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How to Get Rid of Stinking Thinking

Q: I seem to beat myself before I ever get started. I catch myself trying to talk myself out of doing anything because of all the obstacles I see. And then I end up regretting not doing anything and get more and more frustrated. A friend of mine pointed this pattern out to me, but neither one of us knows what to do about it. What should I do?

A: I know what it is.

It's your stinking thinking.

Both of the thinking patterns you describe are examples of stinking thinking, or put differently, thoughts that are so unhelpful, they stink. Another way to think of them are as SDTs or self-defeating thoughts. The two that seem to be hanging you up the most are so common I even have special names for them: Mr. Yabuts and Ms. Ifonly Ida. Let's take a closer look at each of these patterns of stinking-thinking SDTs, and then how to change them.

MR. YABUTS

Mr. Yabuts rears his ugly head when we say something like, "YEAH, I really need to do that, BUT . . ." We can easily "yeah but" ourselves into inaction _ defeated before we even start. Yeah buts are self-defeating, but they serve a self-protective function. If you can convince yourself there is no reason to even attempt to do what you want, then you no longer face the risk of trying and failing. While this can protect you, it also cripples you.

Mr. Yabuts also shows up in the business world and serves as a good example of how to change this self-defeating pattern. Many times when a solution is offered, someone who will say, "Yeah, but . . ." This is followed by all the reasons the idea will not work. A useful alternative to "yeah, but" is "yes, and . . ." followed by a realistic listing of the problems and - here's the crucial part - a reasonable plan of action to deal with them.

In our personal lives, we typically say "yeah but" when we are dreaming about something we want, get scared, and then try to talk ourselves out of pursuing our dreams. Instead of stopping ourselves with "yeah buts," we need to ask, "and what is stopping me?"

The answer is usually ourselves. The same solution applies: Make a list of the obstacles and then create a reasonable plan to effectively deal with them.

MS. IFONLY IDA

Ms. Ifonly Ida shows up as a self-defeating form of regret, as in "If only I'd have (fill in the blank), then everything would be OK."

The purpose of healthy regret is to help us learn from our mistakes, not make the same ones over and over.

By focusing on the past, Ifonly Ida robs you of your present and future. Have you ever tried to drive your car looking only through the rear-view mirror? It's a silly notion, but it's how we live our lives when we get caught up in Ifonly Ida.

When you catch yourself using this particular brand of self-defeating thinking, stop and ask yourself some better questions, such as: "What can I learn from this situation?" "What mistakes did I make that I never want to make again?" "How can I use what I've experienced and learned to live better the next time I face a similar situation?"

These questions help you do two important things with past regrets: Make a place for them because they did happen and to not acknowledge them keeps you from learning from them; and put past regret in its place, which is behind you. Then you are able to live in such a way as to create few, if any, future regrets.

One way to avoid future regrets is to ask yourself, "How will I feel about this decision tomorrow, in a year, and at the end of my life?" Learn and then live so you have as few Ifonly Idas in the future as possible.

Mr. Yabuts or Ms. Ifonly Ida are bad enough each by itself. Combine them and you've set up a vicious cycle that keeps you stuck. Get rid of one of them, and you are doing better. Get rid of both, and you're on your way.

My suggestion is to kick both out of your brain, because they are taking up lots of room and not paying any rent.

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

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