We all fall prey to cognitive distortions.
These are beliefs we convince ourselves are true that reinforce negative thinking. You know the ones:
“I’ll never amount to anything.”
“Nobody likes me.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I can’t do this.”
“I’m a failure.”
“I don’t deserve success / to be happy / love.”
And on and on. Even if the thought is more complicated, it typically boils down to some variation on the above.
While these belief systems might feel like they have been engraved in stone, they are actually choices you are making to keep the belief alive. The good news is they are malleable and can be thwarted. While no easy feat, it requires making new choices.
When these beliefs arise in your mind it’s crucial you challenge them on the spot. When you challenge them, the goal is to reframe your thinking into a mode of resilience.
Let’s take a flight delay as an exercise in challenging one type of cognitive distortion (overgeneralizing):
- What is my problematic belief?
Bad stuff always happens to me.
- What evidence supports my belief?
The flight delay is an inconvenience.
- What is a better explanation for what happened?
It’s not just happening to me, it’s happening to everyone.
- What are the consequences of this belief?
Anger and stress have sent me into a tailspin.
- What would happen if I changed my belief right now?
I could enjoy a nice dinner and catch up on work and calls at the airport.
- What is my new core belief?
S — t happens! I can manage inconvenience better.
Resilience is not a gene. It’s not an “either you have it or you don’t” scenario. It ultimately comes down to choice, and choices are voluntary, though they may not always feel like it in the heat of the moment.
The key is to stop cognitive distortions in their tracks.
If you enjoyed this article, please give it some applause 👏
Sign up for my free newsletter here to receive insights about fueling leadership through neuroscience and psychology.
Nicole Lipkin, Psy.D., MBA is an organizational psychologist and the CEO of Equilibria Leadership Consulting. She is the author of “What Keeps Leaders Up At Night” and the co-author of “Y in the Workplace: Managing the ‘Me First’ Generation.”