Stinking thinking—thinking that leads you to believe that you will fail, that bad things will happen to you, or that you are not a very good person—is toxic to you, and the people around you. It can also spread quickly throughout an organization, so it’s important to expose stinking thinking. But what if it’s your stinking thinking? What if you are the source of the faulty thinking or negativity?
Past negative outcomes seem more prominent in our minds than positive ones (we’re hard-wired this way), so people tend to more heavily emphasize the negative. Even great leaders are vulnerable to this trait, or negativity bias. When you realize this, you are better able to question the validity of negative thoughts or impressions. Unfortunately, many leaders and executives don’t make the effort to practice this; some may even react by brooding or complaining. But in the long run, it’s detrimental. So instead, work through the issue.
Expose Stinking Thinking
Become consistently conscious of your thought process (a.k.a. mindful), which allows you to step back and assess (detach and observe). Think back to similar circumstances and try to see a pattern of how you responded. Ask yourself:
- Does this specific issue always set you off, or make you feel defeated?
- Did every attempt to follow a similar plan result in failure?
- Did you get blamed every time things like this didn’t work out?
Psychologist and author Martin Seligman, known for his work in the subject of positive psychology, is a pioneer of this approach. A pattern of negative behavior, once identified, can be challenged. Injecting realism, especially with the insight of others, will help with a fair comparison of past negative and positive experiences.
You see, by exposing negative thoughts as invalid, they lose their power. Positive viewpoints are given more credit, resulting in a broader, balanced perspective. There is no need to automatically fall back to a negative mindset, as it certainly does no good.