Positive Problem Solving



Five Steps for Declaring Independence
from Negative Thinking

Stephen Kraus



  Identify your Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) and triggers.


Treat Problems as Opportunities




ANTs, such as "I'm a loser", "I'm unworthy" or "I fail at everything", are generally triggered by specific situations, so identify situations that upset you, and try to pinpoint your immediate reaction. After identifying your habitual negative thoughts, and the situations that trigger them, then recognize the negative effects your ANTs have. Your negative thoughts may trigger broader patterns of negative emotions, counter-productive behaviors, and additional negative thoughts.




②  Focus on managing your ANTs, not eliminating them.


Positive Thinking DOs and DON'Ts




ANTs are automatic largely because they have recurred many times over many years. So don’t expect them to disappear overnight. However, it is certainly possible to manage your ANTs, and although they might still occur from time to time, you can learn to prevent ANTs from spinning into downward spirals of negative thoughts and emotions.


"Cultivate contentment and serenity. Contentment is not a state of repression but a state of serenity that transforms the negative into the positive."
~ Rama Vernon




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  Observe your ANTs objectively.






This step begins with an insight from Buddhism: the inner monologue that has been cycling through your head since you learned to talk is not “you.” In a sense, “you” are the listener rather than the voice itself. As the listener, you can shape the nature of that internal monologue, and choose to listen to a more positive voice.


Buddha's Path to Liberation

Buddha on Happiness





Most importantly, you can learn to prevent that little voice – those isolated thoughts – from spinning into full-blown cycles of negative emotion and counter-productive actions.


Change Your Attitude from Negative to Positive




When an ANT occurs, try to observe it objectively. Just because you have "heard it," doesn't mean that you have to believe it, or give into it. Recognize that this thought occurred to you, and let it go.

If this technique appeals to you, you may want to explore meditation in more detail, as many meditative techniques are focused on this type of "impartial observation" of thoughts..





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④  Just stop it


Mind Ninja




Try carrying a 3x5 card with the word "STOP" written on it. When your ANT pops into your head, pull the card out and spend some time looking at it.


Internal Peace

Positive Emotions




Another alternative – wear a rubber band around your wrist, and snap it when your ANT occurs. This technique may seem simplistic and “self-helpy.” Certainly it is no magic bullet to eliminating your ANTs forever. But it will help you become more aware of your ANTs, the situations that trigger them, and most importantly, your ability to consciously prevent your ANTs from spinning out of control..




  Learn to argue with yourself.


Critical Thinking




Go on the counter-attack. Fight back against the negative thoughts by asking yourself a series of questions that will reveal the ANTs as false and counter-productive. Try asking yourself these seven kinds of questions:

Evidence: What is the objective evidence for this ANT?

Exaggeration: Is this ANT an exaggeration? Am I over-reacting? Am I over-generalizing?

Alternatives: What are some other possible explanations?

Flexibility: Can I evaluate this situation in more flexible terms? Am I thinking in overly rigid, black-or-white, all-or-none terms?

Utility: Is this belief empowering or counter-productive?

Comparison: How have others fared in similar situations?

Role reversal: How would I evaluate other people who performed as I did?






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