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Reframing your self-talk can shift your focus from “obstacle thinking” to “opportunity thinking.”

Fam Pract Manag. 2023;30(5):44

Author disclosures: no relevant financial relationships.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Golf Science found that golfers in high-pressure situations who use positive self-talk make more putts than those who use negative self-talk.1 Other research has produced similar findings — individuals who choose constructive thinking, regardless of external challenges, experience better outcomes.2 This simple act of self-leadership has implications for physicians as well as golfers.


Dysfunctional thinking refers to cognitive distortions of reality that undermine personal effectiveness. Psychologist David Burns identified the following types of dysfunctional thinking:3

  • All-or-nothing: Considering imperfect results complete failures,
  • Overgeneralization: Generalizing specific failures or negative outcomes as pervasive patterns,
  • Mental filtering: Fixating on a single negative detail,
  • Disqualifying the positive: Dismissing rewarding experiences,
  • Jumping to conclusions: Drawing negative conclusions without sufficient evidence,
  • Magnifying and minimizing: Exaggerating negative factors and downplaying positive aspects,
  • Emotional reasoning: Interpreting reality solely through negative emotions,
  • “Should” statements: Using coercive terms (e.g., should, shouldn't, must) to prompt action,
  • Labeling and mislabeling: Applying negative labels to oneself, others, or events,
  • Personalization: Blaming oneself for negative events without considering external causes.
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