Small Ways to Train Your Mind to Think More Positively

Scientists say it takes three positive thoughts to offset one negative thought.


Scientists say that everyone is susceptible to a negativity bias that causes you to overestimate life’s obstacles and underestimate your ability to conquer them. When you’re constantly in survival mode, no wonder it’s a challenge for you to achieve work/life balance!

But there’s good news, too. The secret is to underestimate challenges and overestimate your ability to handle them. Scientists say it takes three positive thoughts to offset one negative thought. With a little practice, you can override your mind’s knee-jerk negativity and activate your rest-and-digest response. It’s time to look at work demands as an adventure to experience and consider setbacks as lessons to learn from instead of failures to endure.

Embrace Maybe

Things don’t always go as planned. Life will go awry and unexpected events will blindside you. Maybe it rains on the picnic you’re having. The car stalls in traffic. A cold puts you out of commission. You won’t always get the promotion. Life is not on your time schedule, and you don’t get to tailor it to your needs.

Work addiction counts on certainty and predictability. It wants you to know what, who, when, where, and how things will happen. Otherwise, you freak out.

Being okay with not having a definite outcome offers you comfort from your rigid expectations. It loosens you up to the fact that for every possibility, there are numerous ways a situation can resolve.

Learn to Enjoy Waiting

My guess, because you’re reading this book, is that you might have difficulty waiting for solutions to problems. Perhaps you look for quick answers to rush to closure and often make impulsive decisions so you can get to the next item on the agenda.

If the right decision were nestled inside an egg, you couldn’t force the egg to hatch. Important work decisions are like that, too. They don’t come when you force them. Outside-the-box solutions tend to appear while you are doing other things — vacuuming or rearranging your desk — because they need the opportunity to hatch on their own.

Chilled workers hold two opposing opinions or decisions simultaneously without making impulsive choices. You gather all the facts before starting projects and avoid mistakes by conducting research and weighing decisions with reflection until the best solution emerges. Once you learn to enjoy waiting, you don’t mind waiting to enjoy.

Allow Wiggle Room

Chances are you don’t leave wiggle room between work tasks, scheduling back-to-back appointments so tightly that you don’t have cushions for life’s surprises — or even bathroom breaks. You use extra time between tasks to cross one more item off the list instead of taking a deep breath, relaxing, and showing up a few minutes early.

Lack of wiggle room has you constantly under the gun, dashing from one commitment to the next. When life throws a curveball — traffic congestion, family crisis, or health problem — you get overwhelmed and stressed out.

You can drastically reduce this stress by creating comfortable margins. When you focus on relaxing instead of chewing over the events of the day.

Practice Self-Acceptance

Chances are you’re such a stickler that few people — not even you — can meet your standards. While chilled workers set goals of 95 to 100 percent, overachievers set unrealistic goals of 150 percent. When you fall short, your ego berates you mercilessly to make sure you get it “right” next time. Problem is, even the next time isn’t good enough for perfectionists like you. This type of inner abuse fuels work addiction. Unable to accept that you cannot measure up to your own impossible standards, you push to work harder and longer, neglecting everything and everyone, to go deeper into performing and achieving.

Once you learn to accept yourself — with your flaws and fallibility — you’re able to make mistakes without self-condemnation but with self-acceptance. This practice opens you to creative ideas that make you a better worker, colleague, and family member. Contemplate giving up being perfect, working on becoming yourself, and expressing yourself in ways that are natural to you.

Avoid Multitasking

If you’re like many overscheduled people, you consider multitasking to be an essential survival tool in a 24/7-work culture that expects immediate results. Performing one activity at a time just feels underproductive.

Studies show that multitasking isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Juggling emails and text messages undermines your ability to focus and produce, fatiguing your brain in the process. Multitasking also undermines efficiency and quality of life. It often results in half-baked projects that leave you overwhelmed and stressed out.

Once in a while you must perform more than one activity at a time. But you can put the brakes on multi-tasking so it doesn’t become your normal course of action. You can prioritize and engage in fewer tasks at one time. You can slow down your pace and finish one project before starting another.

Excerpt from #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn On Your Life with permission from the author and publisher.

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