Stew, stew, stew. Fume, fume, fume.

Negative thoughts are like a boiling pot of potatoes. They turn your brain into mush. The longer you let negativity fester and the water boil over, the softer you get. We make terrible decisions when we are stressed out over a sales lead that turned into a sales dead end or when we fume over a sarcastic e-mail from an investor. Those thoughts consume us.

If only there was a way to combat negative emotions.
If only we could achieve some modicum of victory over constant hyper-focusing on our failures.
If only we could resolve issues in a way that leads to more happiness and fulfillment.

Yet, there is a way. We all know negative thoughts are harmful. Here's what I do. When a negative thought comes, I think about how the situation can be a blessing. What is one potentially positive outcome? Here are three recent example from my own work life.

1. A travel conundrum led to a travel breakthrough

I couldn't get a cheap enough flight down to Dallas for SxSW, even after several days monitoring the best options. It was making me stew! I realized, how can this negative thought lead to a positive outcome? Somehow, the thought entered my brain that I have never been to Houston. I checked the flights, and they were much lower. I had to change some other plans, but the funny thing is that I'll actually save about 30 minutes of driving to my eventual destination in Austin.

2. A negative "act" turned into positive "action"

An article went belly up recently, and several negative thoughts were running through my head. I was over-focusing on the "act" that caused me irritation rather than the "action" to resolve it. That negative event has turned into a positive outcome. I'm working harder on something new and enjoying the work much more anyway. It's a fun diversion.

3. Taxes are taxing but they give me great insight

I really, really hate doing my taxes. It burns me up to even think about it. Yet, as I pick through my expense reports and figure out all of the numbers, it does give me an opportunity to think about the work I'm doing and the income I've made. It's a yearly ritual that involves a lot of stress and consternation, yet I've decided to see it as a healthy process. It's a way to evaluate what is working and not working. It's a way to analyze, in great detail, how I'm doing.

I'm not perfect. These are three good examples, but I will probably stew about something even today. The trick is to stop and evaluate why that problem is causing stress. It's critical to look for anything in the negative thought pattern that could turn into a positive outcome.