3 Instinctive Thoughts You Must Stop to Discover Your True Potential


When you want to start a new project or begin work on a new goal, perhaps for something related to your job, is your first natural reaction to think you are capable and ready to get started? As an educator and career coach, I’ve found the natural reaction for most people is one of questions and doubt. The natural instinctive thoughts are related to fear and questions about capability and capacity.

When these instinctive thoughts begin, it sets the stage for feeling a sense of being limited and at risk for failure. Rather than working from a sense of empowerment and working towards the true potential a person has to learn, when new tasks prompt developmental growth, a person remains stuck in doubt. Yet if you can be on alert for instinctual patterns of self-doubt, it is possible to create a new set of empowering thoughts.

The Origins of Instinctive Negative Thoughts

Why is it the default setting for many of us, when it comes to questioning our ability to complete a task, is to think we cannot or may not be able to accomplish it? Why doesn’t the default thought process begin with a resounding yes? Perhaps it has something to do with being told to be cautious as a child, or being told only those who look and act in a certain manner are able to accomplish any task. It is not always easy to pinpoint the cause and yet it exists, a lack of self-trust in an ability to begin a new project, task, goal, or something similar, without having some form of doubt about being able to complete it.

Consider the last time someone in your workplace asked you to take on a new role or job duty. Did you automatically feel capable of performing what was required? Or if you were asked now, would you feel capable of seeking new work or additional responsibilities based upon your capabilities? The answers to those questions will help you understand what your instinctive thought patterns are and what you need to address. You may not know exactly how those thoughts began, or even how those thoughts have become sustained, but now you will know of their existence. What most people use as the basis for what they believe about themselves, as to what they are or are not capable of at any point in time, are the negative events which have occurred in their career.

What happens is those persistent or instinctive thoughts eventually become an engrained belief. Then any negative occurrences become evidence to support those thoughts about an inability to do something, rather than using it as feedback. Every person is capable of learning new skills and new responsibilities but it depends upon your thought patterns as to whether or not you will follow through with it. If you will believe in your own capacity to learn, and develop it as a practiced habit of thought, you will create it as a belief.

Instinctive Negative Thought Patterns

For those who have not practiced a pattern of thinking positive thoughts about their ability to perform well, they are going to find themselves stuck with recurring negative thought patterns. Every time there is a new challenge, the default thought is negative. If there is praise from anyone, be it a supervisor or co-worker, there might be temporary happiness but in the long-term, negative thoughts will always surface. All it will take is for someone to disagree with them or challenge them in some manner. Developing positive thought patterns requires time and practice, and more importantly, a strong sense of self-trust and self-belief.

3 Instinctive Thoughts You Must Stop to Discover Your True Potential

Instinctive Thought #1: I Can’t.

How many times has this come to mind? To change this thought, answer the question. Face it head-on. Why can’t you? What that does is to take the fear out of the question and give you back your control. You learn that even in the worst case, there are many ways you are able to find a way to turn this into an “I Can” situation.

The more you practice this technique, the more likely the instinctive thought will eventually become, “I Can”, as you know those words mean “I Can Be Prepared”, “I Can Learn”, and so many other similar statements. As you try it and find out it is true, you will repeat it enough times for it to become a belief.

Instinctive Thought #2: I’m Afraid.

This is another powerful statement which can derail a person’s progress and limit their potential. I recommend the same approach as the first negative thought, face it head-on. Why are you afraid? What are you afraid of now? Use fear as a means of becoming prepared, not as a statement to make you want to run away from whatever task you have in mind. Yes, you may be uncertain about the outcome of a project or task. But what you can rely upon is yourself and your capabilities.

You can use any sense of uncertainty to ask questions, obtain information, and allow yourself to become fully prepared. You can even imagine the worst-case scenario, if this helps, to help remove any sense of fear of the unknown and become prepared for the ultimate outcome. The point is to become proactive and face fear in a positive manner to change the instinctive thought into a positive perspective.

Instinctive Thought #3: I Don’t Know How.

Many people believe they cannot admit they do not know how to perform a task or some aspect of their job. Perhaps they are supposed to be the subject matter expert, the skilled expert, or they were hired because of their knowledge. This is a common myth as I have yet to find an employer that expects an employee to know all processes and procedures, and hold all knowledge, or every aspect of their job. It is better to ask someone for help or assistance than to ignore it and hope it is never discovered.

If there is something you need to learn, this is an opportunity to grow in your position or profession. The point is to believe in yourself and face instinctive thoughts from a positive perspective. Just because you do not know something does not mean you are going to get fired (I understand there may be exceptions), it means you should view this as the learning opportunity it provides. This will help you to develop a positive instinctive thought process.

Discover Strategies to Create Positive Thoughts

Even with the development of positive thoughts, you may have moments when you experience uncertainty and fear. The best strategy is to address it as soon as you experience it. The feeling you have is an indicator of what you are experiencing and if you allow it to continue it may turn into frustration, which can show up in your job performance.

Tell Yourself, It’s Okay to Feel:

For those of us who practice the development of positive thoughts, there are going to be times when fear or negative thoughts come up. If that occurs, what do you do about it? It’s as simple as telling yourself not to worry as it is okay to feel. You are a human being and it is not possible to eliminate negative thoughts completely. Even the seemingly happiest person you know can be experiencing moments of pain and fear. It isn’t a matter of what is felt, it is a matter of how you respond to those feelings. When you feel any form of negative thought, process it in the same manner as described above by facing it head-on. Don’t deny it or hide it. Acknowledge it and move on. There are many things in life you cannot control, from people to circumstances, and you are going to experience reactions at times which are less than perfect. When you do, acknowledge those reactions and get back to thinking positively about yourself.

Be Inquisitive:

Developing positive thoughts is about a practice of eliminating naturally negative thoughts. To do this, using the strategies provided above, you will find it helpful to become inquisitive. If you experience fear, you question why you are feeling this way and what it is you are afraid of either now or in the future. If you believe you cannot start or complete a task, ask yourself questions to probe further. In other words, never accept those negative thoughts as the final answer. The use of questions is the best way to explore, probe, and disarm negative thoughts.

Develop New Habits of Thought:

Don’t wait for negative thoughts to arise. It is time to develop positive thoughts about yourself now. For example, decide today that if you are given a new task or project, you will be ready for it. You will be ready for it because you will know to ask questions, you will determine what you know and what you need to learn, and you are aware of your capacity to learn and grow. You feel confident in your ability to take on new assignments and look forward to watching yourself prosper. As you continue to think these thoughts, watch what happens. These thoughts will become your personal beliefs. These beliefs will carry over from your career into your personal life as well. You will transform all aspects of your life simply through the power of positive instinctive thoughts. Instead of being fearful or doubtful about taking on new goals or projects, because you might fail, you will now see yourself as someone with potential, capacity, and an ability to succeed.

About Dr. Johnson

Dr. Bruce A. Johnson has 35 years of experience teaching and training adults. The first half of his career was spent in the field of Corporate Training and Development, with his last role as Manager of Training and Development.

Then in 2005, he made a transition into the field of distance learning. Over the past 19 years, he has been an online instructor, Faculty Development Specialist, Faculty Director, Faculty Development Manager, and Dissertation Chair.

Dr. Johnson is also an inspirational author, writer, and educator. His life mission is to teach, mentor, write, and inspire others. He has earned a PhD in Postsecondary and Adult Education, a Certificate in Training and Performance Improvement (TPI), a Master’s in Adult Education, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

As a scholar practitioner, Dr. J was published in a scholarly journal, and he has been a featured presenter at an international distance learning conference, along with presenting at three faculty conferences. He has also published over 230 online articles about adult learning, higher education, distance learning, online teaching, and mindset development. Dr. J published three books related to higher education, including two about online teaching.

Getting Down to Business: A Handbook for Faculty Who Teach Business.

Transform Adult Education: Expert Teaching Strategies for Educators.

Transform Online Teaching: Expert Strategies and Essential Resources Every Educator Needs.

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