As I am finishing up a very busy couple of months of teaching (and other exciting professional ventures), I thought I would share one of my most popular articles with you this week. I wrote it for Lifehack.org, and it has been shared over 86,000 times on social media. I thought it was worth sharing again in my blog just in case you haven't read it yet. I have cut it down a bit for the purposes of a blog. But I will get back to my normal blogging shortly, as soon as I finish up my piles of grading :) Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this. Here it is:
One of my mottos is “Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life!” I’m a big believer that our thoughts and emotions shape our experiences. The problem is that most people aren’t even aware of their negative thoughts. It’s almost like they have just become a habit, so it seems normal to them. Here are 9 common toxic thoughts that you need to change in order to have a better life:
1. Thinking that you are a victim.
You’re not a victim. So stop blaming other people or your circumstances for your problems. Just because you don’t like where you are now doesn’t mean that you can’t take personal responsibility to change it for the better. So get rid of that victim-mentality because it doesn’t help anything. In fact, it acts as an obstacle to success. Realize that you, and only you, are responsible for your destiny.
2. Thinking that you can change other people.
You can’t. I had to learn this the hard way. There was a time in my life when I thought I could “motivate” and “inspire” people to be their best selves. It took me a while to realize that the only thing that can change other people isthemselves. If they don’t want to change—or don’t know how—then all of your efforts will be wasted. So don’t worry about other people. If you don’t like them “as is,” then you have the choice to not hang out with them anymore. But you don’t have the right to change them.
3. Thoughts that constantly resist “What Is.”Some things you can change.
In fact, a LOT of things you can change. You can lose weight. You can find a better job. You can go back to school. You can work on your marriage. But there are some things you can’t change. Those things are simply “what is.” You can’t change that your boss is a jerk. You can change jobs, but you can’t change your boss. You can’t change the fact that you have to pay rent or your mortgage. But you can stop resisting it. Resisting the unchangeable does nothing more than frustrate you and make you miserable. So change what you can, and accept what you can’t.
4. Thinking that “The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side.”
“If only I was as pretty as that girl, then I’d be happy.” Or “If only I was as rich as that guy, then I’d be happy.” Those kinds of thoughts aren’t true. Just because you think someone else has it better than you doesn’t mean they do. Maybe the pretty girl came from an abusive home and can’t get her life in order. And maybe the rich guy spends so much time at work that he never gets to see his family. The grass is not greener on the other side. So appreciate the grass you have. It’s your grass. So love it.
5. Having expectations of other people.
Expectations can be deadly to happiness, even if you think your expectation is reasonable, such as having your roommate or spouse do his/her share of the chores around the house. Just because you expect it doesn’t mean they will do it. Realize that your expectations come from your personal experiences and biases. They are not necessarily other people’s priority. You probably don’t like being expected to do things that you don’t want to do, so don’t impose your expectations on others. If you don’t like their behavior, either accept it, or move on.
6. Feeling that you always need to prove that you are right.
I always wonder why people will fight to the death to prove they are “right.” What’s the point? I think it’s because they don’t want to look weak. Or vulnerable. Or stupid. But I think admitting you are wrong is a much more noble and mature thing to do. Besides, everyone has a different opinion. So why not have yours and let them have theirs?
7. Worrying about what other people think.
Why do you care? Do you think they are judging you? I’m going to let you in on a little secret. No one is judging you as much as you are judging yourself. Other people are too busy judging themselves just like you that they probably don’t even give you a second thought! So do what makes you happy. And if others are judging you, then it’s their problem, not yours. Ignore them and be happy anyway.
8. Thinking there is only ONE right and ONE wrong.
We live in a world where we like to think there is an objective reality. But guess what? Objective reality is an illusion. It doesn’t exist. Only subjective realities do. What one person thinks is the “truth” is not the truth for someone else. For example—who’s right? The Republicans or the Democrats? Well, it depends on who you ask, right? Everyone thinks something is right because it fits their life and the way they look at the world. And that’s it. Period. End of story.
9. Believing that the past determines your future.
Just because you came from a poor family, or made mistakes in the past does not mean that you can’t make your future better. If you have labeled yourself as a “failure” because of your past, then you will only continue your “failure” attitude into the future. And if you’ve heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy phenomenon, then you know that what you think, you become. So like I said in the opening paragraph: “Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life!”
I hope that this article has made you think long and hard about the toxic thoughts that probably go through your mind every day. And I bet you didn’t even know it! So start paying attention to what you think, and when you catch your negative thoughts, hit the “cancel” and “delete” buttons—FAST!