As powerful and creative as your mind can be, it does have qualities that are machinelike. If used properly it will be a useful tool to help you meet your goals. But if it is fed dangerous thoughts then it can tear your life apart.
Think of your mind as an incredibly complex and adaptive computer program. It is flexible and can learn and even create new outputs seemingly from thin air. Like a computer, it operates on the rules of your programming. If you program in self-loathing and doubt, then what you get back will be a twisted, unpleasant outcome.
Thankfully, even if a mind has been fed these poisonous beliefs, it can still be reprogrammed. There are plenty of incredible minds out there that have been reprogrammed and healed from negativity and dread. You really can drive yourself crazy so you need to know the types of thoughts to be aware of so you can eradicate them before they grow roots in your mind. If some of these traits have already set root in your mind, it is better to pluck them early while they are still saplings. The longer they sit and grow, the more entrenched they become.
Table of Contents
There are many negative thought patterns and destructive mindsets that can cause our minds to deteriorate. Many of these mind patterns, if allowed to grow and set root, can lead to lifelong unhappiness or worse. Most of these thoughts will fall into one of these categories.
- Dwelling on the past
- Excess worrying
- Losing objectivity
- Lacking ambition and purpose
- Not having a way to relieve stress
- Never asking for help (being too self-reliant)
- Comparing yourself to others
Awareness is the first step toward fixing any problem. If you aren’t aware there is even a problem, how could you possibly make a plan to overcome it? Evaluate if you might have any of these destructive thoughts/traits lurking inside of you. Once identified, you can get to work on correcting them. You can fix some of the issues on your own but if you need outside help, my advice is to seek that help. Correcting these issues is worth the time and effort.
Dwelling on the past
Thinking about the past isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be a helpful practice to recall lessons learned and events experienced. But dwelling on the past can become unhealthy when it starts interfering with your happiness in the present. You may not love your past, but letting the bad memories affect the present will drain your spirit.
When we continuously replay past events and relive experiences or re-argue conversations, we can get stuck in a loop. This increases stress and can ramp up the damage to your self-esteem.
This is especially common at night before falling asleep. This can even become a trigger for these thoughts of the past to show themselves. This leads to poor sleep and feeling like a failure. Ending your day with negative feelings will bleed over into the next day and act like a virus infecting your mind and mood.
Excess worrying about what could happen
Worrying does serve a purpose. It makes us aware of potential problems that could arise. This allows us to prepare a response if needed. Excessive worrying takes this too far. Overthinking about a possible negative event often takes us down a dark path. This is because fixating on the details of a bad event can actually stop your ability to think clearly.
Focusing on negative possibilities drains your mental energy and makes you feel worse. Making yourself constantly aware that something could go wrong can lead to anxiety. This worry is a distraction from reality.
So how do you know the difference between healthy worrying and unhealthy negative thinking? One clue is that normal worry has a time limit. If you can’t stop thinking about something for more than a few days, then there might be an issue.
Subjective emotions can mislead you into accepting things that are harmful. After a setback, you can start to think things like, “I am never going to be successful.” If you believe it, your mind will search for ways to make it true. The mind will actually work against your best interests because of these negative thoughts.
It may seem conspiratorial, but your mind isn’t out to get you. It just operates on the rules that have been programmed into it. Some people will want to blame your mother, father, or anyone else who has influenced you, for this programming. But that is a victim mindset and it will not help you fix the problem.
It may be true that your programming was influenced by others, but even more important is the fact that you are now in charge of your mind. It is up to you to correct the thoughts to serve you. You have to find the subjective emotions that are not helpful and remove or reframe them into thoughts that serve your purpose.
Lacking ambition or purpose
Your mind thrives on high-quality stimulation. I’m talking about the stimulation of creativity and achievement, or even interacting with other people. The problem is that most guys feed their minds the junk-food version of stimulation. The biggest examples of this low-quality stimulation are watching television or sports. Like junk food, these should be used as a treat rather than the main source of your mental stimulation.
Having ambition and drive gives your mind something to work toward. It allows your brain to put its creative energy to work and be inventive. By not having goals, your mind is relegated to overconsumption of bad stimulation. This makes your mind lazy and ineffective.
Be wary of how you allow your mind to be stimulated or it will atrophy like an unused muscle.
Perfectionism – nothing is ever good enough
Can you drive yourself crazy with extreme expectations of yourself? Absolutely. Noone can be perfect all of the time. And those that try to attain perfection feel like they are never good enough. Expecting perfection from yourself is an exercise in insanity.
Striving to be at your best and producing the best quality of work is great. But being unable to accept imperfections is unhealthy and will lead only to frustration. You have to realize that being perfect is unattainable. Aiming for being great and creating great work is good enough.
Not having a way to relieve stress
Some stress is normal and good. There is even a thing call eustress which is positive stress. In this type of stress, you are motivated and energized by the pressure.
Negative stress is what happens when there is too much expected from someone, or they feel they have no control over their situation. This is okay too as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.
And it is crucial that you have a way to blow off steam and relieve the stress. If you don’t, it will build up pressure and eventually burst. Think of stress relief like a pressure-relief valve.
It may be tempting to think that if you suffer from negative stress long enough, then eventually your mind will adapt to the pressure. It is true that this kind of mental endurance can build up tolerance, but it is not ideal. Find your method for stress relief and make it a point to keep your overall stress within safe parameters.
Never asking for help from others
Being self-reliant is a good trait as long as this isn’t pushed to the extreme. Sometimes you will have to ask others for help. This is why there are mentors and others to learn from. Sometimes even a friend can help.
If you struggle with the idea of asking others for help, pretend (temporarily) that this person is just a tool to help you accomplish what’s important to you. In reality, they probably want to help you and they usually do so because it helps them feel needed or wanted, etc. Both of you win when you are able to accept help. Don’t let the unfounded fear of asking for help stop you.
When you don’t ask others for help you set yourself up for unnecessary failure. If you wait too long to get help your problem can grow and be much more difficult to diffuse.
Be self-reliant the majority of the time but don’t have so much pride that you refuse to seek the help or counsel of others when it is needed. You will reach your goals much faster if you can overcome this common mind-block.
Comparing yourself to others
You are in competition with one person. Yourself. By simply working to become a better, stronger version of yourself, you will steadily become better and better. You do not have to compare yourself with anyone else.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t look at other people for inspiration or to learn. This is completely fine and it should be done. Just don’t fall into the trap of comparing your situation to the situation of others who are doing better than you.
Your life situation is unique to you. The circumstances that you have lived through are not the same as any other person on earth. Too many guys feel bad for themselves when they compare themselves to others. This is a waste of energy and toxic to your mindset. Focus on yourself and use the success of others only as fuel and motivation for your own progress. But comparing yourself with them will only lead to problems.