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Phoenix Forward

It’s the thought that counts: 5 steps to becoming a positive thinker

Kris Plachy coaches leadership teams for the University of Phoenix

When life feels overwhelming, most people believe they need to make drastic changes in order to solve their problems. But ask life coach Kris Plachy and she’ll say, “Just change your thinking.”

A certified professional coach for executives at University of Phoenix, as well as for private individuals, Plachy recently wrote “Change Your Think,” a guide for managers. With step-by-step instructions for changing negative thought patterns, the book offers advice on how to channel your thoughts in a more positive direction. Here are five tips from Plachy to get you started:

1. Notice your thoughts.

“The most important part of the ability to think positively, is to notice what you are thinking,” says Plachy. She advises people to start by writing down their thoughts, just to figure out what’s running through their head all day. “Most people are not conscious of their thoughts, but it’s our thoughts that determine our feelings and actions, so it’s important to figure out what they are.”

2. Separate “facts” from “thoughts.”

“It’s critical to be able delineate the difference between a fact — something that is provable — and a thought,” says Plachy. “We spend most of our lives believing that our thoughts are facts. So if you believe for instance, that you are bad at math, which is just a thought, that might cause you to do poorly.”

3. Recognize that actions you take are a response to your feelings.

Plachy explains that our feelings always come after a thought, and it’s our feelings that determine the actions that we take. “If you have the thought that, ‘It’s too hard to go to school and raise kids,’ that’s going to lead to a feeling, such as feeling overwhelmed or sad.”

Finally, the actions you take in your life are a result of the feelings you have, she says, “and it’s from those actions that you get the results of your life.”

4. Find something different to believe that gives you power and possibility.

“If you want to change the results that you get in your life,” says Plachy, “you need to first change your thoughts. And you do that by asking yourself, ‘What else can I believe?’” Instead of believing a negative thought such as, “It’s too hard to balance work and family,” Plachy suggests that you find another statement that will be more empowering for you, such as “I’m making a difference for my family by getting my degree.”

5. Acknowledge that you have the power to make your own decisions.

Finally, says Plachy, recognize who is in charge of your life: You. Even if you think you’ve given up control, you really haven’t. “It’s very empowering for people to recognize that they are the ones who get to make the choices in their life, but this takes time,” concedes Plachy. “Negative thoughts are always going to float in and out of your head. You just have to pick which ones you want to feed.”

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