In that race, just like in all marathons I have run, I have a goal of eliminating negativity that can set in during the race. Running 26.2 miles can take a long time – for me, it will take a little over 3 hours. And when you are pushing your body for that long, the automatic negative thoughts creep in.
That is, ANTs for short.
Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs, happen automatically. We don’t always choose our thoughts. But our thoughts determine everything we do.
Our thoughts are the most important factor in our success or our failure. I can make this bold statement because everything we do starts with a thought.
Here are 4 examples of ANTS that get in the way of our success:
- Focusing on the Negative in a Situation – This happens when we see only the bad in a situation and not the good. For example, you receive feedback from your boss, and only focus on the 1 or 2 comments that were negative.
- Labeling – This happens when we attach a negative label to ourselves or others. Such as “I am such a terrible shortstop….I am miserable mother…He is such a jerk.” The problem is that we lump ourselves or another into a category and we start generalizing.
- Guilt tripping – Guilt happens when we use words like I should, must, have to, or ought to. Such as “I ought to spend more time at the office….I should spend more time on my homework…I must spend more time at home.” Guilt can be counterproductive because it creates a resistance to do what we need to do.
- Blaming – This happens when you blame someone else for your problems. This is the most dangerous and poisonous ANT. Blaming is called a red, fire ant. Examples include: “It’s your fault that….This wouldn’t have happened if…”. When we blame others for our situation, we become powerless to change the situation.
If you see ants in your kitchen (I mean the real, live ants this time), would you let the ants grow and multiply? I doubt it.
When I see an ANT in my kitchen, I stomp it quickly. That is what we must do with our ANTs in our mind.
I encourage you to follow this 4-step process to stomp your ANTs.
- First, recognize the ANTs. The first step in high performance – in you reaching your best – is always self-awareness.
- Second, recognize that a thought is just a thought. That is all. We don’t have to believe our thoughts. When we recognize that some of our thoughts are automatic, we start recognizing that we don’t have to believe each thought.
- Third, challenge your ANTs. Provide evidence on why that thought is not accurate or true.
- Last, replace your ANTs with powerful, productive, and positive statements that give you the best chance of success.
Here is an example of how I used this 4-step process this morning.
I thought… “I am in terrible shape and am going to crash and burn at Grandma’s.” I recognize this was just a thought and I don’t have to believe the thought. Then, I challenged the thought. “Remember that 20+ mile run you crushed a few weeks ago. You will do amazing. You are a talented, fit, and incredible runner.” I felt much better after stomping this ANT. And I was able to keep running and pushing myself during my run this morning.
My challenge for you today:
Don’t let your ANTs grow and multiple. Recognize you don’t always choose your thoughts. But, you don’t have to believe your thoughts. You don’t need to let the negative thoughts impact you.
An important part of your success is recognizing that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear – especially in your own mind.
Instead, follow the 4-step process and stomp your ANTs. Just like in your kitchen, address the ANT right away and you will be on your road to success.