6 Toxic Thought Patterns That Cripple Us

6 Toxic Thought Patterns That Cripple Us

Oftentimes my clients tell me that they are willing to do whatever it takes to make a shift in their business. But, many times they hate it when they discover that they may be part of the problem in why the business is not functioning at the desired level.

They needn't feel bad because they are not alone. We ALL suffer from this stuff. I could easily say that 99 percent of everyone I have ever coached had some mindset or thinking problem (toxic thought patterns) that was causing some kooky stuff in their business. Mindset can absolutely make or break our success. In this post, I want to share a concept called cognitive distortions that has been around for a long time. Basically, that means 'stinking thinking!

In 1989, psychiatrist David Burns wrote a book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. His target audience was people suffering from anxiety and depression and wanted a non-drug alternative to learn how to manage their minds and moods better. He shared a list of "cognitive distortions" which showed where the thinking was causing pain, confusion, concern, and taught a process for how we could shift that. Many people now use 'cognitive therapy' with great results due to his ground breaking work.

thinking-womanBut how does this relate to your business? Well, as I said before: If you have a business and a pulse, you are likely making some of the distortions listed below. I will point out what it is and a suggested way out of it. I often have to shift to mindset coaching because the first place that most business owners look when they are not receiving the desired business results is outside themselves. People spend thousands of dollars on web design, marketing, coaching, etc. and NEVER get where they want to be. Not that all of those things are not crucial in business…they are. But they were not looking in the right place.

Want to learn if you are guilty of any of the thinking patterns that are keeping you stuck, small and/or/broke? We will start at mindset.

The following list is taken from Dr. Burns' book and I will put the business spin on it. Dr Burns' words are bolded and my are in italics.

All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you may see yourself as a failure. 

That means that if you lose a client, you ONLY focus on the negative. A new client recently told me about four clients who left her practice. She had assigned a very negative meaning to that. I asked her to look at the perfection in it. She finally saw that those people were not really ideal for her, she was taking on their negative 'stuff' and that by releasing them and getting CLEAR about who she would only be willing to work with, she quickly shifted her thinking.

Over-generalization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

Let's say you call a prospect and they say 'no' to you. This distortion sounds like, "I can never sell a thing! No one will ever buy…." The way out is to isolate the incident as just that–ONE incident. Watch out for any future-based thinking projections of how things will never turn out right.

Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water. 

I had a client who always compared herself to the seven-figure gurus and then felt helpless, not good enough, and like she would never be able to make it. The way out? Again, notice that you are stuck in this mental trap and ask "is it true?" Focus on what you are doing well, what is working, and where you rock. And then call someone who can also point out your genius.

Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.  

This is how this one shows up: You get a new client or two. Instead of celebrating and allowing yourself to be excited, the first thought is "it is not enough…I need more….what if they leave?" See the spin to darkness with this one? You MUST take in the positive. And often if it is a habit not to, having a supportive coach in your life can serve to really break the pattern. In fact, I ALWAYS start all my group calls by asking the clients to share their wins and victories. Why? It forces them to be in the positive and begin to acknowledge their successes.

Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

Who hasn't done this one! You want to raise your rates because you know you are worth it. But you start hearing in your head, "They cannot afford this…its too much money….it is a bad economy" . STOP this one in its tracks because you do not know that for sure. So in spite of your stinking thinking here, do move forward.

Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick."  

I might even call it "Guru Envy." The trend looks like seeing all they do and only looking at their brilliance and your lesser results and NOT seeing all the magic you bring! You can shift this by staying in the truth of the great work you do. This is where those client "love notes" or testimonials come in handy.


These are just a few of the tricks your mind is playing on you. The good news is that you can totally shift your thinking. Know that you are the captain of your ship in terms of thinking or mindset. So if you are in a funk, or just are not feeling how you want to feel in any given moment, there are plenty of things you can do to shift that. Knowing this can empower you, so this week make it a point to really notice your mind and the thoughts running through it. Make a better choice. You have that power wink

Paulo Coelho said:

 When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.



About Online Biz Boomer Babe

Rachel Lavern is a Certified Business Coach and founder of My Booming Online Business--a blog for middle-age, global, uptown women. She is on a mission to transform entrepreneurs' finances by teaching the action set, mindset and skill set needed to get launched + make money.


  1. Hey Rachel Lavern

    I absolutely ENJOYED your post…and admit that I am guilty of each one of those ‘negative mental filters’ every day! 🙁 I especially enjoyed how you provided a real-life example – based on your coaching experience – for each of the filters. 😀

    I host a weekly Google Plus Hangout-on-Air called #GEtBizy with Kit and Jim. Our mission is to connect our #DreamAudience with real, transparent and creative entrepreneurs who are making a fabulous difference in people’s lives. We would LOVE to have you on some day. #HUGSSSS

    I am going to Subscribe to your blog RIGHT AWAY! Muaah

    Thanks for penning this article, dear

    • Hi Kitto,

      It gets easier for us with practice.  We can all instantly change how we think, feel and live by simply 🙂 changing our habitual vocabulary.

      I would be interested in learning more about your Google Hangout.

  2. Hi Rachel and nice to meet you! First off, thank you so much for sharing this post and I totally agree with you on this. I am one of the people who have been a negative person in the past and I can totally relate to this. Our thoughts can really destroy up to the last bit of hope that we may have.
    On a different note, I love the look of your blog 🙂
    HoudaK recently posted…Why I Do What I Do! My PassionMy Profile

    • Hi Houda,

      I hear you.  I would not say that I was ever a negative person, but I did not always careful about the words I spoke.  It was a process 🙂   

      Glad that you like my blog.

  3. Rachel,

    I have certainly been guilty, often, of thinking many of these restrictive thoughts. But I like to think that after years of personal growth, counseling and working with clients, I tend to quickly negate my negative thought patterns. Usually I maintain a rather balanced perspective, but there are those times when the world seems to be conspiring against me.
    At this point, when I get into a self-doubting, self-deprecating thought pattern, I consciously think about some of my previous positive experiences, successes and uplifting comments from others. And then I focus on what I intend to create, take some time to relax, breathe and meditate. And if all else fails, I got out to eat some comfort food, sip a glass of wine and even get a gooey, calorific dessert. Then I’m upset with myself for over-eating that I forget about whatever had been bothering me before. (I’m smiling as I’m writing this.)
    Dr. Erica Goodstone recently posted…Be a Star at Attracting ClientsMy Profile

  4. Hi Rachel,

    I felt like on some of these points you were talking to me 🙂 I love how you provide examples to go with each to drive your point home even the more. The mind is so powerful. As you noted all of the other things we may do to prepare our business for success is important, but if our mindset is not right, we would have thrown away thousands of dollars and hundres of hours if not more of our time. Love your blog and your message! Thanks for sharing.
    Nathaniel Kidd recently posted…Where Should You Put Your MoneyMy Profile

  5. Wow what a great post. I enjoyed the Mental filter because i see this happen all the time. People comparing themselves with gurus rather than seeking to be different. A good read. Thanks for sharing
    Ikechi recently posted…Be An Inspiration: A Female Amputee Climbs Mount EverestMy Profile

  6. Very interesting Rachel!

    Rachel that is a very interesting list! BTW, I really like your exercise you do at the start of your group caching calls.

    That seems like an excellent idea. I know I can personally relate to all six points! In fact, years ago an investment adviser that I follow, he pointed how the first hurdle we really had to overcome was our fear of thinking, we were not worthy of long term investment success!

    And he constantly advised us to work on my mindset first! Because it would make everything we attempted to do after that, so much easier to accomplish. Thanks for sharing!
    Mark recently posted…Why These Examples Of Target Marketing Really Work! Part FiveMy Profile

  7. Hi Rachel,

    A topic that we all need to face! I love the term “Stinking Thinking!” All of us have this going on and if someone ever said “No, not me!” I would think they are in denial.

    Now I grew up and was a victim of this for so many years. As I read through this post I said to myself “that was me!” But, after going through counseling for years, and I still do if something stands in my way….also many other modalities. Now, finally…I can acknowledge that “stinking thinking” when it happens.

    I do believe that is the first step. Acknowledging! From there, the healing can begin. I do not believe we can heal overnight, but we can put things into perspective as we go along our journey.

    donna merrill recently posted…Guest Blog Post | Lesly FedericiMy Profile

  8. Great post, Rachel!

    That all-or-nothing thinking gets me all too often. It’s the perfection in me, I guess. The smallest thing can stop me sometimes, from taking persistent action toward my goal.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned about comparing myself to others and feeling like a failure, it’s that no one has it all together. I tend to look at someone who is doing what I want to do, and I forget that he or she has struggles too… and even in their area of expertise, everything doesn’t fall together all the time. You are so right. Looking at what I have accomplished, and where I am making progress, always encourages me and helps me to get back on track and keep moving forward.

    Willena Flewelling recently posted…Bird in the HouseMy Profile

  9. Well said Rachel. Catastrophizing in particular seems to be a pretty widespread issue and more than a few people use it in their marketing strategies to instill fear as their way of creating pressure to buy or take advantage of their service. I admit it’s a bit of a button pusher for me. Anyway, thanks for the great tips and inspiration.
    Marquita Herald recently posted…Stepping Stones: DreamsMy Profile

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