How To Change Negative Thinking and Be More Confident, Permanently

change negative thinking

In every single situation we experience in our lives, there’s the situation itself, and then there’s the story we tell ourselves about the situation.

Every single action we take (or don’t take) is a reflection of these stories that we tell ourselves.

For example, say you’re standing in an elevator and a beautiful girl walks in. You desperately want to say something, but you end up talking yourself out of it because the last time you tried talking to a beautiful girl you froze up, had a mini panic attack, and the few words that did make it out of your mouth made absolutely no sense.

Because of that one bad experience, now every time you want to talk to a girl you tell yourself that there’s no point in trying, because you’re probably just going to make a fool yourself again. So, instead, you stand there in the corner of the elevator silently kicking yourself for being such a wimp.

This is just one example, but how often do we do this, without even realizing it? We take one bad experience and extrapolate it to all future experiences. We let one bad experience convince us that there’s no point in trying, so we give up. And then we complain about feeling “stuck.”

But the only reason why we’re stuck in the first place is because we gave up before we even gave ourselves a chance to succeed.

The Fixed Mindset vs. The Growth Mindset

You’ve probably heard of the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

The fixed mindset says, “I am good at this,” or “I am bad at this.” It also says, “I’m not good enough… I just can’t change… This is who I am.”

The growth mindset, on the other hand, says, “Anyone can be good at anything. Skill comes only from practice.”

Everyone wants to have a growth mindset, but few people actually do. Few people actually believe—really, genuinely believe—that they are capable of achieving anything they set their mind to, so as long as they devote the necessary time and effort.

Most people will get a burst of inspiration after reading an article like this one, and for a short period of time—a day, a couple of days, maybe even a week—try to approach their life with more of a growth mindset.

But, as soon as they’re confronted with a difficult situation that requires them to act on that mindset, they fall victim to the same destructive stories and negative thinking they’ve always struggled with. And just like that, they revert back to a fixed mindset.

How To Develop And Maintain A Growth Mindset

So, how do you permanently maintain a growth mindset, eradicate negative thinking and be more confident?

“Just believe in yourself! Accept yourself for who you are!” – Every self-help guru ever

Not very helpful, I know.

Everyone talks about the importance of having a growth mindset, but no one talks about how to actually go about developing and maintaining a growth mindset.

Here are a few things that have helped me.

1. Knowing that lasting change takes time, prepare your mind for the long haul.

Any change that happens overnight will not last. On the flip side, the longer a change takes, the longer it will last. Viewing things from this perspective, you’ll be less likely to let small failures discourage you from continuing, because you know that failure is just a natural part of the process.

Success is the result of small intervals of improvement, over long periods of time. Improvement, no matter how small, is improvement. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel like you’re not improving fast enough. Constantly remind yourself that you’re in this for the long game.

2. Devote time to internalizing key learnings and new thought patterns.

Most people will hear something that makes them stop and think, “Wow, that’s SO true,” but then forget about it by the next day.

From now on, if you hear something that you know will help you, write it down and then do whatever it takes to make it a part of your every day thinking.

I recently listened to an amazing podcast interview with Tim Ferriss and Derek Sivers, and in it Derek talks about the reason why he started taking notes on every book he reads (he now has notes on over 200 books on his website), and why he’d go back to re-read his notes on a daily basis — because he wanted to internalize what he was learning. Not just learn it and forget it.

This is such a simple thing to do, yet no one does it. Here are some key phrases I’ve spent a lot of time internalizing over the last few years:

  • “Any attempt at action is better than inaction. An attempt can go wrong, but inaction inevitably results in failure.”
  • “You cannot change the outer event, so you must change the inner experience.”
  • “If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard, but if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.”
  • “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
  • “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
  • “Work hard; forget about the outcomes.”
  • “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
  • “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”
  • “Be confident enough to ask, but humble enough not to expect.”

3. Do little things to build your confidence.

Beliefs are built on experiences. This is why we extrapolate one bad experience to all future experiences. But, this is also why doing things that are hard, no matter how small and stupid they may seem, makes it easier to do more hard things.

A few examples of little things that can make a big difference:

Remember, beliefs are built on experience, and because confidence is nothing more than a belief– a belief in your own ability–don’t underestimate the power of doing little things to build your confidence.

No matter where it stems from, self-confidence will carry over into all areas of your life.

***

It isn’t easy to change negative thinking, but if you keep these things in mind (and devote some time to really internalizing them), you’ll slowly begin to change the stories you tell yourself, and that will change every thing. You’ll still hear your old stories try to creep in every now and then, but you will learn to ignore them, and eventually, they will disappear entirely.

In the mean time…

Do This

  1. Pick out at least one main idea from this post that “clicked” with you. Write it down in a note in your phone, and the next time you catch yourself thinking negatively, pull out your phone and read it aloud to yourself.
  2. Leave a comment answering this question: What’s a story you tell yourself (or used to tell yourself) that has prevented you from taking action? Alternatively, what’s one key learning or thought pattern that you’d like to better internalize in your life?

Image Source: picjumbo

About Stefano

Stefano Ganddini

Hey there! I'm the creator of Collegetopia and the guy who writes all these articles. I'm here to help you live BIG, do EPIC shit, & be HAPPY. Click here to read more.

Follow me: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

  • Tory

    Fantastic advice. I had trouble with this during my first semester at college. Keep up the good work sir.

    • Thanks, Tory! What do you think has helped you the most in dealing with this?

  • Aida Ganddini

    Great article. Taking notes from books read has helped me to ingrain the ideas in my mind, to where I can recite them by heart, those that have really made an impression on me and helped me. When I write something it does stay with me. Good advice!

    • I think that should be the goal — to know it so well that you’re able to recite it by heart. It might feel like work having to take notes, but if you read something and then just end up forgetting about it, you might as well never have read it in the first place.

  • Great article as always, Stefano! I have believed for many years in the long-term view of just about everything, and this past year I have finally begun this year to actually do it! Examples are: I always wanted to learn a second and maybe third language. I tried taking Spanish back in high school and I could conjugate after drills but I couldn’t hold a conversation. I finally got back to the basics of the psychology and realized that it took me years to learn English as a child, so not to expect to master a second language in a month or two. I also accepted the idea that the best way to not have to start over is to simply not quit in the first place. ;).

    I’m applying that to languages, as well as exercise and other things and it works, at least so far!

    • Love that last line — “the best way to not have to start over is to simply not quit in the first place.” So true! You can’t fail if you never give up :)

  • Hey Stefano,

    Let’s try this again lol. I really do resonate with this post.

    “Devote time to internalizing key learnings and new thought patterns.”

    Personal development is a double-edged sword in which you can get addicted to consuming information – even if it’s all good advice, you’ll be overcome by information paralysis. Semi-recently I focused on only getting information from a few sources, and this helped A LOT when it came to internalizing what I was learning.

    Find 3-5 sources of learning that are congruent with your vision and plans. Then unsubcribe from the rest! I used to have an inbox with 70 unread messages, and that was after clearing out 50 or so.

    And as far as past stories I used to tell myself, I used to be 220 pounds at 5’9″ and a shy kid. These days I hover around 170 pounds and consider myself an extroverted-introvert.

    In order to ‘rewrite’ the stories I’d tell myself, I’d focus on a new belief.

    “My name is Darryl and I am the leader of my social-life. If I choose to, I can be the life of the party”. Then I’d go and invite people to hang out, schedule a pre-game for an event, or something like that. I’d support my new belief with the action I just took.

    Then, if my old beliefs started to creep back, I’d think of the actions that I took which supported my newer, more positive belief.

    Like you said Stefano, lasting change takes time. But I think if you’re prepared for that, celebrate the progress you make, and not put yourself down for not yet being where you want to be, personal development will become a journey you’ll love and you’ll automatically adopt a growth mindset.

    One thing I’m focusing on right now is to feel urgency, the need to get things done yesterday instead of putting it off later.

    Again, great post Stefano!

    • Great points, Darryl! I’ve actually done the same thing with regards to only being subscribed to a few sources… but only after having gone waaay down the deep end of information overload.

      I read something recently, I don’t remember where, that said we should spend at least half of our time reflecting on, and acting on, the information we consume. Imagine how much more we would achieve if we all followed this principle…

      • Yeah that’s definitely important. I mean I believe the best measurement of results are the actions we take after absorbing everything.

  • Steve

    Oh man. I remember thinking to myself, “I should practice improv once a day to get better,” (I was in jazz band, I’m not talking about improv comedy). But my inevitable next thought would be, “Only one solo won’t make that much of a difference, so it’s really not even worth it.” As a result, I didn’t practice soloing nearly as much as I should’ve in high school. If I had done that, play one improvised solo a day, I would’ve gotten immensely better over my 3 years of high school jazz band. If only…

    I am trying to get into the jazz band at my university next semester though, so I’m going to start doing what I should’ve done in high school to prepare while I’m on break.

    • That thought, “what difference will it make?” is an evil thought. Makes it so easy for us to talk ourselves out of taking action. The good news is that you’re realizing now what’s best for your future, regardless of the past. Good luck, I’m sure you’ll get it!

      • Steve

        Thanks man!

  • Juan Mendoza

    This is great! The second part about taking notes on anything I’ve read I began doing earlier this year, but my issue was that I wouldn’t go back and look at the notes another day, so I’d eventually forget about it. My trouble is starting to exercise. I tell myself that it isn’t for me and I let my laziness get the best of me. I will work on that.

    • I have the same problem — I take notes but then I never go back to look at them again. The act of taking notes alone helps me remember what I read WAY more than if I didn’t take notes, but like you said, eventually I do end up forgetting still.

      Hm… everyone needs exercise. I don’t think anyone can say, “It’s not for me.” Your health depends on it. And even though it might suck in the moment, you always feel better after exercising. I used to work out a lot, but ever since my back started hurting I just completely stopped. And now I feel like shit. I can definitely notice the difference. One of my priorities in the coming weeks and in the new year is going to be to slowly ease into an exercise routine again.

  • Viki

    I always struggle with socializing and I keep excusing myself by saying I’m okay with the few friends I already have. The real problem is that I moved to another city – even country – for uni and i need to make friends here otherwise i won’t have any friends at all because skyping all the time is just not possible. I need to put myself out there much more and stop being afraid of being awkward. I don’t want to become lonely.