If you want to change your circumstances, you need to change the way you think. You have to stop believing that you are stuck in your situation and passively accepting that you’re incapable of doing anything about it.

Many people allow themselves to be caged by their fear and anxiety. For these people, an inner critic always seems to be whispering in their ears, keeping them from succeeding. The truth is, negative thinking will shackle you to a life that’s both mediocre and unfulfilling. If you want to stretch yourself to your fullest potential, you need to escape your self-imposed prison of negative thinking.

All it takes is consistent practice and the will to overcome. 

Set your new “norm.” Negativity is so pervasive in today’s world that we can get mired in it without even realizing it. This can happen in subtle ways. Our friends might tease us for our dreams, casually diminishing our goals. Or family members might urge us to seek out a dependable, reliable job and stay the course. We are surrounded by the constant drumbeat of “you can’t make it, so don’t even try.”

Negativity is so pervasive because our brains are wired that way as part of our self-defense mechanism. Therefore, we also accept it as normal. But negative thinking isn’t healthy. It can trap us in a prison of fear, anxiety, anger and despair. In order to break free, you need to start setting new norms.

Tame your mental monsters. The more we let negative thoughts take hold, the more we let negativity seep into our psyche and allow pessimistic thinking to become a part of us. Negative thoughts are like mental monsters: They will eat you (and your dreams) from the inside out.

Give yourself a pep talk. To truly break out of the prison of negative thinking, you must begin acting positively every day. This will help you eradicate negativity by not giving it space to fester in your mind. One way to do this is to write yourself a pep talk that reads like an advertisement — like you’re selling yourself by promoting your best qualities. What would you say to market yourself?

Think of this like an in-house advertising campaign that only you will see. This is an internal commercial that you can play on repeat in your mind — it’s a constant pep talk to yourself. Say this pep talk to yourself out loud at least once a day (preferably in the morning), and read it to yourself several times throughout your day.

Get back to reality. Negative thinking is often centered around thoughts about the past that are upsetting, hurtful or disappointing, or around anxiety or apprehension about something that we believe will happen in the future. These painful or fearful thoughts prevent us from focusing on the present and accepting where we are at this moment in time.

Negative thinking creates angst and mental pain because we are focused on these ruminations instead of living in the reality of the moment. By bringing your attention back to the present, you’ll see that your negative thoughts are just that — thoughts. They aren’t reality. By living in the moment, you can begin to shape your reality the way you want.

Use anger and frustration for the positive. There are times when we may become morally outraged about something that we feel is unfair or unjust. We take action to fight for what is right — and on the face of it, that’s a good thing.

But it doesn’t take much to allow your anger to push you from being constructive to destructive. To keep your mind and heart free from negativity, you must learn to use your frustration and anger to drive positive action.