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How Negative Thinking Puts A Ceiling On Your Success

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How Negative Thinking Puts A Ceiling On Your Success

We’ve all experienced negative scripts running through our minds. Scripts like, “I’m not enough,” “I’m not worth very much money,” or “I’ll never find love,” can run on autopilot in our brains, filling our heads with negative chatter.

I’ll show you why these negative scripts are toxic, and how they put a ceiling on our ability to be successful. I’ll also give you two powerful ways to break negative self-talk to enhance your chances of success.

So how does negative thinking inhibit your ability to achieve your dreams?

1) Negative Thinking Induces Stress

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Positive thinking…is a key part of effective stress management.” The inverse is also true: negative thinking induces stress. One reason is that stress is a response to a perceived threat. When you fill your mind with negative thoughts, you encourage stress.

For example, if you think your boss is going to fire you, than most of your boss’ interactions with you will be perceived as threatening. If she mentions that your skills at putting together reports could use some improvement, for instance, you’re more likely to perceive that as meaning that your job is in danger.

Stress causes health problems, both mental and physical. WebMD points out that stress can lead to physical problems, “such as headaches, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, and problems with sex and sleep.” On the mental side, Dr. Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist out of NYU, notes that stress can reduce your creativity.

These negative outcomes—high blood pressure, problems sleeping, reduced creativity—inhibit your ability to be successful.

2) Negative Thinking Inhibits Your Ability to Cope With Downturns

Negative thinking is essentially a way of perceiving the world that says that bad outcomes are the default. Bad outcomes are what you should expect. So when you get laid off from your job, your negative script tells you that getting laid off is normal and expected. In fact, you should expect to be laid off from your next job as well.

This kind of thinking makes it hard to recover from downturns, because it robs you of your motivation. If you’re just going to get fired from your next job anyway, why should you put in the hard work of finding your dream job?

By contrast, a positive mental script says that good outcomes are the default. In a positive mental framework, yous job loss is an anomaly. When you find another job, you’ll probably excel at it. This confidence makes your job hunt easier and gives you more motivation to find a new job. Positive thinking helps you break out of your downturn more quickly.

3) Negative Thinking Inhibits Your Ability to Identify New Opportunities

There are opportunities all around us. But each of these opportunities carries an element of risk, because nothing in life is certain. If you have a chance to fly out to New York City to see a high-profile potential client, that flight may change the trajectory of your business—but only if negative thinking doesn’t prevent you from going in the first place. If your reaction to this opportunity is, “Well, the potential client’s probably just going to sign with a competitor anyway,” then you’re much less likely to spend the time and money to fly to New York to pursue the opportunity.

Identifying and pursuing opportunities is the key to a successful life. No-one ever built the life of their dreams by sitting on the couch. But every opportunity entails some risk. If you apply for your dream job and don’t get it, then you’ve lost time you could have spent doing something else. If you fly to New York to close a deal and the potential client does decide to sign with a competitor, then you’ve lost both time and money.

Adopting a positive mindset doesn’t mean ignoring these risks. But it does mean keeping them in perspective, and weighing the risks against the potential upside. A negative mindset, by contrast, would have you believe that opportunities don’t pan out and so pursuing them is a waste of time and money.

4) Negative Thinking Attracts Negative Results

The Kybalion, a foundational text of new-age thought, teaches that our thinking shapes our reality. According to the Principle of Vibration, the universe is fundamentally vibrational. When we put out a negative vibration via frequent negative thinking, we attract correspondingly negative vibrations. If you’re constantly unhappy at your job, then you’re sending out a negative career vibration. The universe will respond by matching your vibration, and you’ll continue to attract a career that makes you unhappy.

The only way to escape this cycle is to change your vibration to be more positive.

So how do you do that?

1) Adopt a Daily Gratitude Practice

Every day, carve out 10 minutes to consciously focus on what you’re grateful for in your life. This could include: the fact that you’re alive and breathing, the fact that you have a roof over your head, the fact that you have a job that pays the bills, gratitude for the people in your life whom you love, etc. If you’re in a position to read this, you probably have a lot to be grateful for.

Try this tip from Deanna Davis, author of “The Law of Attraction In Action:” describe what you’re grateful for, and then note why you appreciate it. For example, “I’m so grateful for my job, because it gives me the money to live in a nice apartment and eat out twice per week.”

Over time, the more you focus your mind on the positives in your life, the more your mind will naturally go there on its own. Your brain will rewire itself to replace negative thinking with positive thinking.

2) Lean Into Your Negative Self-Talk

One powerful way to combat negative self-talk is to lean into it. For example, if your negative mental script says, “I’m bad at talking to attractive members of the opposite sex,” then go out and talk to them. Two things will happen:

  • No matter how good or how bad you are, you’ll learn that you’re not as bad as your negative script tells you you are
  • You’ll start building skills in this area

Both of these rob the negative self-talk of its ammunition. This activity also gives you positive experiences and memories, which crowd out the negative self-talk in your head. For instance, imagine that you muster the courage to go talk to that cute guy by the bar, and the two of you have a great conversation. Next time you want to talk to an attractive guy, you’re more likely to remember that conversation and less likely to dwell on how you think you’re bad at talking to men.


To be clear, negative thinking isn’t always bad. In fact, bestselling author Tim Ferriss gave an excellent TED Talk on, “Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals.” A certain amount of negative thinking helps you prepare for risk and keeps you grounded.

But chronic, repetitive negativity is toxic to your dreams. It keeps you from living your best life. Use these tactics to overcome your negative self-talk and replace it with positive self-talk.

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