Why Ruminating Hurts Success and How to Hurdle Those Thoughts (As Seen On Forbes )

(Click here for Forbes Article)

Fight or flight is the theory that states when we feel threatened we fight in the situation or flee. In prehistoric times, fight or flight was a survival mechanism and only those who were finely tuned passed this innate capability to their children. Without doing so, people became victims to predators. Survival of the fittest. This innate behavior has been since passed down over the centuries hardwiring capabilities into our brains.

As we discuss hardwiring of the brain, it is interesting to note that some studies have shown that women are more prone to rumination. Rumination is that thinking where we spend hours going over the same thing, again and again. Over the centuries, our brains have got really good at speeding up the fight and flight response. When we face stressors, our brain immediately has memories of when we were in similar situations. This day in age we are pretty good at managing our survival, but we still find ways to “hardwire” our brains. To hardwire our brains it takes repetition.

So, women are prone to rumination, what’s the problem with that? The problem comes into play when we ruminate on events that highlight our mistakes and flaws. Repeatedly thinking about wrongdoings is hardwiring the brain in a negative direction. Consistently thinking about what we do wrong is a blow to confidence and sure to enhance self-doubt. The truth is, what you think about yourself creates a perception of who we are to the world and how they view us. If you have ever sat back and asked yourself why people don’t respect you, or why people doubt you, this is a good opportunity to reflect on how you think of yourself and how those perceptions might be telling the world a story of who you are. During this reflection, if you observe that you have self-doubt, lack confidence or have fears it may be time to find ways to build up who you are as a person.

Here are 3 ways Rumination Hurts Your Success and how to Hurdle these Thoughts:

Ruminating hurts your present.

If you consistently reflect on the negative you are ruining your present. You are taking away the joy of today as you bring negativity to the here and now. Typically the negativity you are bringing to the now, is from your past or something that you can’t control regarding your future. When we ruminate negatively we encourage our minds to see more problems in the present. The way you encourage your mind to think today is a blueprint for how your tomorrows will be.

The Fix: See problems as opportunities. The best professionals or leaders, the people with the happiest personal lives, they cut the ruminating on all the problems and instead ruminate on how this hurdle could actually be an opportunity for advancement. They re-hardwire their brains to focus more on finding solutions and viewing setbacks (and we all have them) as learning lessons. Instead of ruminating on where you messed up, what you should have done differently, or how embarrassed, hurt or sad you are, ruminate on how to move forward, on solutions and alternatives. Ruminate on how you are now more equip with better knowledge and understating for the next venture.
Ruminating drops your confidence.

When you ruminate on your poor decisions or setbacks consistently, you decrease your confidence. Confidence is what you need to take your personal and professional life to the next level. Without confidence you can’t hurdle problems as effectively or take healthy risks for something that would lead to more life fulfillment. If you want to move up in your career you have to show that you can speak up for yourself and your team. You have to show that as much as you believe in your team, you believe in yourself. In the business world, leaders demonstrate confidence in themselves and their decisions in order to get people to follow them. Leaders take calculated risks. But to take a risk you need confidence.

The Fix: Cut negative ruminating thoughts with successes. The truth is, you have had more successes than set-backs. You may think that you have had more setbacks because that’s what you have highlighted for so long, but now try to rewire your brain by highlighting your successes. The more successes you dwell on, the more likely you are to increase confidence. List out 10 major life successes (you have them) and 10 small current successes (you have those, too). A major life success could be raising a beautiful family, getting that MBA, and advancing to management within your organization. Examples of small current successes will focus more on the day to day decisions you make that keep life going in a stable and positive direction. For instance, you decided not to take part in the office drama, encouraged your daughter to try out for the lead role in the school play, and got that gym membership finally. When you catch yourself ruminating on poor choices, you are to cut that rumination with more focus on your successes.
Ruminating keeps you in an ungrateful spot.

If you want to feel down, ruminate on all your problems and wrongdoings. When you brew on all the negative “you have created” and all the things “you have done wrong” you see a bunch of problems. You don’t see that you are healthy, your children are doing well in school and that you have an amazing career. Instead you focus on what you aren’t doing and what you still have to do. This ungrateful view of your life is likely to enhance strong emotions like sadness and anger.

The Fix: If you want to feel positive and happy with your life, look at all you do have and what you do right. Reflect on all you have. This list should consist of both materialistic and non-materialistic things. It’s okay to be selfish here. You worked hard for that dream car and that lovely house. But at the same time, don’t forget to add to the grateful list all the things you can’t necessary touch or visually see. For example, your health, your family’s health, the love you and your spouse share, the intrinsic rewards from being a mentor, your ability to give back to the community or that you have a strong level of willpower and self-control. Recognize that even if you had all you ever wanted, that when you got it all, you would still see the next mountain and desire more. It’s human nature to desire advancement and continuously growing. But, while you can shoot for the next level, don’t solely ruminate on all you don’t have and how much more you need. Keep yourself grounded, positive and grateful by ruminating on all you already worked for and now have.

As you ruminate on bad choices, mistakes or flaws you spiral your brain down into a self-defeating, self-bashing event that hardwires you into having negative perceptions about yourself and abilities. This thinking decreases your chances of advancing and feeling fulfilled in multiple areas of your life. Ruminating is a slow self-sabotage. There might be times when things just stink, and that is that. Maybe you did make a bad decision. But, don’t turn one bad decision into a lifetime of bad choices and do not think that one bad decision means that you are bad at “everything,” instead, learn from it and march on.

This week’s challenge:
Become aware of your rumination. Catch the negativity before you spend hours hardwiring your brain in the wrong direction. Begin to reframe your negative thinking in ways that will enhance your present, build your confidence, and keep you grateful.

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