How to reframe your self-defeating state of mind

It’s inevitable that an emotional plateau or a negative mood captures your attention as the daily grind goes on and work and life stresses multiply—you know, the state-of-mind best described as “hitting a wall.”

The proverbial and unwelcome flat line is hardly preferable, regardless of whether it lasts several minutes, lingers through an entire day or persists throughout the week. So how can you quickly free yourself from this self-limiting rut? Although it’s important to pause, reflect and learn from the past, it’s also important to pause and allow your optimism for future possibilities to simmer.

The first step in pulling yourself out of the rut is to entertain a different thought pattern to offset limitations that come with a self-defeating state of mind. Fix on a mindset of abundance for potentially good outcomes connected to plans you set for tomorrow and beyond.

Moods are temporary—positive and negative. To undercut a negative mood, pause, take a few slow deep breaths, and allow yourself to dwell on this simple notion for a minute or two. Tomorrow presents endless possibilities and opportunities to improve. Acknowledge the potential to be better than you were today, because you control that decision now.

Dwell on the excitement that comes with the future, feeding off the energy that comes with anticipating simple or complex experiences and events that you associate in a positive, fulfilling light. Truly pause and reflect on the possibilities, “because [when] you believe in possibilities, you put yourself in position to achieve them,” as leadership expert and author John C. Maxwell says.
Envisioning tomorrow’s potential is a powerful way to realize the extent of your personal control over your success. Reinforce this mindset power and give it freedom to roam. By doing this, you are priming tomorrow and beyond to be productive and giving opportunity to resist and rebound from self-limiting thought patterns.

Start small with one simple thing for each time frame—even something as simple as opening and smelling a new bag of coffee, to an overseas trip next month, to a good friend’s upcoming wedding. It doesn’t have to be life-changing or career-related. The point of this list is anticipating things that are meaningful to you.

Putting together this list refocuses you to live intentionally and continue working toward your short- and long-term goals. You become focused on carrying out plans that possess the possibility of success and resonate with excitement because they fit your purpose. Challenge yourself to consider what else can be done to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

If you don’t feel like you have anything to look forward to, make a plan to change your circumstances. After all, “You and you alone are responsible for taking actions to create the life of your dreams,” as author Jack Canfield says. Envision the future you want, create a realistic plan to get there and keep that plan at the forefront of your mind whenever you feel down.

Leveraging excitement tied to near future events will not end in absolute disappointment as long as a plan is in place because nothing truly worthwhile or fulfilling is reaped passively. Knowing you have the possibility and potential of greater, meaningful things ahead if you can just get through a funk is an empowering thought. Hold onto it.

When you establish a positive event or experience, the anticipation reminds you that your single rut is miniscule in the grand scheme of things. When you pause to switch to the mindset of focusing on the potential of the future, you will be less likely to give in to daily setbacks and challenges because the future can serve as a counterweight. It’s also a reminder that you’re in it for the long haul.

Make it a habit to reflect on positive possibilities first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Commit them to memory. Focusing on positive outcomes stimulates a more productive thought pattern and mental process that drives efficient actions and behaviors. Write them down and place them where you can see them regularly—a journal, on your bathroom mirror or on a notes app. Posting your list promotes personal accountability so your goals don’t turn into passing thoughts that wither with a temporary mood swing.

Start small to make this habit easier to follow. Expand the list when you find your excitement snowballing. Relish in the anticipation of expected good things in your near future. Don’t forget that although moods and emotions inevitably ebb and flow, having breakthroughs during struggles allows you to better appreciate the value of engaging in meaningful experiences as they present themselves.

What potential do you have coming tomorrow, next week, next month, next year? What will reflecting on these possibilities do for you today? Write it down.

Andrew Banh (PT, DPT, OCS) is a physical therapist specializing in orthopedics

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Andrew Banh

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