How to reframe negative thinking into something more useful

Our choices are the result of our thinking patterns. So, to change our outcomes and circumstances, we have to change our thinking.

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We all have bad days. Here is a tip to help you reframe your thinking into something more useful. It is called ‘If-then’ planning. It is a simple yet effective way to choose a response that will enable a better outcome. 

Here is how to do it:  

'If-then' plans take the form of: "If X happens, then I will do Y."  It works because the human brain is good at thinking in the language of contingencies. Once you've formulated your if-then plan, your unconscious brain will remember what you decided you would do and be ready to respond accordingly. 

It also boosts self-confidence in handling known tricky situations if they arise because you have thought through in advance how you can respond. This approach helps calm the 'fight, flight or freeze' part of the brain, which otherwise can tip you into automatic pilot.

Thinking through in advance activates the rational part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) where the working memory is held. Then you can choose the response that best serves you in the circumstances rather than just reacting at the moment.

Here is how to get started. 

  1. Make two columns headed 'If' and 'then'. 
  2. Set out each difficult or challenging 'If' scenario followed by one or more options for how you can choose to respond - 'then I will ….'.  
  3. Step back and ask yourself 'what else' so that you can dig a little deeper.
  4. Write down what comes to mind. Then review and decide which 'If-then' strategies will be useful and rehearse these in your mind. 

You can also use 'If-then' planning to help you work through your options if you anticipate these in advance.

These are useful self-management skills and can help increase your influence and impact through having a calm measured response to difficult situations.

Beverly Landais PCC

Certified Personal & Team Coach: enabling people to be at their resourceful best ,

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