How to Overcome Negative Thoughts in a Fearful Time
Fear and uncertainty are everywhere these days – and that includes your thoughts. What’s the best way to take power away from fear? Learn to master your negative self-talk.
Careful probing can help you challenge negative beliefs and give less authority to your fears. You must silence the nagging critic in your mind – the one second-guessing and judging every action – so you can move forward along a path of success.
Negative Thinking Gets More Intense in a Pandemic
That’s never easy to do, and obviously it can be especially challenging during a pandemic. All around us, we see negative and fearful stories. We’re justifiably afraid our jobs might go away, our businesses might fail, and our health (and the health of those we love) might be endangered.
While we have to assess risk, we must counterbalance too much negativity, because negative thoughts are aggressive and dangerous. They can cause us to actually act in irrational ways and make poor decisions. Plus, they lower our quality of life! It’s no fun walking around with a fear-based mindset all day long.
If you want to succeed (now and in a post-pandemic world) you need to take control of your thoughts. Here’s how.
Four Steps to Overcome Negative Thinking
Step #1: Raise your awareness about what you’re thinking.
The first step is to raise your awareness about what you’re thinking all day. This sounds obvious, but did you know the National Science Foundation reports the mind creates more than 60,000 thoughts per day, and 80% of those are negative?
So, what kinds of thoughts and ideas run through your mind each day? And how would you rate them on a negativity scale? For example, do you catch yourself thinking:
● “This pandemic is going to go on forever.”
● “I’m doing the best I can, but my business and my team are screwed.”
● “Things are just getting worse and worse.”
Again, the first step is just awareness. The mere act of becoming aware of your thoughts is helpful, because it creates a bit of space between you and the thought. You might say to yourself, “Wow, I had no idea I was thinking so many negative things throughout the day.” Identifying the negative thought sets you up for the next step.
Step #2: Learn to question your negative thoughts.
The funny thing about our thoughts is they come from us, so they have extra authority. In other words, your ego has an investment in thinking you’re right all the time. So you’re predisposed to believe it when you think something like, “I can’t possibly figure out how we’re going to find enough new customers to get us through Q3.”
When you’re aware of your thoughts, you open the door to questioning them. This is as simple as asking, “Wait, how do I know this thought is true?” Let’s look at the following examples.
Negative thought: “I can’t do this because I’m not good enough.”
Questioning thought: “Wait, who says I’m not good enough? I’ve accomplished many things before in this area. Who’s to say I can’t do it again?”
Negative thought: “I’ll probably fail.”
Questioning thought: “Wait, what evidence do I have that I’ll fail? What if I actually succeed?”
Step #3: Use your name when you think about yourself.
Studies have shown that by simply speaking to oneself in the third person (by using your name) instead of first person (by using “I”), the mind is naturally inclined to challenge negative thoughts.
Let’s take the example of Bill, a sales professional who got a promotion and is stuck in a mindset of limited self-beliefs. During his first few weeks on the job, he made a few mistakes, and now he’s going around thinking things like, “I’m such a screw up. I can’t handle this promotion. I can’t do anything right.”
By framing his thoughts in the first person, Bill is adding weight to his negative thoughts. If, on the other hand, he says, “Bill can’t do anything right,” he’ll be more receptive to questioning the validity of the thought.
Step #4: Practice comparisons when you feel you’re in a catastrophe.
When we’re in the grip of a negative mindset, we’re less capable of dealing smoothly with frustrations, inconveniences, and unexpected events. When we feel overwhelmed, these minor events may feel like real crises.
This has been exacerbated during the pandemic, because we’re all coping with an enormous amount of change to our normal routines and habitual ways of doing things. For example, getting a flat tire is the kind of thing that could set us off in the best of circumstances. But getting a flat tire during social distancing can seem truly catastrophic. If you’re worried about your job, you may be extra worried about the cost of replacing a tire. You may be fearful about the risk of going to a mechanic who might not be using personal protective equipment.
Again, instead of sinking into thoughts like, “Of course this would happen to me. The world is against me,” you want to question that thinking and quickly make some comparisons. “Yes, this is inconvenient, but is this worse than two flat tires? Or a broken engine? Or getting into a car accident?”
When you start to put things in perspective, you increase your capacity to rise to the occasion and not give in to negative self-talk.
Master Your Self-Talk and Take Control of Your Life
Nothing in life comes easy. Change is uncomfortable. Stepping out of comfort zones is frightening. And slipping into old, negative thought patterns is easy when we’re confronted with unfamiliar challenges. But remember that success is a habit. Through constructive reasoning, we can reject ownership of negative thoughts and stay on the path to success.
Want to learn more about improving your mindset for greater sales success? Get your copy of my book, Journey to the Top: How to Reach Your Peak Performance Life.