As we go about our daily routines, our internal monologue narrates our experience. Our self-talk is largely influenced by our underlying assumptions and beliefs and sometimes, our conscious thoughts aren’t necessarily accurate.
Our thoughts greatly influence the way we feel and the way we behave. Listening to and believing in irrational thoughts can lead to a variety of problems, including communication issues, relationship problems, and unhealthy decisions. Whether you’re striving to reach your personal or professional goals, the key to success often starts with recognizing and replacing the 10 common thinking errors .
We’re all prone to experience thinking errors sometimes. The most common thinking errors can be divided into these 10 categories, which are adapted from David Burns book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
Sometimes we see things as being black or white. Perhaps you have two categories of co-workers in your mind – the good ones and the bad ones. Or, maybe you look at each project as either a success or a failure. Instead of recognizing shades of grey, we can be guilty of thinking in terms of things being all good for all bad.
It’s easy to take one particular event and overgeneralize how it applies to other situations. If you failed to close one deal, you may decide, “I’m bad at closing deals.” Or if you are treated poorly by one co-worker, you might think, “People in this industry are not nice.”
3. Filtering Out the Positive
If nine good things happen, and one bad thing, sometimes we filter out the good and hone in on the bad. Maybe we declare we had a bad day, despite the positive events that occurred or we look back at our performance and declare it was terrible because we made a single mistake. Filtering out the positive can prevent you from establishing a realistic outlook on a situation. Developing a balanced outlook requires you to notice both the positive and the negative.
Although deep down we understand that we don’t really know what other people are thinking, it doesn’t prevent us from occasionally assuming we know what must be going on in someone else’s mind. When we think things like, “He must have thought I was stupid at the meeting,” we’re making inferences that aren’t necessarily based on reality.
Sometimes we think things are much worse than they actually are. If you fall short on meeting your financial goals one month you may think, “I’m going to end up bankrupt,” or “I’ll never have enough money to retire,” even though there’s no evidence that the situation is nearly that dire. It can be easy to get swept up into catastrophizing the situation once your thoughts become negative.
6. Emotional Reasoning
Our emotions aren’t always based on reality but, we often assume those feelings are rational. If you’re worried about making a career change, you might assume, “If I’m this scared about it, I just shouldn’t change jobs.” Or, you may be tempted to assume, “If I feel like a loser, I must be a loser.” It’s essential to recognize that emotions, just like our thoughts, aren’t always based on the facts.
Labeling involves putting a name to something. Instead of thinking, “He made a mistake,” you might label him as “an idiot.” Labelling people and experiences places them into categories. Often, these labels are based on isolated incidents.
Although none of us know what will happen in the future, we sometimes like to try our hand at fortunetelling. We think things like, “I’m going to embarrass myself tomorrow,” or “If I opened a business, it would fail within the first year.” These types of thoughts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you’re not careful.
As much as we like to think we don’t think the world revolves around us, it’s often easy to personalize everything. If someone doesn’t call back, you might think, “She must be mad at me,” or if a co-worker is grumpy, you might assume, “He doesn’t like me.”
10. Unreal Ideal
Making unfair comparisons about ourselves and other people can ruin our motivation. Looking at someone who has achieved much success and thinking, “I should have been able to do that,” isn’t helpful, especially if that person had some lucky breaks or competitive advantages along the way.
Once you begin recognizing thinking errors, you can begin working on trying to challenge those thoughts. Look for exceptions to the rule and gather evidence that your thoughts aren’t 100% true. Then, you can begin replacing those thoughts with more realistic thoughts.
The goal doesn’t need to be to replace negative thoughts with overly idealistic or positive ones, instead replace them with realistic thoughts. Changing the way you think takes a lot of effort initially, but with practice, you’ll notice big changes – not just in the way you think, but also in the way you feel and behave. You can make peace with the past, look at the present differently, and think about the future in a way that will support your chances of reaching your goals.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com