How To Identify Thinking Patterns That Hold You Back

Learn how to identify negative thinking patterns that are preventing you from achieving your goals and overcome them to reach your full potential.
How To Identify Thinking Patterns That Hold You Back


Have you ever noticed patterns in the way you think that seem to hold you back from achieving your goals or living the life you want? These patterns, known as thinking patterns or cognitive biases, can have a significant impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In this guide, we will explore the importance of identifying and overcoming negative thinking patterns so we can move towards a more positive and fulfilling life.

Our thinking patterns play a crucial role in how we interpret and respond to the world around us. They are formed over time through our experiences, beliefs, and past behaviors. Unfortunately, some thinking patterns can be negative, unrealistic, or counterproductive to our well-being. By understanding these patterns, we can learn to identify and challenge them, leading to a more positive and productive lifestyle.

Through this guide, we will provide tips and strategies for identifying and overcoming negative thinking patterns. By doing so, you can start to set goals and move forward with a more positive outlook on yourself and your future. So, let’s explore the world of thinking patterns together and begin the journey towards self-improvement.

Understanding Thinking Patterns

Thinking patterns refer to the habitual ways we perceive and interpret information in the world around us. These patterns have been shaped by our upbringing, experiences, and beliefs, and can be both positive and negative. However, some thinking patterns can hold us back from reaching our full potential.

Our thinking patterns are formed through a process called neuroplasticity, which refers to how the brain changes and adapts in response to experiences and learning. As we repeat certain thought patterns, they become strengthened and more automatic, making them harder to break.

Some common thinking patterns that hold us back include:

  • All-or-nothing thinking: This is when we see things in black and white and don’t consider any middle ground or nuance.
  • Catastrophizing: This is when we assume the worst-case scenario will happen, and may lead us to avoid taking risks or trying new things.
  • Overgeneralization: This is when we take one negative experience and apply it to all similar situations, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Personalization: This is when we take things personally, even when they have nothing to do with us, leading to unnecessary stress and anxiety.

By understanding these thinking patterns, we can start to recognize them in our own thoughts and behaviors.

“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” - Anais Nin

It’s important to note that our thinking patterns are not necessarily accurate or based in reality - they are just our perceptions. By becoming aware of them, we can start to question whether they are serving us well, or whether they are holding us back from achieving our goals.

Identifying Your Own Thinking Patterns

To overcome negative thinking patterns, it’s important to first identify what they are. Here are some ways to recognize your own thinking patterns:


One effective way to identify your own thinking patterns is to keep a journal. By writing down your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to different situations, you can begin to spot patterns in your thinking. Look for recurring thoughts or beliefs that seem to hold you back or cause negative emotions.


Another way to become more aware of your thinking patterns is through mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the moment. By paying attention to your thoughts and emotions without judgment, you can gain insight into your thinking patterns and how they affect your behavior.

Asking for Feedback

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize our own thinking patterns, especially if they are deeply ingrained. In these cases, asking for feedback from others can be helpful. Trusted friends, family members, or a therapist can provide an outside perspective and point out patterns that you may not have noticed.

Recognizing Triggers

Pay attention to situations or events that trigger a negative or unhelpful thought pattern. It could be a certain person, a particular activity, or a certain time of day. Once you identify what triggers your negative thinking, you can work on changing your response to those triggers.

Identifying your thinking patterns is the first step towards changing them. By becoming more aware of your patterns, you can begin to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts and replace them with more positive ones.

Overcoming Negative Thinking Patterns

Negative thinking patterns are often deeply ingrained in our subconscious minds and can be difficult to overcome. However, with dedication and persistence, it is possible to rewire our brains to think more positively. Here are some strategies for overcoming negative thinking patterns:

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is a powerful technique that can help us replace negative thoughts with more positive ones. This process involves:

  1. Identifying negative thoughts: Start by identifying the messages you tell yourself that are holding you back. These might include thoughts like, “I’m not good enough,” “I always mess up,” or “I’ll never succeed.”
  2. Examining the evidence: Once you’ve identified a negative thought, ask yourself if there is any real evidence to support it. In many cases, you’ll find that there isn’t.
  3. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones: Finally, replace the negative thought with a more positive one. For example, “I might make mistakes, but I’m capable of learning and growing.”


Reframing is the process of changing the way we look at a situation. This can help us see things from a new perspective and find more positive meaning in our experiences. Here’s how to reframe negative thoughts:

  1. Notice negative thoughts: Start by paying attention to the negative thoughts you have throughout the day.
  2. Look for alternative perspectives: Challenge these thoughts by asking yourself if there is a different way to view the situation. For example, if you think “I’m never going to be able to finish this project,” try reframing it as, “I might face challenges, but I’m capable of finding solutions.”
  3. Practice gratitude: Reframing can also involve shifting your focus to the things you’re grateful for. Take a few minutes each day to reflect on what you appreciate in your life.

Implementation Intentions

Implementation intentions are a powerful tool for changing our behavior. These are specific plans we make to help us follow through on our goals. Here’s how to use implementation intentions to overcome negative thinking:

  1. Set a goal: Start by setting a goal that is important to you.
  2. Identify obstacles: Think about the obstacles that might stand in your way of achieving that goal. These might include negative thinking patterns.
  3. Make a plan: Once you’ve identified the obstacles, make a plan to overcome them. This might include using cognitive restructuring or reframing techniques to address negative thoughts.
  4. Take action: Finally, take action on your plan and follow through with your implementation intentions.

By using these strategies to overcome negative thinking patterns, we can free ourselves from self-limiting beliefs and move towards a more positive, fulfilling life.

Setting Goals and Moving Forward

Having identified and overcome negative thinking patterns, it’s time to set goals and move forward with a positive mindset. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

Start with Small, Attainable Goals

It’s important to start with small, attainable goals to build momentum and confidence. This helps to establish a positive feedback loop and maintain motivation. As you achieve your goals, gradually increase their difficulty and scope.

Visualize Success

Visualization is a powerful tool that can help you achieve your goals. Imagine yourself successfully accomplishing your goals, and focus on the positive emotions associated with that success. This helps you stay motivated and committed to your goals.

Create a Plan

To achieve your goals, you need a plan. Break down your goals into actionable steps, and create a timeline for their completion. This helps keep you focused and accountable.

Stay Flexible

It’s important to stay flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. If you encounter obstacles or setbacks, don’t get discouraged. Instead, evaluate the situation and adjust your plan accordingly.

Celebrate Your Progress

As you achieve your goals, take the time to celebrate your progress. This helps to reinforce positive thinking patterns and maintain motivation. Celebrating your progress can be as simple as treating yourself to something you enjoy or taking a moment to reflect on your accomplishments.

Remember, identifying and overcoming negative thinking patterns is a process that takes time and effort. By setting goals and moving forward with a positive mindset, you can achieve growth and progress towards a fulfilling life.


In conclusion, identifying and overcoming negative thinking patterns is crucial for personal growth and progress. By understanding the origins of our thinking patterns and using tools like journaling and mindfulness, we can become more aware of patterns that hold us back.

Through strategies like cognitive restructuring and reframing, we can challenge and shift negative thinking patterns into positive and empowering ones.

By setting goals and moving forward with a positive mindset, we can achieve success in all areas of our lives. It’s time to take control of our thoughts and create the life we truly desire.

As author and speaker Tony Robbins once said, “It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.” Let’s make sure our beliefs are serving us well and propelling us towards a brighter future.