At the office or in our day to day lives, we are always confronted to situations which trigger one or several negative thought patterns. Let’s explore how we can get rid of them, what is the correct attitude and new habit we should adopt?
Every once in a while, in our professional lives, we have moments where we are judged for our performance or behavior. In our private life, we are, more often than not, the subject of the judgment by others.
When we are present during these verdicts, most especially when they are negative like a mediocre performance review, we usually tend to repeat a negative thought pattern to reinforce the already failing self-esteem we have for ourselves. What if there is a way to create a new, more positive, pattern, an antidote of some sort to let go of this destructive inner chatter?
Imagine the following scenarios.
You are at the office. Your boss calls you for your annual performance review. The meeting begins. You speak first about your team and how they have been performing and then he begins to speak about you and how your last quarter has been less than stellar. Gradually you feel less and less confident until the review falls onto your lap describing not only how your boss views your performance but also how your team perceives your leadership.
You at a party. Discussing a heated topic (politics perhaps?). The conversation takes a more personal note. All of a sudden the person in front of you, whom you respect deeply, starts talking about you and how you should have been doing better. Such a verdict, coming from that specific person, hurts you inside.
And thus begins the negative thought pattern, like a program on a computer that has been triggered by a specific context. Like a survival mechanism whose sole purpose is to reinforce the current state of affair, you go down a spiral of incriminating thoughts tailored to your need of self-deprecation.
The question is not why are you having an average performance review but more importantly why are the resulting comments taking you down.
Reality, Perception, and Negative Thought Patterns
In the above-mentioned scenarios, we can distinguish 3 different levels at least upon which we base our experience:
- Reality: what we call ‘Reality’ is the sequence of events, interactions with the others or things around us;
- Emotional Perception: the experience we have of this reality and therefore how we react to it (aka. Auto-Pilot 1);
- Thought Patterns: most of the time our reactions will come from a specific set of patterns that were previously learned in a similar context but not necessarily related to the characters of that moment (aka. Auto-Pilot 2, making sure Auto-Pilot 1 is properly supported and does not ‘miss the target’).
This set of 3 levels is just from our own perception. The same applies to the other person in front of us, thus creating a complex matrix of unending possibilities. More importantly, we can surmise that, in most cases, all our interactions (including from the people around us) are set on auto-pilot… unless we choose otherwise.
It is easy to understand that most of the interactions we have are not necessarily related specifically to the current context. They also include “shadows” from an earlier experience that “clouds” current perceptions. Hence, we quickly encounter ourselves in a negative loop of constant thoughts that are not necessarily related to the actual reality you just lived.
The antidote to “negative thought patterns”
There is a 4th level that stands alone, of which not many people speak of. It is the level of beingness, that which makes you your unique you and acts with all certainty when allowed and paid attention to. This ‘beingness‘ exists beyond the mere limits of reality and the emotional reactions you may have. It is always there, watchful, ready to serve you, anytime you wish it to. It exists within a realm of total alignment and integrity with yourself.
Coming back to our example, if you did your best while performing and you KNOW, in total integrity with yourself, you could not do better, then, it is time for you to choose between the feedback provided to you or what you feel inside yourself. Your choice is between fear (of the other), or love (of yourself).
Off-centered people, people that stay on ‘auto-pilot 1&2’, will always choose to give more validity to the other’s opinion instead of truly believing in themselves.
As clearly demonstrated earlier, we never know the real reasons underlying the performance review, they could be totally unrelated to your actual performance itself.
The key here, in any case, and this is probably the best tool leaders can practice every day in all aspects of their lives, is INTEGRITY. That integrity that allows us not only to transcend any negative thought patterns and emotions that put us on automatic pilot mode but which also allow us to really dive into our own empowerment and our team’s (when applicable).