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Plus or Minus: The Power of Negative Thinking

I consistently promote the idea of a positive mind-set, but today I want to start with the other end of the spectrum: negative thinking. To overcome negative thinking, we must embrace it — and that's not high on the radar for most of people who are striving for an effective fitness program.

When we make our New Year's resolutions, we can get pretty excited about everything we want. We want to lose 10 pounds. We pledge to exercise an hour each day. We vow to eat healthier foods. Specifying goals like this is an obvious first step. But how do we then ensure we reach those goals?

I make a list of what I would have to give up to achieve my goals. This sounds painful, but it helps me identify obstacles … and that allows me to develop a strategy for dealing with them in advance.

As obvious as it may seem now, it wasn't clear to me when I began that in choosing to lose weight and exercise regularly, I was agreeing to give up long-term habits and practices.

Now that I have more perspective, I can share examples:

1. Excuses: I cannot hide behind excuses when I haven't lived up to my goals and expectations. By acknowledging ahead of time that I would likely make excuses to continue old bad habits, I could anticipate the excuses. Now, those excuses have been replaced with results, whether perfect or inadequate.

2. Overeating: Like so many of you, this was at the heart of my weight problem. I replaced undisciplined eating with conscious eating. Now I pay attention to my choices and stop eating when I am no longer hungry.

3. Morning Schedule: I've given up starting my day by writing. I replaced this longstanding practice with an hour of exercise to guarantee that exercise isn't forgotten.

By analyzing the downside of proposed changes, you become aware of the benefits and costs — and that makes you better prepared to pay the price when decision making looms large.

Anticipating the negative influences and having a plan to deal with them is an essential tactic in the battle of the bulge. At what time will I be tempted to overeat? At what point will I be distracted from exercising? I'll still fall off track from time to time, but not as often as I would without my plan. And I'll recover my equilibrium much faster that I would if were flying blind and unaware of the next negative thoughts waiting for me.

To renew your commitment and start afresh: First, write your list of goals. Second, write what you would have to give up in order to achieve your goals. Then let me know how you do.

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