a perfect fit for you, step-by-step.

If you don’t have a clue about what your dream life could look like yet, don’t worry. Your heart knows. It has been “talking” to you for a long time. It’s just being muffled by KCRP, buried under a lot of “shoulds” and fear.

This article can also help you figure out the life you truly want to live: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up.

Stand still, get quiet, and listen. It’s constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your own rockstar potential. It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get, and the easier it will be to follow.

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Featured photo credit: Rahul Dey via unsplash.com

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