Article: 4-Box approach to deal with negative thoughts at work

Life @ Work

4-Box approach to deal with negative thoughts at work

Mastering this system of dealing with negativity requires patience, self-awareness and lot of practice.
4-Box approach to deal with negative thoughts at work

“The way to overcome negative thoughts and destructive emotions is to develop opposing, positive emotions that are stronger and more powerful.” - Dalai Lama

Even the best of us have succumbed to our worst negative thoughts at least once. At the workplace, with all the stress of performance and results, we all become even more prone to negative thoughts. We all know such feeling and thoughts are counterproductive to our success. So how does one get over them and stay positive at the workplace? Let’s take a look within ourselves for an alternate approach to dealing with negativity.

Doing the prep work

The first step is to admit to yourself that you need to change the way you deal with negativity. Once you have that figured out, you need to prepare yourself to adopt this system. You would require - 

  1. 100% personal accountability of your actions
  2. No justifications - apologize without using "because", e.g. “I’m sorry I’m late because of traffic”

The 4 boxes

Whenever we have negative thoughts, it is because of 4 kind of thoughts residing in our mind. These are -

In order to deal with these, we must treat every situation as a human being. It could be an unpleasant conversation with someone, or when you need to make a tough decision - treat each of these situations as another human being you must interact with. Whenever you see yourself in one or more of these boxes, consider the following - 

  1. Other people are entitled to an opinion
  2. You might be an expert, but there is a small chance that you might be wrong sometimes

I'm better than...

When you consider yourself superior to people around you, you are trapped in this box. By doing so, you leave yourself open to conflict with them, close yourself off from acknowledging them and deprive yourself of the possibility of learning something new. 

Acknowledging your presence in this box will allow you to look at the situation with a fresh pair of eyes and correct your course as required.

If you were wrong, you learned something new. If you were right, you would be able to present your viewpoint better. You tackle the situation, not the person creating that situation.

I'm worse than...

Often, some incidents make us take another look at our own capabilities and leave us feeling inadequate for people around us. Realizing that you are within the confines of this box and then revisiting the derivations - everyone is entitled to an opinion will help you address this box. You must also realize that the opinion people have does not diminish your capabilities or expertise. Again, tackle the situation, not the person.

I deserve...

So, you put in the hard work to reach a reputable position and earned the title of an expert in your field. But you also end up believing that your expertise entitles you to certain perks and privileges, then you are within the “I deserve” box. When you feel entitled, you allow negativity to attack at its own will.

To eliminate this, you must realize that your expertise is not your privilege, but a responsibility, one that you must strive to improve with each step you take. If you stop learning, your expertise will stagnate and thus be rendered inefficient with time. 

I must be seen as...

When you allow success to take over your conscience, it manifests into your ego and won’t allow you to see when you might be wrong. You start to believe that whatever you do is always right, therefore you can never be wrong and must be seen as following your own advice. In order to successfully exit this box, you must first acknowledge your presence in it and open yourself up to opinions, advice and learning new things whenever possible.

In any situation, allow yourself to measure your behavior on one or more of these parameters and thus allow yourself to move towards amending your interaction with the situation, not the people. Measurement of behavior is not the same as judgement, even a self-inflicted one. The sole objective of measuring behavior here is to find avenues of self improvement, not self-incarceration. Mastering this system of dealing with negativity requires patience, self-awareness and lot of practice. Even if you find yourself fumbling in the beginning, don’t lose heart and keep at it. You will ultimately get around it.

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Topics: Life @ Work

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