Wisdom//

These Phrases Will Help You Reframe a Negative Mindset

When you’re stuck in a “not good enough” headspace, changing what you tell yourself can completely turn things around.

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While it’s important to examine the unkind or inconsiderate things we say to others, our internal dialogue, too, can sneakily hold us back from unlocking our full potential. Oftentimes, countering a negative or “stuck” mindset starts with reframing what we’re telling ourselves. For example, a simple shift from “This is too daunting” to “I’m going to break it down and take the first step” can help us move forward and think positively.

We asked our Thrive community to share the phrases that help them counter a negative mindset, and we were so inspired by their go-to mantras that help them reframe their thinking. Try saying these phrases out loud the next time you feel stuck.

“I do not break promises to myself.”

“Whenever I think I cannot do something, I counter that thought with the mantra, ‘I do not break promises to myself.’ This phrase often helps me remember why I started, and why I want to accomplish the goal I’ve set. It also gives me a quick self-esteem boost because it serves as a reminder that I’m important and worthy.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO 

“Perspective counts.”

“To get myself out of a negative mindset, I always tell myself, ‘Perspective counts.’ I find that this phrase helps me remind myself what I’ve been through. It helps remind me that other difficult times have been difficult, and that I have attributes that surpass any denigrating self-talk. It can help you focus on what you’ve got going for you, instead of what you’re lacking.”

—Dr. Wayne Pernell, leadership coach, San Francisco Bay Area, CA

“Remember why you started.”

“As someone who is driven, I was nowhere near prepared for the pain of the disappointment from not achieving everything I wanted in life — before I learned that life’s about prioritizing what’s most important. One phrase that’s kept me going is, ‘Remember why you started.’ It helps me remember that life is one step forward, and two steps back.”

—Nina K. Billingsley, clinical therapist, Irvine, CA

“All I can do is enough.”

“My go-to phrase I say to myself when I feel stuck, overwhelmed, or like I don’t quite measure up is: ‘All I can do, is all I can do, and all I can do is enough.’ This simple reminder helps me get re-centered every time.”

—Emily Madill, author and certified professional coach, Nanaimo, B.C., Canada

“No darkness, no season can last forever.”

“A phrase that I think of when I encounter negative feelings when things don’t go according to plan is actually a lyric from a song by the South Korean boy band BTS. In their song ‘Spring Day,’ there’s a lyric that goes: ‘No darkness, no season can last forever.’ This phrase reminds me that there is a season for everything, and everything will eventually pass. I may feel that the weight of the world is on my shoulders right now, but it is just right now. Everything goes away.”

—Lily Low, student and blogger, Malaysia

“Keep going, keep learning, you’re doing great.”

“My empowering mantra comes from my six-year-old! I recently asked her about her inner monologue when she is tackling a challenge.  I have suffered from poor self-talk in my formative years, so I was curious as to what she said to herself when she is learning something new. She told me that she says, ‘Keep going, keep learning, you’re doing great. You just haven’t gotten there yet.’ This phrase is now, quite literally, my mantra for when I get stuck or down on myself.”

—Colleen Wtorek, business growth consultant, Vancouver BC

“I heard you, and I’ve got this.”

When I’m stuck in a negative mindset, I tell my inner critic, ‘I heard you, and I’ve got this.’ It works wonders to disarm and quiet the mean voice in my head.”

—Lisa Abramson, executive coach and mindfulness teacher, San Francisco, CA

“Your knowledge is just as valid as anyone else’s.”

“When I’m facing something new or run into a task that I don’t quite feel I’m capable of, I tell myself: ‘Your life experience and knowledge is just as valid and valuable as anyone else’s. You can do this.’ It can be hard to feel confident all the time, but I try to keep my internal dialogue on the positive side so I can stay motivated, even through the setbacks.” 

—Laura Spawn, entrepreneur and business owner, Eugene, OR 

“Samosas can always taste better.”

“Whenever I’m told that things must stay the same and don’t need improvement, I think of my favorite Indian food, samosas. Over the years, my recipe, which was originally my mother’s, has evolved and improved. I like to tell myself that something can be perfect at a given moment, but that improvement is always necessary.  Having this mindset is helpful when you struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re feeling stuck, remember that your favorite food can always taste better!”

—Ami Patel, non-profit professional, Philadelphia, PA

“I’ve had a lot of problems in my life, and most of them never happened.”

“Negative thinking clouds our perceptions and our behaviors. If we can put ourselves in a more positive forward state, we can reduce stress and make better choices. Sometimes, I find that simple word changes can have a powerful impact on mindset. For me, I have found a quote by Mark Twain to be the most helpful: ‘I’ve had a lot of problems in my life, and most of them never happened.’ It helps you reframe, and replace your ‘I have to” thoughts with ‘I get to’ thoughts.”

—Al Roehl, leadership coach, Lexington, KY

“List the facts.”

“I am a very rational person, so I need real hardcore evidence for me to convince myself out of the negative thoughts. Whenever I am having self-doubts, which happens a lot, I tell myself to make a list of facts that contradict my negative thoughts about myself. For example, when I think I am not qualified, I write down the list of what I have done successfully in the past to contradict myself. While I am writing each fact down, I realize how crazy I am when I am in the negativity zone. Afterward, when I read the complete list, my confidence grows right back.”

—Blair Bao, social media manager, New York, NY

“External appearance is irrelevant.”

“When I have negative thoughts, I tell myself the story of the lion and the elephant. The lion is the king of the jungle because of his mindset. He sees an elephant, who is much bigger and stronger and who could squash the lion with one foot, as his lunch. The elephant sees the lion as a predator. This story reminds me that external appearance is irrelevant. I find that telling yourself an inspiring story can shift your mindset and get you where you need to be.”

—Nadja El Fertasi, CEO and founder of EQ Coaching and Consulting, Brussels, Belgium

“Override”

“Whenever I am spiraling with limiting thoughts, I say the word ‘Override,’ and I interrupt the thought with whatever the next empowering thought that arises is. I have found that I have trained myself that when I think ‘Override,’ I instantly smile a little and think a happier thought, which changes the perspective of whatever I was thinking about or looking at.”

—Sara Joy Madsen, advertising executive, Brooklyn, NY 

“Reset, reset”

“This is a hack I use to interrupt any negative thinking. I say it out loud. It doesn’t matter where I am.  I could be in the shower or in the grocery store. When a thought comes in that doesn’t serve me, I stop it and reset my thinking by saying ‘Reset, reset’ out loud.”

—Dr. Wayne Pernell, leadership coach, San Francisco Bay Area, CA

“Heather, mean girls not invited”

“I named my negative alternate persona, Heather — yes, I’m a Gen Xer.  This way, any time I think negatively or start to believe I am unable to succeed at something, I just say, ‘Heather, mean girls not invited.’ This makes me laugh to myself so I can shake it off.”

—Jackie Ghedine, life and business coach, Bellmore, NY

“This is not permanent.”

“Sometimes I can get so intertwined in the day to day that I lose sight of the big picture. When I feel the little tasks and unpleasantries start to build and wear me down into an ‘I can’t do this’ mindset, I tell myself, ‘This is not permanent. Nothing is permanent.’ Once I remember my mantra, I feel stronger, more present, and able to see my life move forward once more.”

—Lillian McGuire, stay-at-home mom, Belmont, NC

“Stronger”

“I’ve been doing a lot of mindset work this year, as it was my hardest year ever and required constant resets. One of my coaches told me to come up with a song to play that makes me feel powerful, so I play ‘Stronger’ by Kanye West. The lyrics help me remember the time I conquered my first 5k, when this song was playing as I crossed the finish line. It always works for me!”

—Charlese L., virtual assistant, Los Angeles, CA

“You can’t eat an entire elephant in one bite.”

“When I’m feeling overwhelmed about tackling a big goal, I lean on a phrase my parents often used while I was growing up: ‘You can’t eat an entire elephant in one bite.’ It reminds me that taking one small step is all I need to do to get started. This mantra takes the pressure off hitting the giant, seemingly unattainable goal, and helps me focus on breaking it down into smaller, very attainable Microsteps.”

—Paige Lewis, professional development coach, Los Angeles, CA

“Why not? What’s my first step?”

“When I think I can’t do something, I ask myself, ‘Why not?’ and then ask, ‘What’s my first step?’ The process of examining the reasons why I feel I’m not capable of doing something often points to the very reasons why I am. It reminds me that everyone does something for the first time. How we approach doing those new things can shift us from discomfort to comfort. Those two questions help me take the first simple step to start building confidence.”

—Nadine Tanner, director of EssentialTECH Education, Nova Scotia, Canada 

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it.”

“I often set ambitious goals that require some long-term perspective, but an internal voice of doubt typically kicks in, telling me that my goal will take too long to achieve, or that other people achieved milestones at a younger age. Thankfully, one of my favorite quotes by Earl Nightingale always helps me revert to a positive mood and get started on the goal: ‘Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.’”

—Tahmina Day, corporate governance expert, Washington, DC

Do you have a go-to phrase that helps you counter negative thoughts? Share it with us in the comments!

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