The First Step
 
Even though it is January, I don’t want this to be a New Year’s Resolution post. I strongly believe that personal growth and development is a year round endeavour.

The content that will appear on my pages will give those who are interested:

  • motivation tools to support achieving goals
  • strategies to achieve growth and change
  • tips for overcoming barriers to change/success
  • practical skills for developing a growth mindset and resilience.

So let’s get started:

The topic for this month is crooked thinking

Crooked thinking is irrational thinking. They are the types of thoughts which don’t present a realistic picture of what it happening at the time. Everybody has crooked thoughts; however some people are more skilled at naturally balancing out their thoughts than others

The main thing to remember is that how you think, influences how you feel and this in turn will influence how you behave.

There are several examples of crooked thinking:

All or Nothing – Going from one extreme to another. It is black or white there is no in between. For example, “I am totally out of control.” If you think what totally out of control would means in a person life, is that thought realistic?

Catastrophising –  This is when you make mountains out of a molehill. For example, “I’ve had a terrible week.” When you analyse what was difficult or challenging in a person’s week, it seldom is the week that was terrible, but a few events that occurred within this time frame. However how the person thinks about the week has affected the whole time period.

Fortune-Telling –  You are fortune-telling when you make predictions about what will happen. For example, “Everyone will be disappointed with me if I don’t get top marks in this test.” Fear and fortune telling go hand in hand. It is often the fear of being unsure of what will happen that stops people from doing things.

Mind Reading – This is assuming what others will think of you. For example, “They won’t like me if I do that.”  People tend to project their own thoughts and feelings about a situation onto others. Our main motivation is to be liked.

Globalising – Drawing wide, sweeping conclusions from just one or two events. For example, “I always do that.”

Labelling Yourself & Others – Labelling yourself & others negatively can also be a form of globalising. Generally what people tend to do is put themselves down and put others on a pedestal. For example, “I’m useless or I’m a failure but she is perfect.”

Making Rigid Demands – Inflexible thoughts and beliefs such as should, ought, have to and must. For example, “I shouldn’t ever make a mistake.”

When you think in these ways you influence how you feel, both physically and emotionally, and then how you behave.

If you listen to crooked thoughts, how do you feel? If you listen to crooked thoughts, how do you behave?

How would you feel if you believed yourself to be a failure? Probably depressed or upset; and when you feel depressed or upset how are you likely (or have learnt) to behave?

Be aware of your use of value laden words such as good, bad, naughty… especially when used in reference to yourself. If you say “I’ve been good”, ask yourself what does that mean about you? What does being good mean to you? Who is it important recognises the fact that you have been good? What does it mean if you don’t get that recognition?

Balanced thinking

Balanced thinking is reality based and matches the fact. It leads to realistic emotional responses. The can include sadness, anger and anxiety, when appropriate.

It can help you move from living by imposed external rules to living your own guidelines and preferences, for which you can be responsible. For example: I prefer rather than I must.

It can help you move away from all-or-nothing thinking that’s extreme and unrealistic to ways of thinking that take the evidence into account. For example: I have dealt with difficulties in my day rather than it’s been a total disaster.

When you listen to balanced thoughts, you’re more likely to react in a realistic way that is suitable to the circumstances. For example: you might feel mild anxiety. This might indicate a trigger for action rather than the opportunity to panic. Panicking would leave you unable to think things through and unable to take appropriate action.

Balanced thinking is different from positive thinking. Positive thinking can ignore important information and can be as unrealistic as crooked thinking.

Becoming more aware of how you think can be a useful tool in changing behaviour. Spend a few days noting any crooked thoughts that you have. When do they occur? What other thoughts did you have as a result? How did you feel when you had that thought? How did you want to (or did you) behave as a result of that thought?