12 Thinking Patterns that Limit College Success

Some students inadvertently acquire habits that distort the way they think about academics and their potential for academic success. The results of these thinking patterns are low self-esteem, poor self-confidence, loss of direction, and academic performance below potential. Do you have any of these distorted thinking patterns?

  Thinking Pattern Explanation
1 Minimize Positives Minimize your academic achievements and good qualities.
2 "Catastrophize" Exaggerate importance of your mistakes or imperfections.
3 Mental Filter Select a single negative detail and dwell on it so exclusively that it colors your whole vision of reality, like one drop of ink colors a whole glass of water.
4 All-Or-Nothing Thinking See things in absolute categories. For example, if your grades aren't perfect, you believe you are a total failure.
5 Mind Reading Assume that people are reacting negatively to you.
6 Emotional Reasoning Assume that your emotions necessarily reflect reality.  An example is, “I feel stupid, so I must be stupid.”
7 Labeling After a bad test, calling youself a poor student instead of a student who performed poorly on a specific test.
8 Overgeneralization View a single negative event as a predictive pattern of future, never-ending, negative events.
9 Negative Self-Fulfiling Prophecy Anticipate that things will turn out badly and unconsciously act to make the prediction come true.
10 Personalization See yourself as causing a negative outcome even when you are not responsible.


Adapted from original materials created by Dennis H. Congos, 116 Phillips Hall, University of Central Florida, Orlando