by Kathie England

Are Your ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) Holding You Back?

What are the ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) that hold you back as a business owner?

Daniel Amen, M.D., created the acronym ANTs to describe the Automatic Negative Thoughts that hold us back. He defines them as “erroneous thought patterns based on failures that have previously occurred in one’s life.”

Amen proposes that we can learn to correct these erroneous thought patterns that severely limit our ability to enjoy life and be successful in any endeavor. How we think moment by moment has a huge impact on how we feel and how we behave. Negative thoughts often drive difficult behaviors and cause us to have problems with self-esteem.

Amen names ten types of ANTs: all or nothing thinking, “always” thinking, focusing on the negative (a RED ANT), fortune-telling (also a RED ANT), mind-reading (another RED ANT), thinking with your feelings, guilt beatings, labeling, blame (most poisonous RED ANT of all), and personalization.

Let’s look at a few examples. 

All or nothing thinking is when we make something either all good or all bad with nothing in between. Have you ever said to yourself, “If I don’t close this deal, then I’m a lousy business owner?”

“Always” thinking happens when we think something that happened will “always” repeat itself. Other always words include never, no one, everyone, every time, and everything. A good example of always thinking is when we say or think “no one ever listens to me.”

Amen offers four strategies to get rid of the ANTs in your life:

  1. Write down the thought (ANT)
  2. Identify what is distorted about the thought
  3. Label which ANT it is
  4. Talk back to the ANT

When you write down an ANT and talk back to it, you take away its power. When you think a negative thought without challenging it, your mind believes it and your body reacts to it. ANTs are really like ants at a picnic. One ant isn’t a problem, but two or three become more irritating. Ten or twenty become a problem.

What ANTs are holding you back?

This post is a reprint of an article I wrote for the May 2014 electronic newsletter of the Albina Opportunities Corporation. (

During the Making Time for Success call on June 10, 2014 at 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time, we will explore this topic in greater depth. Send an email to to register now.