Positive vs. Negative Thinking: How to Change Your Mindset from Negative to Positive

Coaching

Are you curious about how to change your mindset from negative to positive? There’s more to the “negative vs. positive thinking” dichotomy than you might expect . . . we love diving deep here. 🤓

In this blog, we’ll explore why this binary model of positive vs. negative thinking can limit your personal growth by narrowing your perceived options, and instead, we’ll introduce you to a wider range of possibilities to choose from. (Hint: there’s so much more nuance to it than just negative and positive!)

Before you dive in, we invite you to pause and let this idea soak in. If you’re used to seeing things as either “positive” or “negative”, you might notice some inner resistance to some of the reframes you’re about to read—which is a normal part of the human experience! This internal voice that likes to categorize yourself and your surroundings into familiar buckets can, understandably, feel confusing or overwhelming. And yet, know that this voice can also be a source of tremendous support and guidance. 

Together, let’s navigate this inner dialogue from a place of empowerment to pave the way for a happier, more fulfilling life.

Going Beyond Positive vs. Negative Thinking

We often view positive and negative thinking as the only two options available to us, with positivity being considered “good” and negativity as “bad.” This binary model can oversimplify our very complex human thoughts and emotions. 

It not only severely limits our perceived range of possible responses to life’s challenges, but can also impose a ton of unnecessary pressure to maintain a constant state of positivity (which can feel unrealistic and inauthentic).

Imagine, instead of being limited to just two options—negative vs. positive—you had an entire cornucopia of possibilities to choose from, each offering its own unique flavor and texture! This more expansive spectrum of options can allow for more nuanced responses to more accurately reflect your true feelings and experiences.

Before we dive into this buffet of possibilities, let’s first define two key concepts: anabolic and catabolic energy.

🌪️ Catabolic Energy 

Catabolic energy is destructive, draining, and can hinder growth. It’s the energy of stress, worry, and fear. 
When you’re in a catabolic state, you’re more likely to feel negative, stuck, or overwhelmed. Catabolic energy can break things down, both physically and emotionally, and can prevent you from moving forward sustainably or making lasting, constructive changes. 

For example, think of a time when you were in a high-stress situation, like preparing for a big presentation or coping with a difficult relationship. In those moments, you may have felt drained, anxious, or frustrated—this is catabolic energy at work. Stress and worry can break down your energy and make it difficult to focus on solutions or growth.

🌱 Anabolic Energy

Anabolic energy is constructive, healing, and growth-oriented. It’s the kind of energy that fuels creativity, joy, and passion. 

When you’re in an anabolic state, you’re more likely to feel content, inspired, and motivated. Anabolic energy helps you build and create new things, whether they’re relationships, ideas, or opportunities for new career or business endeavors. 

For example, think about a time when you were deeply engaged in a creative project. Maybe you were painting, writing, or working on a piece of music. At that moment, you were likely in an anabolic state, where your focus was on creation and growth. You may have felt a sense of fulfillment and joy from the act of creating something new. This is an example of anabolic energy at work.
 

The 7 Levels of Energy framework offers a valuable way to understand our energy, with each level representing a different mindset and corresponding percentage of anabolic (constructive) and catabolic (destructive) energy. The higher the level you’re resonating at, the more anabolic thoughts and emotions you’ll be experiencing.

An important note: these levels are not fixed but fluid—you can move between them on a moment-to-moment basis, depending on the situation you’re in. For example, you may experience a different energy level while catching up with a close friend for lunch than you would while in the midst of a heated discussion with a relative.

Here’s a brief overview of the 7 Levels of Energy, along with their respective makeups of both catabolic and anabolic energy:

The 7 Levels of Energy and Their Anabolic-Catabolic Mix

Number icon yellow 1-1 Level 1: Victim (0% anabolic, 100% catabolic)
At this level, people often feel powerless and believe that external circumstances control their lives. It’s characterized by thoughts and feelings of fear, worry, and self-doubt.


Number icon yellow 2-1Level 2: Conflict (20% anabolic, 80% catabolic)
This level begins to move us in the direction of action—even if it’s still mostly catabolic and born out of conflict, competition, and a focus on control. 


Number icon yellow 3-1Level 3: Responsibility (60% anabolic, 40% catabolic)
At this level, there’s a shift toward taking responsibility for our lives, but there’s still a significant amount of catabolic energy present.


Number icon yellow 4-1Level 4: Acceptance (70% anabolic, 30% catabolic)
This is the tipping point where anabolic energy starts to more significantly outweigh catabolic energy, leading to more “positive” outlooks—often in the form of care and compassion for others.


Number icon yellow 5-1Level 5: Intention (80% anabolic, 20% catabolic)
Here, the focus is on seeing opportunities everywhere. People experiencing Level 5 energy seek win-win solutions and are often cool, calm, and collected as they move through life.


Number icon yellow 6-1Level 6: Inspiration (90% anabolic, 10% catabolic)
This level is characterized by high energy and a deep sense of joy, where “negative” thinking occupies very little space.


Number icon yellow 7-1Level 7: Unity (100% anabolic, 0% catabolic)
This is the highest level of energy where people feel completely at peace and in harmony with the universe. There is no thinking here at all, just pure being.

Is Negative Thinking Bad?

When considering positive vs. negative thinking, it’s important to call out that our bias toward negative thinking is part of the reason our species is still around today! Our ancestors who were more aware of potential dangers and the ‘bad’ things around them were more likely to survive. 

So while negative thinking is our brain’s attempt to protect us (thanks, brain! 🧠), in today’s world, it tends to be more unhelpful than beneficial. The good news is that learning how to change your mindset from negative to positive is possible. 

But before we explore how, there is an important clarification we need to make: while negative thinking can definitely take a toll on our mental wellbeing, witnessing and working with these more difficult, catabolic thoughts and emotions such as frustration, anger, and sadness, can serve a profound purpose.

Take, for example, how lobsters grow. As lobsters grow, they become increasingly uncomfortable in their current shell. The discomfort serves as a stimulus for the lobster to cast off the old shell and seek out a new, larger one. Just as the lobster outgrows the shell when feeling discomfort, we too experience emotions as a stimulus to embody new, more expansive ways of thinking and being in the world. 

Imagine feeling frustrated (Level 2) and stuck (Level 1) in an unfulfilling job. (Yep, you can experience more than one energy level at the same time!) The catabolic energy might prompt you to reevaluate your career path and take steps toward finding more fulfilling work. In this way, catabolic energy can propel us to higher levels of energy where we can then create positive, lasting change in our lives.

Catabolic energy can serve as a powerful motivator for change and growth. It can push us to step out of our comfort zones, challenge ourselves, and seek out new opportunities for learning and development. Like the lobster, we may need to shed old habits, beliefs, or ways of being that no longer serve us in order to embrace new possibilities and experiences.

 Lobster

How to Work with Negative Emotions

Our thoughts often influence our emotions, which means how we perceive and interpret events can impact how we feel. For example, if we believe making mistakes is unacceptable, we might feel anxious or ashamed when we do make mistakes. Thoughts such as “I’m such a failure” or “I can’t believe I messed up again” can intensify ‘negative’ feelings like anxiety or shame.

Our emotions often carry messages that reveal important truths about our inner world. However, our tendency to judge them as good or bad, right or wrong, can trigger a cascade of negative thoughts that could not only obscure these very important messages, but also lead to unnecessary suffering.

Consider the mostly catabolic emotion of anger. Rather than resisting or suppressing it, what might change if you welcomed it as a messenger bearing a valuable gift of information? 🎁 

Picture inviting your anger into your home as an honored guest and sitting down with it to truly listen to it and understand the purpose of their visit. (Maybe it’s signaling a boundary violation, injustice, or unmet need!) By acknowledging and validating its presence, you honor your emotional experience and create space for healing and growth. 

When working with catabolic emotions, it’s important to recognize the difference between positive vs. negative thinking, as our mindset can greatly impact how we experience and process these emotions.

When we approach a catabolic thought or emotion with openness and curiosity, we can navigate our experience with grace. Embracing our thoughts and emotions in this way allows us to discover the lessons or opportunities they are here to deliver. They become allies on our journey that guide us toward our most authentic, fulfilling life!

CH Emotions head

✍️ Journal on these coaching questions: 
    • What judgments or beliefs do you hold about “negative” thoughts and emotions (or about yourself when you experience them)?
    • How do these judgments impact your ability to process and learn from them?
    • What would be different if you were less focused on learning how to change your mindset from negative to positive, and instead embraced what you’re experiencing with openness?
    • Imagine you’re observing your thoughts from a distance, like watching clouds passing by. What patterns or themes do you notice in your thoughts? Are there any recurring patterns that might be influencing your emotions?

How to Change Your Mindset from Negative to Positive

Remember that your catabolic thoughts and emotions are morally neutral; they’re a natural and valid part of your human experience! 

It’s also important to recognize that it’s perfectly okay if you’re not yet ready to transition to a more positive mindset. It can feel incredibly invalidating when someone tells you to “Get over it” or “Look on the bright side” when you’re just not there yet. Allow yourself the time and space to feel what you’re feeling, whether that’s wallowing in self-pity, feeling angry, overwhelmed, or experiencing moments of doubt.

When you do feel ready to shift from a mindset of judgment (catabolic energy) to one of greater acceptance and positivity (anabolic energy), consider the simple tools and strategies below. They can help you learn how to change your mindset from negative to positive with intention and grace.
 

Thoughts 9Acknowledge and Accept

The first step is to acknowledge the presence of the negative emotion without judgment. Naming the emotion can also be helpful! Accept that it is a natural part of the human experience and that it’s okay to feel this way. 

Location 8 Identify the Root Cause

Take some time to explore the root cause of the emotion with curiosity. Was it triggered by a specific event, past experience, or a pattern of thinking? Understanding the source can help you address the underlying issue.

Emotion 5 Express Your Emotions

Find healthy ways to express your emotions. This could include journaling, talking to a coach or therapist, or engaging in creative activities like painting or dancing. Expressing your emotions can help release pent-up energy and provide clarity.

Intuition 3 Practice Mindful Meditation

By focusing your mind on the present moment—often by observing your breath, bodily sensations, or surroundings—without judgment, mindful meditation can help you begin to observe your emotions without becoming entangled in your thoughts, creating a sense of inner calm and clarity.

Swoosh yellow Work with the 7 Levels of Energy

Utilize iPEC’s 7 Levels of Energy framework to understand your energy and mindset. Each level represents a different mindset and corresponding percentage of anabolic and catabolic energy. By identifying where you are on this spectrum, you can gain insight into your current state, and when you’re ready, work toward shifting to higher levels of energy.

Compassion icon p Cultivate Compassion

How do you currently practice self-compassion in times of emotional difficulty? What additional practices could you incorporate to enhance your self-compassion?

 
💡Consider this coaching activity:

Take a moment to grab a pen and paper. Imagine you are writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of a compassionate friend. What words of kindness and understanding would you offer to comfort yourself around any catabolic thoughts or emotions you may be experiencing?
 

Closing Thoughts

It’s important to remember that the ability to choose our energy and mindset—in every given moment—resides within us. This capacity for choice isn’t dependent on external circumstances but rather is a fundamental part of who we are. Even when you’re enveloped in feelings of sadness, overwhelm, or frustration—what we label as catabolic emotions—you have the power to shape your perspectives and thoughts.

When you allow yourself to acknowledge and experience these emotions without judgment or resistance—which is truly what causes our suffering—you open the door to a deeper understanding of your needs, desires, and values.

This acceptance and willingness to experience your emotions, both anabolic and catabolic, can lead to profound opportunities for growth and the creation of a happier, more fulfilling life. Remember, the choice between positive vs. negative thinking is ultimately yours to make.

Consider bookmarking this page to revisit these strategies as well as coaching questions and activities whenever it’s most convenient for you! 🔖
 

  

Want Some Extra Support to Change Your Mindset from Negative to Positive?

If you’re ready to embark on a transformative journey to awaken your personal and professional potential, we encourage you to explore Coaching Fundamentals; it’s an interactive, immersive training designed to help you harness the energy within you to create lasting positive change, both in your life and the lives of others.

Not only will you learn to work with your catabolic and anabolic energy consciously, but you’ll also shake up your perspectives to see your world in a whole new light. It’s more than just adopting a new mindset—it’s about embracing a fresh, vibrant way of being. This 3-day live training will help you master new skills, build confidence, and begin paving your unique path forward.

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