I remember when I learned there was a technical name for it.
Making “negative predictions”.
Expecting not to enjoy a party, check. Expecting to feel too tired to exercise, check. Expecting that your boss won't like an idea, etc., check, check. They oozed out so naturally that I never really took the time to think about them.
Saying I was prone to “negative predictions” was an understatement. I thought them ALL the time. But I always thought that that was just me. My personality. Just the way I was.
In my defense, it wasn’t like I was a Debbie Downer. As a matter of fact, my friends and coworkers would have been shocked to learn of this personality trait of mine.
Well, as it turns out this is pretty common.
And as it turns out, we're not up a creek without a paddle.
Negative predictions are highly treatable because they are simply habits. (They are not a part of our DNA.) And like all habits you want to stop, a plan and practice is your ticket outta there.
So here is your three step plan:
Recognize that “negative predictions” are a real thing. They happen to the best of us, even if we aren’t total grinches. So, kindly acknowledge it is a habit you’ve gotten into and move to step 2.
Notice when you are doing it. Make a game out of it. A point for every time Negative Nellie (or Ned) comes out. Five points for every time you predict you’re about to make a negative prediction. Extra points for the “meta” expert level of difficulty.
Switch your focus to something else. Something concretely in the present. The key to disrupting any habit is, well, disrupting it. In order to do that you have to turn your attention to something else and let the old thought or feeling move on by.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have moved past the negative prediction. It is important to note that you are not trying to insert the opposite (Positive Paula), and you aren’t trying to rationalize why you shouldn’t think negatively about this or that. Life is too short to substitute ineffective habits for bad habits.
By consistently using the 3 Step Plan above, you will create new neural pathways and see your negative predictions start to diminish.
Okay, that explains the how but why is it that important to do so? "After all, it's not the worst habit I could have?" I hear you asking. Well, actually there's a bit more to the story, it doesn't end with the prediction.
You see, the brain looks for hits and not misses. By that I mean, the brain looks for information to support what it thinks. And the brain is pretty much oblivious to information that challenges what we think. So, if we are in the habit of predicting the worst, we have almost sealed the deal that that will happen.
Our brains look for hits and not misses.
"But I'm just being a realist!" I hear you state emphatically. Well, actually, I can't really argue with you there...but not for the reasons you think. You are being a realist because your thoughts play an enormous role in creating your reality! So I won't bet against you on that.
What I will bet on, however, is that if you start becoming more aware of your negative predictions and shifting your attention away from them you, few if any will come true!
Let me know your experience with negative predictions and how they work for you.