8 Steps to Break Your Negative Patterns

Living by the foundations—do the work, no excuses, always ready, and speak the truth—gives you the power to break the negative patterns that restrict you and impact those around you. You’ll be able to develop new habits and behaviours that serve you much better.

Follow these eight steps to replace your negative patterns with positive alternatives:

Don’t Project Your Negative Experiences

My dad was a great cricketer at one point in his life. If he’d wanted to, he could have at least played at county level. One day, when I was about ten, I said to him, ‘Dad, I really love cricket. There’s a local club I’d like to join. I think I’m pretty good at this.’ He turned to me and said, ‘Yeah, you’ll never play cricket.’ This stung, more so because it was so out of character for my usually optimistic and supportive father.

Years later, after my dad died, I was watching pro ice hockey on TV with my granddad. I said, ‘I’m going to play in that league one day.’ He turned to me and said, ‘You’ll never play in that league.’ It was like a lightbulb went on. I asked Granddad about Dad’s cricket, and he was dismissive and negative, focusing on the times my dad misbehaved or didn’t show up. All those years ago, my dad had simply been repeating a pattern. He was projecting onto me the very same experience he’d had with his own dad.

Make a Conscious Effort to Be Positive and Supportive

To break away from that negative cycle, I’ve always made a conscious effort to be positive and supportive with my children because I don’t want to recreate that pattern and project my negative experience onto them. This is a prime example of letting go of things that don’t serve us and also of how we can use negative experiences to shape ourselves in a positive way. There are still times when I try to justify my behaviour because I think my dad would respect it or encourage it. Then I realise that if I’m having to justify it to myself, that doesn’t sit comfortably with me and doesn’t fit with my values.

Make Choices Based on Your New Values

When you’re starting to make changes, there’s a tension between your ingrained, hardwired behaviours based on instinct and experience, which take over when you’re in the moment, and the pre-frontal cortex that engages with values and thought-based decision-making. But as you get used to making choices based on your new-found values, those values become more habitual and instinctive, so they will become your go-to, in-the-moment behaviours. The brain is plastic and malleable, and it’s this neuroplasticity that allows us to make these changes.

Instil Action and Real Change

Run-of-the-mill coaching, whether it’s in sports, business, or life-coaching, can get a little bit stale and wishy-washy. It’s often all style and no substance, just empty words that sound great but don’t instil action and real change.

Find Out What Works and What Doesn’t

My philosophy is that we’re all here, all experiencing life, so let’s be honest. Let’s speak the truth about how we feel and behave. Find out what’s working and what isn’t. Identify the change we want to make.

Consider How You Make Others Feel

On a deeper level, living with proper values that drive you isn’t so much about what you do or say, but more about how you make other people feel. I don’t remember a lot of details about that conversation with my dad about me playing cricket. What really stands out for me is how he made me feel. He made me feel like I just wasn’t good enough. If my dad were still alive, I doubt he’d even remember that conversation because, as adults, we often don’t think about what we say. A flippant comment like that stays with a child and can have a huge impact as they mature.

Has there been a time in your life when you experienced a similar event? Do you think it’s affected the way you behave or the core values you adopted? Would you like to redefine those values to better suit your vision? You can do this. You are not wedded to old values that hold you back.

Earn People’s Trust

Adopting the foundations will make the people around you feel better because they will know they can trust you. Think about it: if you always do the work, make no excuses, are always ready and completely honest about how you feel and what you want in life, the people around you will come to know you as a person they can rely on who won’t mislead them or put them in uncomfortable or precarious situations.

This goes both ways: if the people around you also live by these values, you will feel better because you’ll be able to trust them and be better prepared to predict your day-to-day outcomes with them – no unwelcome surprises. Those feelings are what hardwire the brain and shape who you are, especially as a growing child; but you can change your brain, remember? And if your way of thinking is holding you back, you need to change your way of thinking.

Don’t Hold Grudges

One last point I would like to make here is that I don’t hold a grudge against my parents for anything they did to shape me during my upbringing, especially anything that didn’t serve me as a child or later as an adult. Being a parent is hard, and I believe most parents want their children to be happy. My mum gave me the power to be a free thinker, which has had an incredibly positive impact on my life. She has been completely non-judgemental and allowed me the freedom to learn from my own mistakes. She very rarely held me accountable, and whilst this instilled some poor behaviours, I wouldn’t change it all.

I also see the positive impact she has on my eldest daughter, Izzie, who is 19. My mother is the strongest person I know, and she continues to empower me. She survived all the tough times of my early years, lost her husband, my dad, and she lost an eye to cancer. We love each other unconditionally, and that absolute love is a pattern I chose to repeat with my own children.

Empowerment and free thinking are also essential qualities in business leaders. Not only must you be strong and mentally agile, but to be truly successful and build the strongest teams, you must be able to empower those around you, encouraging rather than stifling ideas, independent thought, and creativity.

For more advice on career performance, you can find The 4 Keys on Amazon.

Andrew Sillitoe is a business psychologist, author, and speaker. His innovative approach to leadership and work-life balance has earned him invitations to work with a range of global companies, including Pfizer, Nationwide, Virgin, and the BBC. Today Andrew runs the UK’s number-one training company for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to succeed in business, health, relationships, and mindset.

The 4 Keys on Amazon