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Mindset & Perspective - What's Your Baseline Question?

You're probably thinking I'm talking about whether you are glass half-full, or glass half-empty, aren't you?

But I'm not. I'm talking about the thing you say to yourself to work out how you are doing and whether you are okay.

For example, one of my close friends asks herself, 'has anyone died or have I killed anyone today?'

Now, you might be thinking 'that seems like a pretty bleak baseline!', but I would argue that if that's what she considers a bad day then life is going to seem pretty positive. And if there's one thing I've learned about mindset from my years of studying positive psychology, it's that perspective is often key.

When something goes wrong and you feel like it's been a bad day, it is so easy to imagine that life is terrible and things ALWAYS go wrong. And when this happens, your mind helpfully dredges up all the examples (real or imagined) that 'prove this', leading to a spiral of negativity that can leave you thinking you have no control over your circumstances and your life. And that can leave you feeling stuck.

We often think in terms of 'always' or 'never' when we're having a bad day, which contributes to more negative feelings and these feelings affect our behaviour.

For example, if you feel like you'll never have a fulfilling relationship, you'll feel demoralised and lonely and you won't do the things that could help you find a new friend or partner. And even if you do meet someone, you'll probably tell yourself something always goes wrong. As such, you won't believe they could be interested in you and consequently your behaviour is likely to push them away.

Thankfully, our perspectives aren't permanent and sometimes they can be easy to shift. Having a simple (but profound) question you can ask yourself to reframe your perspective is actually a pretty good idea and can help you create significant positive change.

For some, asking 'Will it still be a problem in 6 months, or a year?' can be helpful. This allows you to think beyond the present moment and imagine whether you are likely to still be worrying about this in the future.

Answering the question, 'What am I missing out on because of this perspective?' can help you examine the consequences of clinging to limited, negative perspectives and can highlight the positive opportunities you may have missed because of it.

Asking yourself 'Who would be grateful to be in my position?' can bring tremendous perspective and allow you to identify all the aspects of your life you could be thankful for.

When you explore your answer to the question, 'If I knew I could overcome this, what would I do?' you are likely to shift into a solution-focused mode. This can help you rethink your options and identify new opportunities for personal growth.

Identify other examples by asking 'What evidence can I think of that disproves this thought?' This encourages you to tackle the negative thought head on and look for specific examples that prove it incorrect.

Other questions you could ask include;

  • What could I have done differently to get a better outcome?

  • Is my thinking fact or opinion? Is it a want or a need?

  • Will this matter one year from now?

  • What is the worst/best/most likely outcome here? If the worst did happen, how could I cope?

  • Is there anything I can do about this right now? [If yes, take appropriate action. If no, accept and move on.]

  • What would I tell a friend in this situation? [Perhaps follow this advice.]

  • Is the way I’m thinking helpful? Will it bring about positive change?

  • What are some other points-of-view? How might the other person think or feel about this?

Personally, as much as I like the question my friend asks herself, I think I'm going to stick to 'who would be grateful to be in my position?'

So, what question do you ask yourself to check how your life is going? Or what question will you start asking to shift your perspective?

Sometimes it's easy to get dragged down by automatic negative thoughts without realising it. Spotting when you are experiencing a thought trap is the first step towards overcoming them and improving your mindset.


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