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HOW TO CHANGE NEGATIVE THOUGHT PATTERNS

Feeling stuck in a negative thought loop? Can’t see the wood for the trees? This effective metaphor will help you create a new way of thinking and open up a myriad of new opportunities.

Imagine you are walking on a path in a forest of trees and bushes. As you are walking along, you come to a fork in the path. One of the ways forward looks much easier to take; the path is visible on the ground, the bushes are pushed back, it is a clearing.


The other way looks overgrown; there is vegetation in the way, you can’t really see the path on the floor and there are spider webs across the trees. This alternative pathway is there but looks trickier and harder to navigate.


In a split second (unconsciously), you choose to take the easier path.

These pathways in the forest are like the neural pathways in your brain. Every time you think something, a neural pathway is formed between neurons. When you think something again and again, for example, ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I am stuck’ or ‘my boss doesn’t like me’, this neural pathway becomes stronger and is the equivalent of the easy, worn-in forest pathway.


A rarely used or brand new potential neural pathway - a different way of thinking - is like the overgrown, less clear alternative path in the forest. This alternative thought might be ‘I could do that’ or ‘I could try that’ or ‘I have options'.


Take a moment to remember how much work your brain has to do everyday to keep you alive and to survive. It keeps your heart beating; it keeps you upright and balanced, aware of danger. It is processing and translating all the signals it receives from your eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin every minute. It keeps your digestive, cardiovascular and nervous systems running.


Because the brain is so busy, it doesn’t think that how you ‘feel’, or ‘interpret’ someone else’s behavior or how you react to a circumstance is integral to it's survival or functionality. (Even though your MIND thinks it is important). So as the brain is processing such a moment, amidst everything else it is doing, it quickly chooses the easy neural pathway; the easy, visible path in the forest. This is an unconscious reaction because it is busy.

If you consciously choose NOT to take the easy route (which is thinking the same as before) and instead CHOOSE to take a new route (which is to think differently), you will push through the overgrowth in the forest, swipe the spider webs away and discover a new way through the forest. It may feel a little uncomfortable at the time, but you soon realise you are fine as you pass through and continue on your way.

The wonderful thing here is that the more you take the alternative forest pathway, the sooner it becomes the easier option… the bushes get pushed back, the spiders no longer lay their webs there and the path is clearer on the ground. At the same time, the old ‘easy’ route - because it is no longer in use - becomes overgrown and the spiders move over there; the pathway on the ground becomes grown over.

You have created a new way of thinking and left the old behind. What was once your default thought process - the old easy, clear pathway for the brain to take - has changed; you have a new easy route, a new default.


Beyond that difficult forest pathway is a beautiful and peaceful clearing in the forest. Beyond that new, slightly uncomfortable-at-first way of thinking, is a beautiful and successful way of being.


Read this blog post: How to Overcome the Fear of Failure


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