When you’ve made a mistake or not performed to your expectation, you can use “additive thinking” to shift your thinking from self-recrimination to self-improvement!
Additive thinking involves thinking of strategies you can use to improve your performance. This is the opposite of “subtractive thinking,” in which you focus on what you wish you hadn’t done.
Here’s an example:
You’re disappointed in your performance on an important task–a school assignment, work project, or other commitment.
Additive Thinking: “Next time, I can block off more time for the project.” “Next time, I will ask a friend/colleague for help.”
Subtractive Thinking: “I shouldn’t have taken on such a difficult task.” “I shouldn’t have taken that approach to the project.”
Try to avoid phrases like, “I should have;” instead, focus on how you will improve next time. Remember the post Be Mindful of How You Speak to Yourself?
Your Daily Shoring assignment for today is to use additive thinking for a current or recent challenge.
Practice thinking of positive ways you can improve your performance and don’t ruminate on a mistake or suboptimal performance. As I wrote in Mental Rehearsal, focusing (or “ruminating” as psychologists refer to it!) on mistakes only reinforces the mistake. Focusing on alternative solutions reinforces, or primes, your brain for improved performance.
How can you use additive thinking today? Do you find yourself ruminating over a mistake or perceived failing? Instead of focusing on what went wrong, think about what you can do to improve the situation.
Bonus: Using additive thinking helps facilitate a more adaptive Attribution Style!