When you grow up poor, negative thoughts come very easily. My parents worked hard as cattle ranchers in a remote area of Wyoming. There was no money to pay a hired hand, so my brother and I started helping out with chores at the age of six.
By the age of eight, I could stack bales of hay, grease the baler, and move a
hundred head of cows into another pasture.
As a girl, I was expected to marry and start a family, not pursue a career. The standing joke was that college was for young women looking for an MRS degree. After all, higher education is not needed to work on a ranch.
As I grew up, I heard self-limiting messages that looked at life in negative terms. They focused on what I couldn’t do rather than in positive terms of what I could accomplish. There were times when the negativity of others threatened to sabotage my own efforts to move beyond my circumstances.
However, I had the support of my parents to pursue a college degree, and I learned many lessons from them. Among the most important is that there are no guarantees in life, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
Negative thoughts can slow down your business and personal goals. Successful entrepreneurs and business owners need ways to stop negative thinking when the economy spirals downward or competition threatens a portion of the market.
Here are 5 excellent ways to crush negative thoughts:
1. Be mindful of how powerful your words are
The words you use are important. Words are powerful because they energize our thoughts. Words are thoughts spoken out loud. The words we say to ourselves can either inspire or destroy, depending on what our brain hears.
When you think you can’t accomplish a goal and want to quit, your brain puts barriers around achieving the goal; often these are no more than self-limiting barriers because you’ve told yourself you can’t do it.
How To Make It Work For You: Become aware of when negative thoughts show up in your life. Don’t ignore them because they won’t simply go away. They’ll hang around and continue to pop up. To counteract them, recognize the negative thought or emotion and then name it. Keep it to a couple of words because if you enter into a dialogue about the negative thought, you give it the opportunity to take root and become even more powerful.
2. Stop using the word “no”
Researchers have determined that when you see the word NO for less than a second, your brain releases dozen of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. These are the chemicals that interrupt the normal functioning of the brain and impair our logic.
Now, if you say the word NO, even more stress chemicals are released into your brain—and not just your brain, but into the brain of the listener as well.
The word NO and other negative messages interfere with the decision making centers of the brain, often causing a person to act irrationally. Mental toughness allows you to interrupt this flow of chemicals into the brain.
How To Make It Work For You: Since negative thoughts that hold you back are always based in fear, choose your words wisely and speak them in a slow manner. When your first reaction is NO, take the time to pinpoint the fear that sparked this response. Then replace NO with this question: why not?
3. Intentionally choose to be positive
We’ve all been in tough situations where it’s hard to stop negative thoughts. Turns out that we have to intentionally choose to be positive because we all have an innate bias toward negativity. We process bad news faster than good news because our limbic brain system is survival driven. This explains why we’re driven to avoid losses far more than we’re driven to pursue gains.
The brain responds less to positive words and thoughts. That’s because they’re not a threat to our survival so the brain doesn’t need to respond as rapidly as it does with negative thoughts and words.
How To Make It Work For You: To overcome this natural bias toward negativity, we have to repeatedly and consciously generate as many positive thoughts as we can. Researchers have discovered that to overcome an obstacle or break a barrier, you will need to generate at least five positive responses to counter each negative one. This allows you to interrupt your brain’s natural inclination to be negative.
4. Create new brain connections
When we reinforce a way of thinking, either new connections are formed or old ones are strengthened. So, when you maintain a strong mind that knows how to stop negative thinking, these connections become more durable and easier to activate.
This is a tremendous concept, because it shows us how we can change our behavior. Our brain is more flexible than we thought and is capable of adapting to its circumstances. Our brain is a great survival machine because it can rewire itself to form neuro pathways that optimize the power of our senses.
How To Make It Work For You: When we use the word yes, we are training our brain to make positive patterns more automatic. Since your brain is listening to everything you think about yourself, you might as well start using words that inspire and expand your vision of your life.
5. Surround yourself with positivity
The only four-letter word I never heard in my twenty-four-year career as an FBI agent was “quit.” No matter how tough the training got, or hard a case was to solve, or the size of the obstacle in front of me, I found ways to crush negative thoughts.
FBI agents are trained to overcome obstacles and break through barriers. It begins in the FBI Academy and continues through our career. This training created a mindset of like-minded people. We learned how to say yes to the unknown so we could move forward when confronted with the unknown. As a team, we stopped negative thinking in its tracks.
How To Make It Work For You: You increase positivity when you hang out with perpetually perky people. That can work, but the most powerful person in your life is yourself. You can’t get rid of negative thought patterns unless you can identify what triggers them to surface. Get to know your negative thinking and what’s behind it. Only with self-awareness can you begin to identify when it happens so you can make a choice to shift your attitude.
Mental toughness is positive thinking on steroids. When confronted with obstacles and adversity, mental toughness is saying yes to the unknown.