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How to deal with toxic thoughts

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Since I can remember I have been a perfectionist and type A personality. This has some advantages, however it has the overwhelming disadvantage that the person from whom I demand most is myself. As a consequence I found my mind flooded with toxic thoughts. In this post I will focus on how to avoid or at least control them.

I believe there are three types of thoughts: productive, cleansing and toxic.

The productive thoughts are those that result in some type of action and generate momentum. For example “I will take actions A and B for result C”, “I feel good doing this, I will do it more”.

Cleansing thoughts are my favorite because they occur when we daydream, when we allow ourselves the luxury of pondering. They are the mind’s spa day.

And finally, toxic thoughts are more common than we would like, they are the ones that stop actions, generate or exacerbate negative feelings and cloud our judgment.

Before you can stop a toxic thought you need to acknowledge it for what it is. I have found that most of the times they refer to generalized statements which do not hold in reality. These sound like “I always fail”, “I am not good enough”, “People will laugh at me” etc. Another characteristic is that they tend to go around in circles: there is an outside trigger (like a new situation, a pending decision, an argument with someone), we issue the statement in our mind, then we try and find validation in the past or in our imagination only to magnify and repeat the same thing.

So how do we break the circle?

⁃ First of all, stop trying to validate the thought and start finding proof against it. This will happen fast enough especially if we are dealing with a generalization.

⁃ Focus on the present, what you are actually doing, where you are, what you have and be grateful for these things.

⁃ Write the opposite of what you are thinking down on a piece of paper and turn in into an affirmation.

⁃ If you are afraid of something, picture the worst thing that could happen and then make a plan of how you would handle it.

⁃ Remember, that everyone has these thoughts at some point in their lives, the trick is to control them.

To sum up, I recommend you look inside your mind and identify the toxic thought which comes up most often and prove it wrong. You can use what I listed or your own method. The next time a new one appears you will already know what to do.

Depending on the situation you are in and the type of thoughts you are having, there are also more advanced techniques that can be used. If you are interested in this topic, please leave a comment on this post.

How to clear your mind – a daily practice

Photo credits: Corina Negriuc

When I make decisions, I don’t like questioning them on and on. When I go about daily life, I want to live in the moment as much as possible, without drifting away on a thought or getting caught up on emotions. This is why having a clear mind is one of the most important things for me. It is like a basic need.

What does it mean? Imagine you are driving on a road for the first time, you have some idea about the destination, distance and time it will take you to get there, but you have no navigation system and you need to pay attention to road signs and maybe ask for directions as well. Now compare doing this on a sunny spring day versus doing it in pouring rain.

I do think that emotions are and should be a part of our lives. However, there are good emotions and bad emotions (some even toxic), depending on the influence they have on us. How we feel should be a consequence of what we do, not the other way around.

For example, if you make a decision in anger, disappointment or in another negative state of mind, it is bound to be flawed, clouded. The same is true for acting under the influence of excitement, butterflies in the stomach or wearing pink spectacles.

People feel. People also enjoy daydreaming. It was proven and makes sense that some daydreaming is healthy and actually contributes to generating ideas.*

For the reasons above I have made a daily practice out of taking 15-30 minutes to do nothing, think about whatever comes up, explore what I feel. When I come across an idea, I write it down. When dark thoughts emerge, I acknowledge them and accept them. I’ll welcome any overly optimistic view, but treat with skepticism. Won’t these thoughts come up all the time? Yes, but then I set them aside for latter and “ignore” them temporarily.

After getting enough sleep, taking the time described above is the most powerful tool for keeping a clear mind. It works 95% of the time. If there are serious issues to be dealt with, involving other people, then by all means don’t dismiss them as “negative thinking”. Telling the difference between toxic thoughts and actual problems is a skill worth developing as well. But this deserves its own post…

*) here are the links to a couple of articles on the importance of daydreaming:

why daydreaming is good for us

the benefits of daydreaming

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Pe ce să te concentrezi înainte de 30 de ani

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Când am împlinit 20 de ani aveam încredere că o să am succes și că o să fiu (mai) fericită decât eram atunci. Idei destul de vagi aş spune acum. Pe măsura ce a trecut timpul, le-am tot îndepărtat straturile superficiale până am ajuns la esență.

In restrospectivă pot să spun că sunt mândră de cine sunt azi și nu regret nimic. Iată pe ce consider că ar trebui să ne concentrăm resursele între 20 și 30 de ani:

1. Învățare continuă – acum este timpul pentru acumularea cunoștințelor specifice domeniilor de care ești interesat. Nu vorbesc doar despre mediul academic, ci și despre cultura generală. Citește cât poți de mult și, când se poate, călătorește și învață câte ceva despre istoria și oamenii locului.

2. Experiențe noi – am menționat și mai sus călătoriile. Pe lângă experiența culturală, acestea creează amintiri care îți vor rămâne dragi toată viaţa. De asemenea, încearcă lucruri noi când ai ocazia (sporturi, depășirea fricilor, ieșirea din zona de confort). Astfel îți vei consolida personalitatea.

3. Rețea de cunoștințe – Pe lângă familie și oameni foarte apropiați cu toții avem o rețea mai mică sau mai mare de prieteni și cunoștințe. Este important ca aceștia să fie oameni de calitate, de la care să înveți câte ceva și la care să îndrăznești să apelezi în caz de nevoie (de exemplu o recomandare la job sau sprijin în afacerea proprie).

4. Consolidarea unui stil de viaţă conștient – mă refer aici la definirea personală în tandem cu stabilirea modului în care te poziționezi faţă de lumea exterioară. Să îți cunosţi scopurile, slăbiciunile, de ce ai nevoie pentru un minim de fericire. Să știi să o iei de la capăt în cazul în care ai pierde tot. Să știi să te bucuri de fiecare clipă și să apreciezi ce ai. Să nu minți și să nu te minți. Să nu dai vina pe alţii sau pe noroc. Lista ar putea continua, te invit să adaugi ce înseamnă pentru tine să trăiești conștient.

La cele patru elemente de mai sus am lucrat cel mai mult, dar le consider importante și pentru că încă le dezvolt. Simt o motivaţie chiar mai puternică decât cea de acum 10 ani și îmi propun să o folosesc cât mai productiv.

Consider ca viaţa nu este doar o succesiune de etape și liste de bifat, este ceva ce construim și modelăm continuu. În timp ce planificăm și proiectăm este important să știm să trăim în prezent.

What not to do for succes

Photo credits: Corina Negriuc

I like to make plans and I like even more to see them through.

The human mind is extraordinarily complex and the mechanisms of our thought process make the difference between action and just an idea. Are you determined to do something?

In my view there are two fundamental elements that ensure successful transition from thought to action: a clear mind and favorable circumstances. Moreover, I think we can influence both or at least use them to our advantage (the case of external factors which cannot be altered).

Here are 5 methods to do so.

1. Don’t forget to do something for yourself everyday (take care of the way you look, of your health or just read a book). A strong personality needs to be nourished, otherwise it turns against us.

2. Don’t try to seem less intelligent for the sake of others. There will always be people around you that are less or more prepared than you are. Progress means wanting to be better and actually doing something about it. If other people don’t get it, it is their problem and not your responsibility to solve.

I’ll also mention the case when you may want to play dumb as part of your communication (better word would be manipulation) strategy. Do so at your own peril and be prepared to face the consequences.

3. Don’t take the little mean things personally (either intentional or not). If those around you chose to make use of they time in this way, you are either more important to them than you thought or they are having a bad day (or several bad days) and you can go ahead and feel sorry for them.

Winning the war is more important than winning the small subtext battles. I don’t recommend that you ignore them, it is important to acknowledge the malice in others in order to distinguish friend from ally of circumstance.

4. Don’t accept abusive or manipulative language. It may seem harmless (even just a bad joke), however, as I wrote in a previous post, words have tremendous power. If you feel you have to respond, do so, it is up to you how you do it, depending on context. Very often it is based on their words that we discover someone’s true nature, their intentions and how they position themselves in relation to us. Intimidation through language is very common, when another person tries to seem stronger.

And last but not least…

5. Do not compromise your image or work. Never, ever, no matter how tired or in a hurry you are or…insert favorite excuse here.

To many success stories!

The Power of Words

I like being straightforward and say what I think. I admire those who do the same. However this is not easy. I am constantly working to find the balance which assertiveness ensures.

One of my main beliefs is that you can tell what type of person one is and how successful they are from they way one communicates and expresses oneself.

Words have an immense power. They shape our image of the world, influence our mood, they can hurt and manipulate, but can also win hearts and open doors.

Say it out loud, don’t just think it. Measure your words so that they serve your plans, but don’t break any bonds.

How many times have you missed the opportunity to say some kind words ore give a compliment? Moreover, how many times did you say something in anger and then wish you could take it back?

All human beings wish to be happy. Whatever form happiness takes for them, they have this one thing in common. Once you acknowledge this, your thoughts are open for a deeper understanding of the world. Sounds like a bit too much? Maybe, but there are too many times when inferiority or superiority complexes stand in the way of an open and successful communication.

There are countless rules for communicating, but here are the ones which I have found most effective and use most often:

⁃ see yourself as the peer of the person you are talking to (not superior, not inferior either).

⁃ speak respectfully (to the other and to yourself as well) and show understanding.

⁃ if you start getting aggravated/emotional and you know this will affect your discourse, take a deep breath or take a break.

⁃ avoid generalizations (like “you never do this or that”) as they are most likely untrue.

To your fruitful conversations!

Note on the picture: it is of a drawing I made, called “Freestyle in Watercolor”

Ce să nu (mai) faci pentru succes

Photo credits: Corina Negriuc

Îmi place să fac planuri și îmi place și mai mult să le realizez.

Mintea umană este extraodinar de complexă, iar mecanismele gândirii fac diferența între a acţiona sau a rămâne doar cu ideea. Ești sau nu hotărât să faci ceva?

Consider că sunt două lucruri de bază pentru a trece cu succes de la gânduri la fapte: o minte limpede și circumstanțe externe favorabile. De asemenea, cred că avem puterea de a le influența pe ambele sau măcar de a le folosi în avantajul nostru (când e vorba despre factori externi pe care nu îi putem schimba).

Iată mai jos 5 metode care ne ajută în acest sens.

1. Nu uita să faci ceva pentru tine în fiecare zi, oricât de mic (de exemplu: îngrijirea aspectului fizic, a sănătății, cititul). O personalitate puternică are nevoie să fie hrănită, altfel se întoarce împotriva noastră.

2. Nu îți reduce inteligenţa pentru confortul altora. Întotdeauna vor fi oameni mai slab, dar și mai bine pregătiți decât tine. Progresul înseamnă să vrei să fii mai bun și să faci pași în acest sens. Dacă alții nu înțeleg asta, e problema lor și nu e responsabilitatea ta să o rezolvi.

Menţionez aici situația în care îți dorești să faci pe prostul/proasta ca parte dintr-o strategie de comunicare (eufemism, merge mai bine manipulare). Dacă faci asta, trebuie să fii pregătit să gestionezi consecințele.

3. Nu mai lua personal micile răutăți, fie intenționate, fie nu. Dacă oamenii doresc să își ocupe timpul cu așa ceva, înseamnă că fie ești mai important pentru ei decât realizezi, fie au o zi/mai multe zile proaste și nu poți decât să îi compătimești.

Contează să câștigi războiul, nu micile bătălii inițiate din cuvinte cu subînțeles. Nu recomand să le ignorăm, e bine să fim conștienți de maliţiozitatea celor din jur, să știm cine e prieten adevărat sau doar aliat de circumstanță.

4. Nu accepta limbajul abuziv sau manipulator. Acesta poate părea inofensiv (poate chiar glume de prost gust și atât), dar, cum am spus într-o postare anterioară, cuvintele au o putere foarte mare. Dacă simți că trebuie să spui ceva ca răspuns, spune, depinde de tine și de context cum o faci. De multe ori, în spatele cuvintelor, descoperim natura unei persoane, precum și intenția și felul cum se poziționează faţă de noi. Intimidarea prin limbaj este o tactică des întâlnită, prin care o persoană se poziționează ca fiind mai puternică.

Şi nu în ultimul rând…

5. Nu îți compromite imaginea și munca. Niciodată, nici dacă te grăbesti, nici dacă ești obosit, nici …inserează aici scuza ta preferată.

Succes!

Bubbles

Did you ever get the feeling you are living in a bubble? Everyone around you mostly agrees with you, likes the same movies, has the same dream holiday and buys clothes from the same stores. Until one day you wonder where did everybody else go.

This pretty much sums up our virtual life on social media. Algorithms make us comfortable.

The term “filter bubble” was coined by Eli Pariser in 2011 (listen to his TED talk here) and has since sparked debate on the ethics behind tailoring our search results and news feed for us, implicitly, not explicitly (meaning not by direct choice when we set up our accounts). Are people blinded by their own past choices and clicks? Or is this a matter of self-inflicted isolation?

One can argue and prove that algorithms have a minimal effect on what information people are exposed to (like the study “Burst of the Filter Bubble? Effects of personalization on the diversity of Google News”, by Mario Haim, Hans-Bernd Brosius and Andreas Graefe). The fact still remains that what you don’t know, doesn’t hurt you (directly at least). The bottom line is that companies make money and political parties get ahead while using social media and search engines. You can’t really blame them, that’s their goal. The problem arises when this happens using false information and manipulating the truth.

People will by default like to be in circles similar to themselves and yes, they benefit from a personalized web, to some degree. The matter leaves us with one important task: to open our eyes, practice awareness and have a filtering algorithm of our own.

The ones who manipulate information and data to their benefit are waiting for an audience. Do yourself a favor and skip that show.