default-thinkingI use a lot of Microsoft products. Admittedly, it’s not because I think they’re the best. I simply don’t know any better. I have never seriously tried other products because Microsoft Office Suite does everything I need it to do. The default settings tend to be not useful for me. I just went to a new computer here in the office. The default setting in Word was Calibri font, 11 pt, with an 8 pt space between lines. There has never been a time I can recall using this format to write anything. It’s not useful for me. More than that, it’s a rather annoying default setting. Who came up with that in the first place?

This got me thinking about default settings in my own mind – my default thinking. Patterns of thought are what guide our emotional states. Most people have heard the two opposing words, pessimistic and optimistic. Numerous studies have revealed that most individuals, 80% or more, are biased toward optimism when it comes to external events.  In case you’re not great at math, that’s a lot. In other words, when people are asked to give an opinion on how things will turn out, whether in their lives or in the general world, their default thinking is to slant things in a positive direction. This sounds pretty good. Positive thinking has to be a good thing. How about when it’s more personal and more immediate?

Dr. Raghunathan of the University of Texas found that 60-70% of the average college students’ thoughts were negative.  Obviously, both of these cannot possibly be correct. How can 80% of people tend to be positive and 70% of people tend to be negative at the same time. Again, if you’re not great at math, those two numbers add up to 150%, which doesn’t exist, at least when we’re talking about people. Here’s my take…

When we think about ourselves and our immediate task or situation,

negativity is our default thinking pattern.

When we’re asked questions about events or things that might happen, we tend to be optimistic. We believe things will probably work out when it comes to the external world. For example, if the question was asked, “Do you believe the economy is going to crash,” 80% of people would answer with a, “No.” However, when we think about ourselves and our immediate task or situation, negativity is our default thinking pattern.

Count the number of days in the past month you have stood in front of the mirror and thought, “You look really awesome today,” or “You’re the best mom/dad in the world,” or “You’re so talented that success is just going to be automatic for you” or “Your singing is the most beautiful thing a person could hear.” Go ahead and count the number of times you’ve had these thoughts in the past month; I’ll wait. For most people, that answer is a big, fat ZERO.

We may be optimistic about circumstances but we tend to be negative when we think about ourselves. This is a “default setting” for many people. Understanding your default setting is the first step in changing it. Think about your thoughts. Yes, really. Which ones are helpful? Which ones aren’t? Find those that aren’t helpful and reconsider them. The truth is, you are most likely seeing yourself negatively in a way that is irrational at best.

Try being realistic while challenging your negative thinking at the same time. It’s not easy, but you can do it! Things are rarely as bad as we think them to be and we’re certainly not as bad as we think we are. Try to name 10 things good about yourself. If you can’t, keep working at it until you can. When you have negative thoughts about yourself, think of these 10 things. Change your default setting and have a better day!


What negative thoughts do you have about yourself that seem to always come up? Feel free to comment below. We would love to hear from you!