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3 Ways to Combat Negative Thoughts and Work Towards Your Goals

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Never ever underestimate the power of your thoughts. Your mind is the creator of your world. What you think determines your feelings and attitudes, which are expressed in your daily words and actions, multiplied by 365 days a year. Thinking of yourself or others as unworthy, incapable, unlovable, or unattractive leads to negative feelings. No big shock there.

Here are 3 simple but very powerful ways to combat those negative thoughts, preserve your inner peace, and move towards your goals.

1. Pay attention to your feelings and gather data 

3 Ways to Combat Negative Thoughts and Work Towards Your Goals

Your feelings also help determine your thoughts. In that way, it’s like a loop. By paying attention to your feelings, rather than pushing them aside, you get vital data about what’s going on in your internal world and what matters to you most…and that clarity can help direct your energy better. 

Obsessing about goal-setting, achieving, and the future robs you of enjoying the present. The end result: feeling sad, mad, bad, or a mix of all three! These emotions suck out your energy, energy you can spend on so many other things. 

2. Commit to practicing healthy techniques

Healthy techniques are available. Practicing them enables you to shift your perspective. Eventually, your experience allows you to go there on autopilot. Soon, you’ll know how to manage your disappointment, learn from situations, and process them with a Can-Do mindset. The first step is to be open to learning. The second is to commit to practicing healthier techniques. This is not easy. Habits – not to mention family and cultural conditioning – can be hard to overcome. Be patient with yourself. 

3. Play the Oppositional Game, As Often as You Can

3 Ways to Combat Negative Thoughts and Work Towards Your Goals

Every time a negative thought creeps into your head, the kind that usually leads you down a toxic path of thinking for the next minute, hour, day, or week, become aware of it. Then, immediately challenge yourself to find a positive thought to counter it. This is a quick and easy technique to switch your brain to gratitude mode again. 

The conscious brain is a curious thing. You can’t hold two opposing thoughts at the same time. For example, you can’t simultaneously feel anger and patience toward someone who just cut in front of you in the cashier’s line at the grocery store. You switch from one to the other. 

Here are a few examples to get you started. 

Negative: Most of your friends have partners, and you’re still single. Not fun.

Positive: You have more time to catch up with cherished loved ones, do some reading, work on your fitness, dive into one of your favorite hobbies, or get ahead at work. At least you or your family can afford a full cart of groceries.

Negative: Two of your closest friends are late getting to your birthday celebration, delaying the start of the official festivities. 

Positive: Given how busy you’ve been with life and work, you’re simply excited and grateful to have a full afternoon of fun with your friends.

In his book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2007), Robin Sharma describes this life hack as “Oppositional Thinking.” The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life. When replacing a negative thought with a positive one, he encourages you to feel what it’s like in your body and act differently. You might smile, move your body as if you’re joyful, sit up straight, or take in a few deep breaths. You get the idea. 

Soon enough, you’re eliminating those negative thoughts and on your way to climbing the ladder of your own success. 

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Vindy teja
Vindy Teja is no stranger to hacking her way back to happiness. She’s a proud single parent, TEDx Speaker, Professional Life & Divorce Coach, and Author. She’s a graduate of UBC and Western Law School. Following her call to the bar, Vindy discovered her coaching passion as Career Development Director at Western Law School. Along with many joys and successes, she’s dealt with serious setbacks and challenges, not to mention pesky self-doubts. The result? Her book YOLO: Essential Life Hacks for Happiness, a practical and meaningful dive into deconstructing happiness, and an anthology in which she is co-author: Passed Down From Mom: A Collection of Inspiring Stories About Moms & Motherhood.

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