Tame Your Runaway Thoughts and Become A Realistic Optimist

Thoughts are incredibly powerful. They can drag you down or lift you up. Basically there are two main kinds: Automatic thoughts that cruise around in your mind as self-talk. Usually they are repetitive, often negative and seemingly doing their own thing without conscious input from you. The other kind of thoughts are those you deliberately choose to adopt.

Most of the time automatic thoughts are on autopilot, ticking along in the background while you go about living life. In calm times they usually are not a problem and you may not need to pay attention to them.

However, when you are dealing with serious challenges you may only see difficulties and hardships, and as your thoughts turn darker and darker, your emotional state also takes a dive. This is the time to take a closer look at the stories you are telling yourself.

Choose new thoughts

Imagine yourself in a helicopter or balloon looking down on your situation.

Even though it may be difficult to disengage from your difficulties, allow yourself a broader, more detached view of the situation. Instead of believing your automatic negative thoughts to be the ‘truth’, choose new ways of thinking.

  • Is the event a total catastrophe or a stumbling block that can be overcome?
  • Does the experience determine my whole future condemn me to lifelong misery?
  • Can I rebuild my life and redefine who I am?
  • Who am I? A victim or a resilient person who despite the odds conquered great challenges?
  • I am wounded but not completely broken.
  • I can heal and move on from this.
  • Other people have experienced something similar and gone on to greater strength and a rewarding life.
  • I will find people who support my healing.
  • Even though life is terribly difficult at the moment, there can be good times as well.
  • I will use my current situation as a starting point to rustle up all my resources, pick up the pieces and make a fresh start.
  • For that to happen, which thoughts do I need to ban from my mind?

Realistic optimism

Your ‘helicopter thoughts’ need to be rooted in realistic optimism. This kind of optimism is not a blind ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. It too contains the expectation of positive outcomes but without illusion or ignorance of their likelihood. Realistic optimism is an attitude that is based on a realistic assessment of what is possible, looks to the future with hope of good things to come, and seeks ways to make it happen.

Become quite clear about what you can or cannot control. Many external things are beyond your control, especially what other people do, think or feel.

However, within your control is your inner life, what you feel and think, your expectations, beliefs, the choices you make (or not make), what you do or don’t do.

It may take some practice but it is possible to choose life-enhancing attitudes over self-defeating ones. Each time you notice, turn away from thinking that drags you down and poisons your emotional state. Instead activate self-enhancing thoughts.

Where before you only saw unsurmountable difficulties, from the perspective of realistic optimism you trust that options for positive developments exist and that you will find them, even though they may not be obvious at the moment.

Remember, your attitude affects your whole future. Choose the one that encourages action over stagnation, hope over despair, courage over avoidance and trust in yourself over giving up!

One last thing …

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Originally published at www.christianastar.com on June 29, 2017