Breaking habitual patterns of thinking

Last week I talked about how some of us have the habit of catastrophizing future experience and how I had noticed this pattern in myself.

bluebell path

So what have I been doing about it?

The first step in all personal development is self-awareness. We cannot change anything unless we first notice it and then acknowledge it. First step achieved.

The next step is to recognise that any habitual behaviour we have will have been formed originally for good reason. In NLP this is called the “positive intention” of the behaviour or thinking pattern.

This is based on the idea that we develop behaviours and patterns that help us survive in the world. Sometimes these are based on faulty logic because we lack all the relevant information and perspectives. The bottom line is; we do the best we can with what we have available to us.

I mention this because it is vital that you give yourself a break and avoid beating yourself up over a historical thinking pattern. We need to forgive ourselves and accept the behaviour for what it is, a habit.

This step I have also achieved.

I then made a point of being mindful and noticing as soon as the behaviour began. Each and every time I noticed myself drifting into negative future thinking I stopped myself.

Here is the really important tip. If you just try to stop yourself and that’s it, two minutes later you would probably be at it again! So here’s what I did next:

  1. I asked myself, “does this thinking have any basis in reality?” In other words do I need to do something?
  2. If the answer to the above question was “yes” I would then take some action. So in the example I gave last week of a neighbours dog entering our garden, Joe and I took some action. We first spoke to the neighbour who although saying the right things did not stop his dog coming in our garden. So we then took more action, we fenced the garden on our side of the boundary. Problem solved. I no longer think about this issue (except to tell you).
  3. Having done the above or if the answer is “no” I make a conscious point of asking myself what are three great things in my life right now and three things in the near future I will enjoy.

This technique is very much a cognitive technique requiring conscious thought but can be very effective. I have noticed a decrease in this kind of thinking since last week. If this is an issue for you give it a go and let me know what happens.

There are other approaches to change thinking patterns including many within whitebell If you find the above is not working for you it might be worth investigating some alternatives with a qualified NLP Practitioner.

About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
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