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“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness –Marcus Aurelius
Sometime life sucks. People can be rude, inconsiderate and outright mean. Your date might stand you up. You can get cut off in traffic. Lose your job. Get gas in a cramped elevator. There are a lot of shitty things that can happen in life to get you down. The sooner you accept that you have no control over external events, the happier you will become. We all have been there. Anxiously stressing over something that depends on something outside of our control, yet we still try to control it and drive ourselves bat shit crazy.
Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.– Marcus Aurelius
We forget that regardless of what happens in life, the one thing we have control over is how we deal with the circumstances it gives us. We have the power to choose our perspective, our way of thinking.
That date that stood you up. You maybe just avoided a catfish. You get cut off in traffic. Maybe that person was heading to the hospital.
Gas in the elevator. You get an opportunity to exercise and contract external sphincter muscles.
There is a silver-lining in everything.
If you choose to see it.
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So what stops us from changing our perspectives? The answer lies in our thinking patterns. Sometimes our own minds come up with irrational, inflated thoughts or beliefs that distort our perception of reality, usually in a negative way. Psychologists call this cognitive distortions or thinking distortions. These are actually pretty common and can be hard to recognize if you’re unaware of them. Most people’s thinking distortions are already a habit and that is how they don’t realize it is actually in their power to change them.
If one doesn’t become aware of his or her cognitive distortions, they can take a serious toll on one’s mental health, leading to increased stress, depression, and anxiety. This is especially important for entrepreneurs. With so much uncertainty, your mind can play into fears and spiral out of control. Until we recognize that these thought patterns are a choice, we can become slaves to their negative influence and we become blind to rational and logical decision-making.
So what are some examples of cognitive distortions?
Sometimes we overgeneralize one or two situations and think that our experiences from those situations will always be the same. If one customer is unhappy with your product, it doesn’t mean everyone else is going to hate your product and that it sucks. This type of thinking distortion uses words such as always, never, all, none, nobody, and everyone.
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When we believe that our feelings are facts, it’s a cognitive distortion. If we feel scared, there must be real danger. If we feel stupid, we must actually be stupid. Feelings are fuckinng convincing. What you feel in one moment does not define your whole reality no matter how convincing it is in that moment. As fleeting as the good feelings are so are the painful ones–they all will pass and change.
These are just some examples but did any of these seem familiar to you? Chances are, you or someone you know has engaged in a cognitive distortion and it’s very important to change this before it becomes a habit. Develop skills to become aware of these automatic thought patterns and learn to challenge and modify them
How do we change the way we think?
Like dealing with any problem, the first thing to do is to recognize that there is one. We must become aware every time we are thinking any kind of thoughts like the thinking distortion listed here. Once we’re aware, we must challenge these disempowering thoughts to see if measures up to objective evidence and if not allow for the possibility to choose an alternative and more uplifting response.
We can’t always choose our feelings and thoughts, but we can choose which ones we want to attach to.
Choose your reality–make it a good one.