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Do you think about the way you think? That sounds corny, but you get the picture. Most times we are careful to cast a muzzle on our lips to avoid hurting others by the things we say. However, we often fail to scrutinize the thoughts we have dancing in our heads.
We can harm ourselves and the people around us by the way we think. The thoughts we allow to occupy room in our minds can affect our map of the world and mental sanity. There is a “right” way to think and a “wrong” way to process our thoughts.
In this article, I share with you 5 examples of thinking errors that carry enough weight to crush mental growth and maturity. You’ll be amazed at how easily we sabotage our mental health without knowing.
5 Examples of Thinking Errors that Crush Mental Growth
These examples of thinking errors will help you spot mistakes in your thinking, and work to deal with them to accommodate mental growth.
1. Making a Tree Out of a Mustard Seed
Imagine delivering a discourse before thousands of people. Things were panning out as planned, but right at the conclusion, you fumble for words and mispronounce a few. You leave the platform defeated, scolding yourself about how stupid you were to mispronounce mere words. You’re convinced your observers think you’re an incompetent.
This scenario is a classic case of catastrophizing. Regardless of the minuscule nature of a negative event, you can’t help turning a mustard seed into a tree. This fissure in your thinking attracts unwarranted anxiety and adequate weight to dampen your self-esteem.
It’s a common thinking error that emphasizes insignificant mistakes. You take an innocent situation and blow it completely out of proportion.
How to Control Catastrophizing
Put your thoughts in perspective to avoid catastrophizing. Is fumbling over words that terrifying? Are people really that shallow to only remember the blunders you made, rather than important, life-changing points?
I doubt it.
Recognize that it’s natural to make mistakes and, even if you do, a simple fumbling over words doesn’t hurt anyone. Don’t create your own problems by worrying about what people think, especially when they may not even be thinking about your faux pas.
2. Myopic Thinking
Myopic thinking is having a one-sided, restricted view of things and the world at large. With this thought process, nothing is ever mixed or sprinkled with color, only black-and-white.
Let’s say you’re trying to make a few lifestyle changes, perhaps eat a plant-based diet to improve your health. Two days into your new diet, you cave in and bite into a tasty fried chicken drumstick. You immediately conclude that you’re a failure and you’ll never succeed at this lifestyle. Consequently, you go back to eating animal products, just because you had a small relapse.
This black-and-white thinking error prevents growth and progress. You hardly ever finish what you start, because you doubt your ability to do what it takes to succeed. A simple failure or mishap is all it takes to throw you off course and ruin a goal or plan.
How to Control Myopic Thinking
The “black-and-white” thinking error stems from having an unrealistic view of things and life. We all fail at a venture at some point in our lives and, not to be a party-pooper, but we’ll continue to fail at stuff. Failures are imminent, necessary commodities of life because they serve as avenues for growth.
View failures not as setbacks, but as new opportunities to approach a situation differently and avoid making the same error in judgment and action.
To overcome myopic thinking, it’s also necessary to glance at life in color and through a variety of lenses. You can fail at a task but later find success. Willingness to try again is important. See the “black-and-white” thinking error for what it is—a way to ruin your goals and efforts without allowing sufficient time for results to unravel.
Furthermore, develop the useful, healthy quality of patience. A patient person is willing to put in the work and wait to see the results. A patient person is also willing to give things another shot, in case the first attempt was fruitless.
3. Playing the Guess Game
Do you have an unhealthy habit of drawing conclusions? Before trying new things, do you already map out and conclude how things will transpire? Nothing is wrong with planning and preparing, but how about allowing life to unfold before your eyes?
“Fortune-telling” is a thinking error because all the predictions you make have this one thing in common—they’re mainly negative. Like the black-and-white thinking error, fortune-telling creates a mental block. You dread trying new things because you already conceded to defeat. You’ve already failed in your heart, even before starting.
Consider an example.
You receive an invitation from friends to a night of karaoke. You’ve always wanted to try but feel weird and awkward singing before others. You conclude that you’ll sound like a broken record and people will boo you (God forbid). Instead of accepting the invitation and enjoying a night of fun, you chicken out and stay home miserable and companionless.
How to Control Fortune-Telling
Great things happen beyond your comfort zone. As frightening as some things are, there’s always knowledge and experience to derive from the moment. Test out these predictions and allow things to reveal themselves. If you predict that you’ll fail, don’t allow that to prevent you from trying. Don’t allow your predictions to leave you immobile when you can put yourself out there and succeed.
Develop the habit of taking risks. None of us can accurately predict what the future holds, so avoid choking your dreams and aspirations when you could be living them.
4. Emotional Thinking
How often do you make decisions based on how you feel? Did you always gather the facts or are you guided by emotional reasoning?
Reasoning from an emotional level is problematic. Drawing conclusions on this premise isn’t always factual and may spawn trouble for the parties involved. There’s also the potential to cause personal embarrassment and rifts with others.
Let’s say your best friend doesn’t contact you for months. Instead of reaching out to discover what’s happening, you conclude that your friend has something against you and is being malicious.
How to Control Emotional Thinking
Recognize that your emotions aren’t a reliable map. How you feel about a situation doesn’t make it factual. Instead of acting from a subjective logic, go the extra mile to understand the entire picture. When in doubt, ask questions to form a reliable view of the situation, or avoid forming erroneous conclusions when information isn’t forthcoming.
Also, allow yourself time to settle your emotions. Never make important decisions when upset or emotionally unstable.
5. Making Commands and Giving Ultimatums
How do you relate with others? Do you put out requests and demand that they’re met? Do you make unreasonable demands of yourself without room for flexibility? Thinking in demands and ultimatums is a setup for disappointments and unmet needs.
As someone who would scale a wall for your friends, MUST they feel the same way about you? Not all your friends share the standards and outlook you hold. Sure, you expect them to treat you with respect and in a particular manner, but life won’t always concede to your demands.
Are you a firm believer that your friends SHOULD share every detail of their life with you? This thinking is a recipe for disaster and a setup for gross disappointments.
How to Control ‘Making Commands and Giving Ultimatums’ Thinking Error
Watch your language. Avoid using absolutes or words that put people in a tough spot. People love having choices. Issuing ultimatums puts people under immense pressure, which may blow up and escalate into something messy. As much as possible, avoid using words like “should have”, “must”, “need to”, “ought to”, and others.
Also, avoid setting standards by which others should play. People value independence, and that means setting and living by their own rules. Allow others to make their own decisions and avoid getting disappointed when they don’t align with yours.
The sooner you realize that people will do what they please, the better equipped you are to avoid emotionally charged situations.
Remember, thinking errors can be controlled. You can pummel your thoughts and lead them, rather than allow them to control you and negatively affect your mental growth.