Stuck in a Negative Mindset?

Do you ever find yourself stuck in a negative mindset when something goes wrong? It’s easy to fall into the trap of personalising, thinking that you must have done something wrong, or seeing the issue as pervasive or even permanent, affecting every aspect of your work and life. But here’s the thing: these patterns of thinking can be incredibly harmful and hinder your success. Fortunately, in their book “No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work and How They Help Us Succeed,” Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy offer invaluable insights into the “three Ps” that cause these harmful cognitive distortions. In this discussion, we’ll break down these three Ps and provide examples and actionable tips to help you overcome them. Let’s discuss them in more detail:

Personalisation: It occurs when we believe we are entirely to blame for a problem, even when it’s not entirely our fault, which can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, making it harder to move forward. To control these negative feelings, you can:

  • Reflect on the situation objectively: Consider the facts and separate them from your emotions.
  • Identify contributing factors: Look for other factors that may have contributed to the situation, not just your actions.
  • Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes.

For example, you may receive negative feedback at work and immediately assume it’s because of your incompetence. However, upon reflection, you may realize that the feedback was specific to a particular project and not a reflection of your overall abilities.

Pervasiveness: It happens when we imagine that a single event will destroy all parts of our lives, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, making it harder to take action. You can control these feelings by:

  • Limiting the scope: Recognize that the situation is not all-encompassing and focus on the specific areas it affects.
  • Seeking support: Reach out to friends, family, or colleagues for perspective and encouragement.
  • Practising gratitude: Identify positive aspects of your life to help put the situation in context.

Imagine you had a disagreement with your partner, and you start to worry that it will ruin your entire relationship. However, by focusing on the specific issue and seeking support from friends, you realize that the disagreement is not a reflection of your overall relationship.

Permanence: It is the belief that the feeling will last forever and the situation will never change, which can lead to feelings of helplessness and resignation, making it harder to take action. You can control them by:

  • Seeing it as temporary: Understand that feelings and situations are temporary and will change over time.
  • Setting realistic expectations: Recognize that it takes time to overcome challenges and that progress may be gradual.
  • Practising mindfulness: Stay present and avoid dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

For instance, say you failed an important exam, and you feel like you’ll never be able to pass it. However, by embracing the temporariness of the situation and setting realistic expectations, you start to focus on the steps you can take to improve your studying habits and retake the exam.

Life is full of challenges, and we all face difficult situations at some point in our lives. But the good news is that these challenges are opportunities for growth and improvement. By learning to manage the three Ps using perspective, scope, and temporariness, we can develop the skills we need to manage even the most challenging circumstances. With the right mindset, we can turn obstacles into opportunities and overcome cognitive distortions that may be holding us back. So, the next time you face a difficult situation, remember that you have the power to overcome it. Embrace the three Ps, and you’ll be well on your way to success.

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