A Template for Cognitive Restructuring

Published: Jun 24, 2020



In times of unprecedented upheaval and disruption in business, organizations need to display resilience in powerful measure. Having a resilient mindset enhances your ability to transform challenges into growth and to leverage leadership skills to your best advantage—especially vital when the stakes might be the company’s very survival.

Still, an organization is only as resilient as its people. How can you ensure that everyone in the workplace can think and act with resilience?

Cognitive restructuring refers to techniques to help people recognize their own negative thinking patterns, so that they can “rewire” them to more positive and productive thinking patterns. To promote enhanced resiliency for yourself and others, explore these sequential cognitive restructuring guidelines, and use this as a sample template to help you adjust reactions that can work against a resilient mindset:

Identify a situation that ignites pessimistic or disempowering thoughts. As an example, have you ever found yourself in a meeting thinking to yourself, “It seems like any time I offer a suggestion, it doesn’t even get consideration. Then someone else suggests the same thing, and they get the recognition for offering a good idea.” Most of us know this feeling, but have likely felt powerless to do anything about it. With cognitive restructuring, it’s precisely the time for deeper reflection, as described in the next step.

Describe your mood and the emotions you feel when this situation occurs. What are your internal thoughts when this happens? Perhaps your self-talk is something like, “I feel unimportant, unclear, invisible, and my mood is sadness and feeling demotivated.” Rather than just dwelling on these thoughts, take definitive action by breaking down the emotions.

Write down the most intense thoughts you experience before, during and after this situation. You might be thinking, “I hate these meetings where I get to feel awful about myself and angry that I am so ignored.” In this case, your self-talk experience could be, “What is wrong with me? They can all see that I am emotional about this. I am so angry with X for making me feel this way.” Now you’re ready to break these thought patterns down even further.

What is the proof that supports these thoughts and self-talk? Based on the described experience, your proof supporting your negative thoughts would be self-evident: “I get ignored and not heard.”

What is the proof that disputes these thoughts and self-talk? Now, rational logic comes into play, which you can see more easily because you’ve methodically analyzed your emotions in the situation. Therefore, your objective proof disputing the negative thoughts might be, “Clearly, my ideas are good, because others succeed in getting recognition when they suggest the same ideas.”

Identify balanced, fair-minded thoughts, emotional responses and self-talk that you might apply to this situation. Remember to have a strong sense of self-esteem, and apply it to your self-talk, which might sound something like, “I am smart, and I am passionate about this situation. I am fine and need to work at figuring out what I need to do to be heard. Maybe it is my delivery?” Now you are ready to create an action plan to address this type of situation.

Write down specifically what your self-talk, thoughts and behaviors will be when you experience this situation again. For example, you might write self-talk such as, “I have great ideas. Be sure to state them with conviction. It is okay if my ideas aren’t always embraced. The important thing is to figure out what might be lacking and how I can correct it.”

Proceed to what your thoughts will be and write those down. For example, “If someone gets noticed for saying what I have already said, I will speak up and say, ‘Yes, that is what I said earlier. I’m glad you see it that way, too.’”

Conclude by writing down what your actual behaviors will be, perhaps along the lines of, “I need to be louder, look everyone directly in the eyes, gesture a bit, avoid filler words, and practice what I want to say beforehand.”

By applying this template and methodology regularly to challenging or emotional situations, you can start to develop a more resilient mindset so that “rolling with the punches” can become second nature to you.

Download your quick Template for Cognitive Restructuring.

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