We all make mistakes in our thinking, especially when we're deeply convinced that something we believe in is true. These errors often reinforce that opinion, making it hard for us to change our minds or even consider any alternative viewpoint.

Students of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy know that the way we think about a situation is closely related to our emotions, the physical sensations these cause and the way we behave. In short the first step towards changing our behaviour is to change the way we think.

It's useful to know when we're making thinking errors so that we can stand back from a situation and evaluate it logically, keeping an open mind. Here are the top 5 thinking errors that we commonly make.

5. Overgeneralization

Drawing a concrete conclusion from a single event is a common error of judgement. One piece of evidence does not make something true. You can fail your driving test and still learn to drive. You can lose a battle and still win the war. Your football team can lose a few games and still be crowned champions.

In reality events are rarely so extreme that they always or never happen. It makes no sense to condemn yourself or others because of one mistake – think of how many times you didn’t make that mistake and suspend judgement.

4. Fortune Telling
You can’t see in to the future – no one can – and when you try to do so there’s a good chance you’ll make a negative prediction. When you convince yourself that only bad things will happen it tends to stop you from doing them. If you never take a chance to find out what might actually happen then you seriously limit all manner of exciting possibilities in life. You'll also never find out how poor we are at prediction!

Try to let something happen without second guessing the outcome. Just because it might have happened in the past it doesn’t mean it’s certain to happen again.

3. Mind Reading
Let me try – you’re thinking of the colour orange aren’t you? And now you’re thinking I’m an idiot for getting it wrong? 50% right isn’t bad but it doesn’t make me a mind reader.

We assume we know what people think, but most of the time, like fortune telling, we’re not very good at it. Assuming that someone you’re talking to is yawning because you’re dull ignores the possibility that they just had a bad night’s sleep.

We often project our ideas and feelings on to other people without really knowing their version of events. There’s every chance that we’re wrong and that there’s an alternative explanation.

2. Catastrophising

This is where you take a fairly small event and blow its effects up out of all proportion. For example, in a presentation you might imagine everyone rolling around the floor clutching their sides when you forget your words. When you've missed a bill payment you may think you'll have your house repossessed or be made bankrupt.

The truth is that these are just thoughts, and they're the worst scenarios at that. More likely your audience won’t notice and your creditor will accept a late payment if you give them a call.

Try to think of other less disastrous outcomes, since these are far more likely than your world collapsing tomorrow.

1. All-or-Nothing Thinking

We all love to read newspapers that portray a celebrity, sportsman or politician as a hero or zero. Journalists build such narratives to create interest and boost circulation. However, we know this can’t really be the case.

It’s the same with you – if you’re not a raging success it doesn’t mean you’re an abject failure. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, slipping up at one presentation won’t ruin your career and making a social gaffe in front of your partner's parents won't condemn you to life of solitude.

In truth there are many flavours of success and failure – think of them as shades of grey rather than just black or white.

Try thinking in different terms that are less cut and dried, as that’s how human beings are.

Author's Bio: 

Harry is a chartered Clinical Psychologist specialising in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.