Course sections

Module Three: Changing the Way You Think

Changing the Way You Think

One of the simplest ways to relieve stress and feel better about ourselves is to change the way we think about things in our lives. Having a positive attitude allows a person to change their own lives because it shows that they have an understanding of their surroundings and feel confident enough to use them to their advantage. But if we hide behind negative thoughts and allow our environment to make us sad or depressed, we may never have the drive to reach for our goals and ambitions. 


Shifting from “What’s Wrong?” to “What’s Right?”  

One of the first things that can ruin a positive attitude is looking at a situation and only noticing the negative aspects, or the “What’s Wrong” side. Since the main focus of appreciative inquiry is being positive and aiming towards goals, a pessimistic attitude won’t get anyone very far. When presented with a problem, take a few minutes and look at both sides of the problem. Make a mental list of everything that is positive about the situation before touching on the negative aspects. You’ll find that any situation won’t appear as bad as we think when we notice the positive first. 

Keys to shifting our thoughts:  

  • Avoid the “all or nothing” thinking – deciding a situation only has two sides. 
  • Realize the difference between being right and being happy. 
  • Avoid over-generalizing a situation – focus on details. 


It’s Not Eliminating Mistakes-It’s Holding up Successes 

A common misconception that people make is that being positive or progressive means they cannot make mistakes nor have faults. This, of course, is untrue. Mistakes happen all the time, and although they can sometimes be prevented, they cannot be stopped altogether. The key is to learn from your mistakes and then focus on the successes that follow them.  

When a child falls off their bike before learning to ride, we do not focus on how many times they fell, but celebrate when they ride down the sidewalk on their own. Being positive doesn’t mean we eliminate mistakes or problems, we just learn to focus on the achievements we reach. Success leads to more success when we are focused on the positive.  


Positive Language Will Affect People’s Thinking 

From a young age, we have learned that positive language has more effect on us than negativity. When we tell ourselves “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never finish this”, we normally find ourselves to be right. But if we use more positive and influential phrases and language, we find ourselves feeling more confident and ready to handle any situation. Positive words encourage positive thinking, so add some “I can…” and “I’m great” phrases to your vocabulary! Positivity is contagious, so don’t be afraid to share it with others and encourage them to think positive too. 

Using positive language: 

  • Avoid negatives, such as “can’t” or “won’t” 
  • Reassure yourself and remind yourself of your abilities 
  • Compliment yourself – “Good job” and “Well done 


Limit or Remove Negative Phrasing 

As we’ve said before, positive words encourage positive thinking. The same goes for negative phrasing – when we allow ourselves to use negative language, our thoughts become negative. Studies have shown that there are five key phrases that any person should remove from their vocabulary in order to ban negative language. 

  • Just – This word limits our accomplishments and devalues our skills. By saying phrases such as “I’m just an accountant” or “I just work in customer service” can make anyone feel happy in their job. 
  • Try – This word can often give us an excuse to fail. We will ‘try’ to accomplish something, but if we don’t succeed then it’s not our fault. We either do something or we don’t.  
  • Can’t – This word is often used when a person does not want to take the effort to reach a goal or accomplishment. Replace this word with a mental action plan on how you can act on your goals.   
  • Impossible – This word is normally used when we are faced with something big and overwhelming. However, anything can seem possible if broken down into smaller, more attainable jobs. Anything can be accomplished when we take things one step at a time. 
  • Someday– This word can have the same problem as ‘try’ – it sets us up to allow failure. When we plan to reach our goals “someday”, we are giving ourselves permission to procrastinate. Set a timeline for your goals and stick to them.  
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