How to banish negative thoughts and stay motivated

A positive mental attitude is one of the most important skills for learners and professionals to cultivate.

Intrusive, recurring negative thoughts are something everyone deals with at some stage, but with the right techniques, anyone can overcome them.

Kate Wilde, managing director at business mentoring consultancy Engage with Business, specialises in helping CEOs and company leaders motivate themselves to succeed. We asked for her top tips when it comes to staying on track, banishing negative thoughts and building confidence.

Avoid making excuses

“It might be that you don’t have enough time, you have children to look after, or you don’t have the money,” says Wilde. “Any of those things can easily become excuses if you allow them to be.”

It’s easy to let circumstances get in the way of taking action. Moving beyond that, and achieving the positive mindset that’s going to propel you forward, is a matter of setting aside excuses, and simply getting on with it.

Socialise

Isolation is one of the most common challenges faced by self-motivated workers and learners. Lack of human interaction can have a negative effect on mental health, according to research from the Mental Health Foundation, so take every opportunity you can to engage with people. If this isn’t an option for you, though, all is not lost.

“There are so many books you can read, podcasts you can listen to and YouTube videos you can watch to inspire you,” says Wilde. “If you can fill your head with positive thoughts, then it’s more difficult for negative energy to creep in.”

If you easily compare yourself to others take some time off from social media: “It’s always people’s highlights; too much time looking at all the wonderful things that other people are doing can actually have a negative impact on how you’re feeling about yourself.”

Set clear goals

Clearly defined goals are an integral part of self-motivation. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding and time-based. You need to know immediately whether you’ve succeeded or failed so that you can move on and learn from your experiences.

“Don’t set fluffy, vague goals. Set SMART ones that are very specific in terms of what you want to achieve,” advises Wilde. “Make sure they’re timed. Make sure you know how you’re going to achieve them. It’s easy to say ‘I’m going to earn £50,000 in the next year’, but how are you going to do it?”.

Keep track of your successes

There’s no better motivator than the sense of achievement you get after a job well done. When things get difficult, it can be harnessed to work for you.

“Make a note of all of your achievements,” says Wilde. “Every little positive result you accomplish, every small win, because they do build up. Success breeds success.”

Rather than putting them out of your mind, use your past victories to fuel your future ones. Focusing on the work you’ve already done can be an extremely powerful tool for transforming a negative mindset into a positive one.

Learn from your failures

Failure is one of the most challenging obstacles that anyone faces in life. Confidence and willpower are surprisingly fragile things, and it only takes one mishap to imperil all your positive work. But failure can also be an opportunity.

“How you deal with it is entirely up to you,” says Wilde. “You can look at it as a chance to take stock. What have you learned? What could you do next time? Or you can go and bury your head and say ‘I’m such a failure’. How you choose to deal with it is all about mindset.”

Wear red underwear

Self-confidence is about the way you carry yourself, how you dress, how you walk. Faking confidence is often the best way to achieve it. Even wearing particular colours can have a noticeable effect. Studies show that wearing red, for instance, can make you feel more assertive. Wilde has a quirky trick to try out.

“A lot of people wear red underwear,” Wilde says. “Red is such a powerful colour, it exudes confidence, but sometimes you’ve got to be a bit more discreet. Red underwear can still have that effect. It’s widely used by more people than you’d think!”

Ultimately, banishing negative thoughts is about building confidence. The things that appear to be holding you back are far less powerful than they seem. You simply have to act, make decisions, learn from your mistakes and build on your successes.

Always give yourself every advantage you can, whether that’s surrounding yourself with like-minded people or wearing the right colours.

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Louis Millington is an associate editor at Flibl. He writes, curates and edits content about technology and the future. Follow him on Twitter @Millingtron.

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