Thought Ladder: How to Transform Negative Thinking

Sharing source: this post is about the Thought Ladder technique which I first learned about from the incredible coach and teacher Kara Loewentheil. I highly recommend you check out her work.

The thought ladder technique for managing your mind is transformative, especially when your money is a mess.  Our thoughts create our feeling which in turn motivate our actions. And our actions determine our results.

Using it, I have gone from stuck on the couch to regularly running 7 miles. 

Loved ones have started successful new businesses with the courage they created for themselves.

And clients have found the motivation to get out of thousands of dollars of debt. 

All that goodness happened by building up to genuine motivating thoughts that prompt daily action.  And I want to take you through the process of building motivating thoughts for yourself when you want to bring change into your life.

Step 1: Identify the negative thought that is getting in your way

Choose an area in your life where you are stuck, and envision a particular moment when you experience that stuckness.

What are the thoughts that come up then? You’re looking for moments when you feel anxious, fearful, or worried, and then seeking the thoughts that stand behind those feelings.   

Write all of those thoughts down on a piece of paper. 

Having trouble articulating them?  Look for the thoughts that go “I always…”. Or “I never…”  Or  “I’m just not…”  

Once you have those negative thoughts written down, pick just one thought to work on for now using the following technique.

Step 2: Envision your goal thought

This is your ‘top of the ladder’ thought and is often the opposite of your original negative one.  This is the thought you are working towards with this process.

Let’s say your starting negative thought at the bottom of the ladder is: “I’ve never been able to save money

Your goal thought might be: “I am a confident, steady saver with fully funded emergency and sinking funds

If you’ve struggled with saving in the past, you are not going to change simply because you have this new rosy thought written down at the top of your ladder.  

At this point, saying “I am a confident, steady saver with fully funded emergency and sinking funds” is an unhelpful positive affirmation. The goal thought will likely feel untrue and stupid to say to yourself right now.   

A currently false – aka unbelievable – thought does not lead you to positive action.  It becomes overwhelming and disheartening. 

Download this printable for free, if you’d like to use it with this exercise

Step 3: Create your first ladder thought. Ie your ’next thought’   

Instead, you pick a ‘next thought‘ to replace your negative one.  And you write it on the next rung up of your ladder.  

This is a neutral or less negative thought than your first one.  It’s pretty easy to believe and based in facts that you know about yourself.  For example: 

  • I am capable of learning new things, and it’s is possible I can do it with saving.”
  • I know I can save $5 per week and will start there.
  • It is possible I can change my behavior and budget successfully this time

Once you have found the ‘next thought’ that feels believable, and causes you to experience more motivation for positive action, then you practice it. 

You practice your Ladder Thought multiple times a day, including writing it down.  Choose only one thought to work on for each day. 

Once it becomes a habitual thought you have about yourself, you are ready to move on to the next rung up. 

You will also feel a shift in your body when the thought has ‘taken.’ You will feel more openness rather than resistance, and you will feel a little more motivation for the action you are aiming to add into your life.

Step 4: The next rung

Now you choose another ‘next’ progression thought.  After your first rung, you might be ready for:

  • I have learned new techniques and am saving more than I ever have before”  
  • I have a plan to save money, and know I am able to follow it for 1 month
  • I am able to work on my thoughts to motivate more savings

Remember, keep it grounded and factual about your proven abilities. You are working towards the experience of your goal thought feeling completely habitual and true to you. 

The thought ladder tool is life-changing. So much so that it’s one part of a free resource I created for you.

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How do you work on managing your mind and shifting negative mindsets?  Drop a comment below. I treasure each one <3