In my last post I wrote about setting career goals. I said that a lot about achieving career goals is about what goes on in our head.

I asked you to think about your career goal, or anything else that you want to achieve and to visualize your current situation and your desired goal and then create steps to reach your career  goal.

But many struggle, and this is often down to what happens in our head. We have crooked thinking.

What happens for many of us is that we let negative thoughts take over and this crooked thinking stops us being successful at achieving our career goals.
These negative thoughts are often termed ‘crooked’ thoughts, as they aren’t balanced. They are extreme, unhelpful and lead us to failure.  The term comes from Robert H Thouless who wrote a book on crooked thinking. His focus was on unpicking what politicians say but it’s also invaluable to challenge ourselves, and others when we have unhelpful thoughts.
We can’t stop having negative thoughts, but we can change what we do with them.
We need to stop saying things such as

  • I should have done better
  • I’ll never get what I want
  • I ought to be on time
  • I must get this right
  • Nobody ever listens to me

And turn them into something different.

Let’s look at different examples of crooked thinking



This example of crooked thinking is when we automatically think that the worst will happen – so even a slightly less than positive comment is taken as a major negative. For example if we weren’t shortlisted for one job we tell ourselves that we will never be shortlisted, Or if we have a set back on a diet from eating too much cake we say we will never lose weight.


Similar to catastrophising we think that if we don’t get the job we apply for it means we will never get the job, or if we make a mistake and tell ourselves that we always get things wrong. If we get a bit tongue-tied and say we never know what to say. We take one instance and generalise it to every time.


With this example of crooked thinking we can assume that people don’t ask us to be involved with something because they don’t like us when this is not a reason for not asking us, and we take the blame for things that are not our fault. We almost route out problems and want to beat ourselves up with them.
We can think that we should have helped someone more, or think our children would be happier if we had been a better parent.
Similar to this is to always blame the other person – it is someone else’s fault that we failed the test, didn’t get the job, lost our way.


We may call ourselves by negative names, telling ourselves that we are such an idiot based on just one or two instances. Again we can use this on someone else perhaps telling our partner or child how useless they are just because they made one mistake.


With hindsight thinking we look back at the past, with the benefit of hindsight and beat ourselves up because we think we should have done something differently – not taken the job, taken the promotion, not to have given up sport but we must remember that we made our best decision with the information we had back then.  We must not look back through the lens of today, it just isn’t fair.


This is when we blow something out of proportion, we minimise our strengths and magnify and exaggerate our perceived weakness. We discount anything we do right and focus on the errors. Even if we get the job we think it must be a job that no one else wants, or if we have a good week with our weight loss we discount the 2-pound loss as something everyone can do.


With this example of crooked thinking we can assume we know what someone else is thinking, so if someone doesn’t say hello we assume they don’t like us rather than perhaps them being preoccupied and not having seen us.

8. FORTUNE TELLING (Predicting the future)

With this example of crooked thinking we expect the worst without any evidence to confirm this, so we don’t even apply for the promotion telling ourselves we will never get it.


This is where we mistake feelings for facts. We feel a failure and so think we must be. We need to look at feelings differently than an objective fact.


We only see the negatives and focus on them, ignoring any positive. We dwell on what has gone wrong or one aspect of our self. We may get 20 great reviews from a talk, and 1 that is so so and it is that one that we concentrate on.


This is when we are kinder to other people than to ourselves.  We forgive others their slip-ups and make kind comments when they go off their diet or fail to meet a deadline but expect perfection in ourselves.

Building on the work you did following my last post I’d like you to consider to what extent you use crooked thinking. Watch yourself over the coming few days and make a note each time you do this.

I’d also like you to challenge yourself each time you find yourself using crooked thinking and to look at it in a different way.

Give yourself a real big positive hug each time you notice it. It can be a bit weird at first, but personally I have found it incredibly helpful. I have been very good at catastrophising and  magnifying my weaknesses, but since focusing more on recognising this crooked thinking I’ve become much kinder to myself.


I’d love to know how this helps so please do let me know how you are getting on. It would be excellent to get a discussion going on FaceBook so come and join us over there.

Brought to you by Denise Taylor, award winning career coach with Amazing People and author of 7 books including How To Get A Job In A Recession, and Now You’ve Been Shortlisted.  Meet me on FaceBook at – and let’s talk about your career goals in life.

Published On: July 31st, 2013 / Categories: Career Discovery, Job Search / Tags: , , , , /

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