The manner in which we live our lives is ultimately dependent upon our mental activity – which is why attitudes, thought patterns, and ideas are so important. Some ways of thinking are beneficial, and will make life better. Others are precisely the opposite, and must be avoided. Here are six of the worst thought patterns to be aware of.
1. Waiting for the ‘perfect’ time.
Everyone has changes they want to make, whether it’s starting to exercise, quitting smoking, or getting a different job. But too many people convince themselves that they should wait until the absolute ‘right’ time – which, of course, never actually arrives. Better to start making beneficial changes right away.
2. Refusing to take responsibility.
Every individual has their share of problems. Ignoring the role you have played in your own struggles is foolish. Entirely blaming circumstances and other people for your failures is attractive, since it absolves you of any guilt, but doing so will never help you grow, improve, and overcome your faults.
Catastrophizing means putting everything into the worst light possible. A perfect example is someone who tells themselves “I’m no good at all”, when they make a minor mistake. Catastrophizing warps perception of reality, making people doubt themselves when they should not, and give up when success is easily attainable.
4. Black-and-white thinking.
Black-and-white (or binary) thinking refuses to recognize any subtleties, nuance, or gradations. The problem with this sort of thinking is that it is fundamentally distorting. All-or-nothing thought patterns lead directly to irrational thinking. For example, binary thinkers will usually have either a horribly inflated sense of self or the precise opposite.
5. Extreme risk avoidance.
Risk is by definition dangerous, and thus frightening. However, taking risks is also a necessary part of life. People who are too afraid of risk will stay in miserable circumstances simply because those circumstances are safe and familiar. Being willing to endure risk is the only way to improve as a person and construct a better life.
6. Living in the past.
Some people dwell in the past because their past is better than their present. Others have the opposite issue and are haunted by a traumatic past. But in either case, the mistake is ultimately the same. The past is in a serious sense unreal. While learning lessons from the past is important, forsaking the present for something that no longer exists is absurd.
Life is difficult enough on its own. Life doesn’t require our help in making the world a trial – which is precisely what the negative, destructive ways of thinking described above do. Steer clear of these bad thought patterns and you will have a better life.