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11 thinking styles you can change to improve your life – Part 2

The second of a three-part piece detailing the eleven unhelpful thinking styles. It highlights that what goes on in our heads has our best interests at heart, but struggles to cope with modern life and often needs a helping hand to function.

Five – Rigid Rules

We have rules about how we and others should behave, it’s normal. We also get annoyed, angry and guilty when these rules are broken. It’s false to believe that a good way to motivate yourself is through what you feel you and others should or shouldn’t do – you’re setting yourself up for a fall. It creates unrealistic expectations that are impossible to uphold, and therefore almost certainly results in disappointment and disillusionment in yourself and others around you.

This fosters an atmosphere of inflexibility; it causes you to seek the approval of everyone and leads to anxiety in social situations as you become increasingly aware of how much better you could be adapting to the world around you. You must be flexible with your own expectations of yourself, this should dissipate the unrealistic expectations that see you get hurt by the reactions of strangers.

We all have our own rule books, so for others the rules may be different and not in line with your own standards. Everyone has different priorities; it’s what makes us human. You don’t make the rules for all, nobody must do what you expect of them. Instead take the approach that you hope, want or would prefer someone to be a certain way. Your coach will help you find a way to stop seeking the approval of others and to ditch those unrealistic demands that ultimately stress you out.

Six – Generalisations

Just one single event in the past or at the present time can form a generalisation. You assume that every future interaction of the same kind will follow a similar pattern. Every action or situation is unique, each time we drive to the shops carries the same risks, but we are usually so falsely confident in our ability that it goes smoothly.

When things go wrong, we start to feel helpless, with a sense of never being able to master the challenge in hand. Maybe a driver of a certain brand of car nearly causes an accident, you may then get angry or agitated the next time you see that same brand or model in your vicinity. Putting things into perspective helps. Maybe that brand of car is very popular, raising the chances of a bad experience.

Challenge all your negative assumptions. Was the woman in the shop miserable with you because she hates you, or is she just having a shitty day? Did you just follow an utter arsehole who gave her a really hard time? Make sure you have enough evidence to make your assumptions, and if you haven’t then don’t allow them to flourish and hurt you. Your coach will encourage you to challenge your assumptions, be your own critic for the sake of your personal contentment.

Seven – Deletions

Our brains are programmed to forget the small pains that are of little use to our everyday existence. Uneasy or inconvenient thoughts are dismissed to help you get on with the task of being ‘you’ in the world today. This means we should find it easier to remember the good stuff than the bad.

We delete around 80% of the data that reaches our brain, at both critical and non-critical moments of our lives. This data is deleted for a range of different reasons, but mainly to help focus on the crucial elements of a task, filling in the majority with pre-learned information we deem to be generic enough to improvise with confidence.

A common trait of anxiety causes sufferers to focus on the wrong – usually negative – aspects of a situation. For example, the person who told you to ‘get lost’ at the party, as opposed to the ones you had meaningful chats with across the evening. A valuable tool in coaching shows you how to become explicitly aware of every single detail surrounding you in a given situation, to a point of being overwhelming; this allows you to consciously select the best things to concentrate on, putting you in control of your focus. This can be applied to most situations in life.

Eight – Distorting Reality

Looking for meaning in events and communications with other people can create a dangerously distorted reality in our minds. We overthink things, we trust our minds to create an interpretation of reality based on things that may not even exist. Days can be ruined by a small interaction that was misinterpreted or a comment that was misunderstood.

It’s incredibly easy to get the wrong end of the stick, but the danger comes when you fail to notice before any resulting negative feelings get internalised, turning into negative thoughts and feelings about yourself and those around you. Your coach will open your mind up to the notion that every comment, glance and interaction from another person can carry with it a thousand different interpretations. They will also help you interpret these interactions to build a set of positive and helpful belief systems, that in future will ensure that you interpret things to your advantage.

Part 3 coming soon…

Words: Daniel Coll / Images: Unsplash

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