The Top 4 Mental Traps to Avoid
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As we strive toward our own personal growth and development, there are a few mental traps that we want to avoid. These are simply self-defeating thoughts and/or habits that tend to make us feel limited and trapped where we are at in life. As we will see from this article, our thoughts are very powerful, and human nature is all too frequently oriented toward negativity. That being said, we need to strive to cultivate the opposite qualities if we want to move forward in life - We need positive strategies.
Jumping to Conclusions
The first mental trap is jumping to conclusions. This is also known as making assumptions or over-generalizing. Many times in life when something happens to us we naturally assume the worse. For example when people like to tease us (a lot for some) we may feel like everyone is out to get us. Another example is when we get up and see a low balance (or negative) balance in our account because of some preauthorized transaction we forgot about). In the latter case we may have a panic attack and assume we are going to be homeless. However, if we just take a few minutes to bring ourselves back into the moment we may realize that everything is covered; mainly because we had the money in savings that we forgot about in the heat of the moment or that there is a paycheck coming that we will get in just a few days so all we have to do is stretch it.
Along with making assumptions and generalizing, another mental trap we tend to fall into that threatens our personal growth is that of making comparisons of ourselves to others. It is human nature to want what someone else has. In materialistic terms this is called “keeping up with the Jones’s”. Usually our desires are tied to something someone else has that we feel we need to be happy. The best way to overcome the mental trap of making comparisons is to be happy and content with who we are. That being said one good way to simplify our life is to only pursue things that we want for ourselves personally. We should only want something that benefits us personally.
Another mental trap that negatively affects our personal growth is high ideals and expectations. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful and have achievements in life, unless we set the bar so high that is feels overwhelming and actually impedes our progress. One example is the CEO who spent his life climbing the corporate ladder only to get to the top and discover the ladder was leaning against the wrong foundation - Isolated professional growth. In other words he worked his life away and neglected his social life and relationships, which left him feeling deeply unhappy and unfulfilled. Remember, no one ever came to the end of their life wishing they had spent more time working. While high ideals and expectations are good in and of themselves, we need to take time to be more balanced. One way to defeat this mental trap is to reward ourselves for the little things in life. The higher expectations may come eventually but there is wisdom in taking baby steps to get there; all the while celebrating each milestone that we achieve.
One final mental trap, and perhaps the biggest, is centered in our beliefs. Our thoughts are more powerful than we give them credit for. Therefore since human nature is oriented toward negativity, this can negatively affect our personal growth. For example if we believe bad things about ourselves, like we are bad people or evil, we will have a hard time loving ourselves. It is safe to say if we can’t love ourselves we will never be able to love another human being. This is why marriages don’t work, because we don’t take the time to get to know and love the person in the mirror. If our beliefs are causing alot of emotional distress then we need to change them by practicing positive affirmations to replace the negative thoughts. This is usually known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Psychology circles.
There you have four of the biggest mental traps that we tend to fall into and bring us down into a lower state of consciousness. Personal growth is focused on raising our level of consciousness up and overcoming any barriers that are keeping us from being successful in life. Remember we are all unique so success is different for each person. By focusing on ourselves and getting to know who we are and what we want, we will be less likely to compare ourselves to others that will leave us feeling frustrated. Right behind that is setting realistic expectations along with simple and smaller steps to get to our destination in life. Also we want to take note that life is a journey so we should enjoy every step we take in a process called mindfulness. Focusing too much on the future only produces anxiety and panic attacks, so remember to appreciate the present moment, and practice gratitude for the gifts in your life.
- Erwin Bishop