How many times have you had a thought or said something out loud that started with “I can’t,” I should,” or “I shouldn’t” in the last week?
Got your answer? Great. Now multiply it by at least three. Why? Because these thoughts are so common, we often don’t even realize we’re having them. Unfortunately, negative thoughts are usually a big part of what keeps us from achieving our full potential (including creating a thriving real estate business).
Luckily, there are five simple, powerful steps you can take to counteract these thoughts and go from stuck to successful.
STEP 1: RECOGNIZE THE THOUGHT
“I can’t sell this house — it reeks of cat pee.”
“I shouldn’t reach out to that potential buyer again — they’ll get annoyed and won’t want to work with me.”
“I should set up accounts on every social media outlet out there. Every. Single. One.”
Can’t/should/shouldn’t thoughts hold us back in all aspects of our lives, so it’s imperative to identify them. Keeping an eye out for them is a great first step to catching a variety of negative thoughts, which can also include thinking you’re not good/smart/[fill in the blank] enough, cynicism of all kinds, and negatively comparing yourself to others.
So why do “shoulds” count, since they’re not technically negative? It’s because they often originate from outside input but aren’t right for you. Ultimately, any thought that doesn’t feel good is considered negative.
Please remember that all you’re doing in this step is identifying the thought. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT beat yourself up for having them. Everyone has them because that’s how the human brain is hardwired.
Basically, there’s a part of our brain called the reptilian brain that hasn’t evolved since caveman days. The social media example above is essentially a holdover of early people’s scarcity fears. The difference is they really did need to explore all food source possibilities, whereas you can attract the right clients without using every social media platform in existence.
Please remember negative thoughts aren’t trying to keep you stuck. They’re just trying to protect you from dangers that, in reality, aren’t actually dangerous at all (or often even true). Unfortunately, in doing their job, they frequently end up holding you back.
STEP 2: QUESTION THE THOUGHT
So you’ve caught yourself having a negative thought. What now? The next step is to ask why you’re having it.
As an example, let’s go with the thought, “I shouldn’t reach out to those buyers again because they’ll get annoyed and won’t want to work for me.” Your why could be a personal experience with a salesperson who was so pushy, you wound up walking out of the store. It’s understandable you’d transfer that experience onto thoughts about your work. After all, who doesn’t get irritated by a pushy salesperson?
Once you come up with at least one reasonable explanation, you’ll be able to start wiggling that negative thought around. In this case, maybe you’ll realize the way the salesperson treated you is totally different from how you’d interact with potential buyers.
Keep in mind you’re not trying to disprove the thought, just understand where it’s coming from. This will help crack it open just enough to let other possible — and more productive — thoughts in.
STEP 3: LIST THREE COUNTER-THOUGHTS
Positive psychology has determined that three is the magic number — we need three positive examples to overcome a negative. This applies to countering our negative thoughts, too.
Now, three’s the bare minimum. When it comes to those particularly persistent thoughts, you might find you need a longer list of counter-thoughts. Feel free to come up with as many as you’d like!
Pro tip: if you’re able to, write down your counter-thoughts. There’s something powerful about taking them from your mind to the paper/screen and then reading them back again. (Plus then they’re handy should the thought pop up again.) That said, if writing it down isn’t possible, making the list in your mind is still extremely helpful.
Now let’s walk through this process with some possible counter-thoughts to “I shouldn’t reach out to those buyers again.” (Remember, three’s the minimum, but more is better!):
- They might appreciate that I’m thinking of them, which could make them want to work with me more.
- I can ask if any questions have come up and make it clear from the beginning there’s no pressure.
- If I don’t reach out, they may feel like I’m ignoring or have forgotten about them, and that will definitely make them look for another Realtor.
- Joanie sent a quick text to that one potential buyer, and it led to a $10,000 commission!
If you’re having trouble coming up with counter-thoughts, you might need a little distance from the situation. One way to do this is to imagine another person’s playing devil’s advocate and peppering you with “but what if…” questions. In thoughts involving others, imagine you’re them and think about how they might perceive the situation. Real-life examples from others also count.
STEP 4: NOTICE HOW YOU FEEL
Once you’ve gone through step three, there’s a good chance you’ll be feeling better — lighter, freer, more open. Just notice it, appreciate it, and revel in it, because you just single-handedly lowered your stress and made a clearer path toward success!
That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel gung-ho (although you might!). If you’re feeling nervous, you can use these steps on the thoughts that are causing the nerves or you can embrace Susan Jeffers’ inspirational book title: Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.
STEP 5: FOLLOW THROUGH
Whatever your negative thought is, the goal is to get to a clear-minded place, not one filled with reptilian brain fear. This process may help you come up with specific next steps, or it might just open your mind enough to get the creative juices flowing. Either way, find some way to follow through on what came up as you went through the steps, and remember that action from a place of clarity creates success.
STEP RECAP AND FURTHER RESOURCES
- Recognize the thought.
- Question the thought.
- List three counter-thoughts (at least!).
- Notice how you feel.
- Follow through.
By no means is this the only way to manage negative thoughts. If you’re looking for another take, Byron Katie is the queen of this topic, and her technique, The Work, was part of the inspiration for the process in this post.
HOW WE CAN HELP
All these steps can help immensely, and you know what else can improve your success rates? A MyBooks membership! It includes license to use 14 personalized real estate books to give to potential clients, plus a solid social media presence, including an author website, a blog with over 100 pre-written articles, a home value website, and more.
It’s a great way to work smarter, not harder, which means you’ll have even more time to work on your thoughts — and, of course, to turn your dream real estate business into a reality. If that sounds good to you, just go here to learn more, register, and get started now!
Joe Nickelson is a real estate professional dedicated to helping home buyers and sellers achieve their dreams of owning property, and helping real estate agents stop using the sometimes-vicious tactics that weigh on their consciences. He believes that the Smart Agents books will, quite literally, change people’s lives for the better. Check out his full bio here!