Living Your Dream

When you are diagnosed with a life-threatening injury your first thought, and the first thought of those who love you, tends to be negative and counterproductive. The best way to battle a life-threatening injury is to maintain hope that recovery is possible. While attending cognitive therapy, I learned about the negative thoughts and personal biases that destroy hope and sabotage recovery. The following list (from a book titled “Why We Make Mistakes” written by Joseph T. Hallinan) contains the personal biases that are most likely to detour the path to recovery:

1. Overgeneralization
2. Predicting Disaster
3. Extreme Thinking
4. Personalization
5. Emotional Reasoning
6. Mind Reading
7. Fortune Telling


The erroneous belief that the outcome of a single event implies all of our future events will result in the same outcome. This ANT is notorious for preventing test takers from doing their best on an exam. For example, “I left the sprinklers on too long last week. I never do anything right. I am a failure. I can’t possibly pass an exam.”

Predicting Disaster

The erroneous belief that our failure is inevitable. For example, “I used to walk faster, stand straighter, remember more, and think faster. At this rate, I’ll be dead in a week . . . maybe sooner.” When we predict disaster, we subconsciously avoid the solutions that could prevent the disaster.

Extreme Thinking

The erroneous belief that everything is good or bad, right or wrong, dark or light, hot or cold, hard or soft, early or late, or possibly too fast or too slow. There is nothing that is just right. For example, “If somebody might disagree with me, then I should say nothing.”


The erroneous belief that you caused an event that you clearly did not. For example, “I have cancer. Therefore, I must have done something wrong. The fact that gas prices in my area are increasing is obviously my fault for doing whatever it is that caused me get cancer. I am being punished for something I did.”

Emotional Reasoning

This is the erroneous belief that our feelings are actually facts. My gut tells me that I must buy a tool now because I might need it in the future. I purchase the tool, leave it in the box, and place it on a shelf in the garage where it will collect dust for 20 years until I donate it to charity.

Mind Reading

This is the erroneous belief that we know the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of other people even though we do not have evidence to prove our assumptions. For example, “Jane did not say ‘hello’ this morning so I conclude that she hates me.” Jane may have been running late, she may have been preoccupied with filing her taxes, or her best friend may have been hit by a drunk driver. I cannot possible know what Jane is thinking so I cannot conclude that she hates me.

Fortune Telling

This is the erroneous belief that a prediction is a fact. Politicians and athletes have repeatedly proven that predictions are not facts. Gamblers and investors know all too well that predictions are not facts. However, we repeatedly act based on our predictions.

The person who is chronicled in the following video successfully fought the obstacles to recovery after her brain surgery. She believed in hope even though she faced challenges, obstacles, and fears:


Which biases prevent you from doing the things that you want to do? Which biases do you face that are not on the list? What tips do you have for battling biases? Which biases do you believe challenge people who are not affected by a life-threatening injury?

Thanks to Joseph T. Hallinan for sharing his list. Thanks to Sako Yakinian, ABC, and YouTube for sharing the video.




  1. What an amazing visual of what hope can propel the human spirit to stretch for! May the full-time Optimist rise up in all of us, especially in those moments when we feel like no one is watching, but really, the whole world is being inspired by every simple step. Thank you for sharing her story and yours.

    1. Stanley, thank you for taking time to share your feedback. There are certainly many moments where it seems like nobody is watching, but those are the moments that encourage me to find another way to communicate.

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