Your thoughts not only affect your emotional state, but also influence your behavior. When you think positively, you'll likely feel better and perform better. When you think negatively, that despair will be reflected in how you feel and behave.
Everyone experiences unhelpful, unrealistic, and exaggeratedly negative thoughts at one time or another. Allowing cynicism to become a habit, however, will limit your potential. No matter how much talent or experience you possess, if you can't gain control of your mind, you'll never achieve great things, because you can't reach the next level unless you believe you're capable of accomplishing more.
That's why sport psychologists work with aspiring Olympians and other elite athletes to help them eradicate the negative self-talk that interferes with their ability to perform. But it's not just athletes who can benefit from changing their mindset: Learning to think productively can help you as well. Learning to recognize the thinking habits that rob you of mental strength is the first step in changing your mindset. Here are six bad mental habits that will sabotage your success.
1. Making excuses.
Blaming other people or external circumstances for your lack of achievement harms your performance. Saying things like, "My boss is holding me down," or "All this paperwork makes it impossible to do my job" will only keep you stuck.
Stop making excuses: Focus on all the things you can do rather than on what you can't. When you pay attention to the positive, you'll put more effort into your performance.
2. Catastrophizing the future.
Negative predictions easily turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. If you step up on a stage to deliver an important speech thinking, "I'm going to mess everything up," you'll be distracted—and that distraction may cause you to forget the words.
Stop catastrophizing: Unless you're creating productive plans to deal with potential worst-case scenarios, don't explore "what if?" questions. Predicting disastrous outcomes will cause a spike in anxiety that could cause you to choke.
3. Seeking approval.
Your attempts to gain approval from others could backfire. Trying to decipher how an interviewer is perceiving your answers, for example, could cause you to stumble over your words. Worse, thinking about the other person's response could cause you to tune out the conversation altogether.
Stop trying to gain approval: While it may sometimes be important to gauge your audience's reaction—like in the middle of a sales pitch—every second you spend seeking reassurance is a second you aren't focused on the task at hand. Keep the focus on doing your best and recognize that you can't control how other people respond.
4. Believing self-doubt.
Insecurity can kill your dreams. If you walk into an interview thinking, "I'll never get hired," your self-doubt will shine through and you'll be less likely to land the job. Rejection will only fuel your self-doubt and create a negative cycle that's hard to break.
Stop doubting yourself: Create a list of your skills, talents, and achievements. Read the list regularly and when you're plagued by self-doubt, remind yourself of all the reasons you're "good enough."
5. Putting yourself down.
It's impossible to perform well when you're telling yourself "You're stupid" or "You can't ever do anything right." Negative self-talk will discourage you from putting in your best effort and it will drag you down fast.
Stop the put-downs: Talk to yourself like a trusted friend. If you wouldn't use such harsh words with someone else, don't allow your inner critic to say them to you.
6. Second-guessing yourself.
While reflecting on past choices can be healthy, second-guessing each choice you've made make will impair your performance. Questioning whether you said the right thing, or second-guessing your choice in attire for a cocktail party, wastes a lot brain power.
Stop second-guessing yourself: Practice mindfulness so you can learn how to be fully present in the here-and-now.
Want to learn how to get rid of the things that are holding you back in life? Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.
Sign up for my eCourse and learn how to start building mental strength today.
This article first appeared on Inc.