We would like to think that our thinking is clear, measured and rationale. Right? That we always have clarity and that our behaviours and emotional responses are ‘on point’ allowing us to respond to any situation that arises. Unfortunately, the reality is often far from this! Whether it’s in your personal life or in the workplace, you may have noticed that we tend to adopt certain ways of thinking and behaving. If your instinctive reaction to that is ‘no’, then you almost certainly do!

Let’s take a moment to consider some of the types of thinking that we adopt. Perhaps its ‘overgeneralisation’ where for example we might say that everyone in such and such a household can’t be trusted. Another example is ‘catastrophising’ where we may say that a proposed change with be absolutely disastrous when in reality it probably won’t be!   Some of us might apply a ‘mental filter’ where we place far too much emphasis on the potential negative aspects of change without considering any of the possible positive elements. ‘Personalisation and blame’ can be common also, where we might take it upon ourselves to place a disproportionate amount of blame on ourselves or others, where the actual evidence demonstrates that in reality, we shouldn’t.

For some of us, ‘labelling and mislabelling’ ourselves or others negatively such as being lazy or unprofessional when again the evidence may well contradict this. I’m sure that many of you have come across ‘mindreading’ from time to time, where somebody exclaims that they know exactly what others are up to! Perhaps you have engaged in it yourself from time to time? Finally, ‘hindsight thinking’ can be another common one where we look back and judge ourselves or others past actions unreasonably as if we had all of the information available to us at that time!

Okay, guilty as charged? If you have found yourself engaging in any (all) of the distorted thinking above, here are three simple steps that can improve your thinking and subsequent behaviour.

The first step is that of identifying the actual trigger which should be made as specific as possible e.g. when my boss criticises me or when my daughter comes in late at night. This actual moment where you are at a crossroads and can either proceed down the well-trodden path or try an alternative behaviour. These triggers may be caused by location, time, emotional state, other people, and the immediately preceding action.

The second step is to identify the old habit again making it as specific as possible. For example, this is where I typically blame myself. Or this is where I normally become angry.

Moving onto the third and final step is selection of a new thought and behaviour, ideally one that you can carry out immediately. For example, instead of taking blame perhaps considering that this is not my fault and instead I am going to ask my wife/husband/colleague to sort it out. Or instead of becoming angry, I will take a brisk five-minute walk. Where we learn the value of checking our instinctive interpretations, they in turn become less automatic or rigid, allowing new thoughts and behaviours to develop. These new thoughts and behaviours then replace those that haven’t been serving us well. Try it and see what happens!

create10 provides clients with a safe, supportive non judgemental space where they are able to examine their automatic responses and to begin to consider alternatives.  Whether it is through executive coaching or life coaching a professional coach can make a positive impact.  For further information check out www.create10.ie or email info@create10.ie