Avoid Talking Ants

If ants could talk, do you know what they’d be saying?    

‘You screwed that up, didn’t you?’
‘You are such a loser!’
‘Look at her, she managed it much better than you...’

Yeah, well, you might think. Ants don’t talk do they?

Ah, but they do. Right into your inner ear. Around 50 to 100 times a day, according to psychologists.

By ants, I don’t mean the little insects that will inevitably inherit the earth one day. Ants, according to psychologists, are Automatic Negative Thoughts. It’s quite useful to visualise them as a creature, though. To give personification to that little inner voice we all have.

ants describe the thoughts that pop into our heads, completely unbidden, and leave behind an absolute dog’s dinner of a mess of discomfort. They are masters at self- sabotage, frequently leading to a vicious circle where you become so downtrodden, or cross at your defects, you can’t help but do one thing: create more.

Become a pro at recognising when you might be making thinking errors. Here are a few:

All or nothing

Only seeing black and white (and no grey).                       

Fortune telling

Predicting the worst possible outcome to a situation (not realising that by starting out with this attitude, you start to make it self-fulfilling).   

Mind reading

Believing you know exactly what someone else is thinking.


See I’m a dufus section (page 50).

Negative focus

Disproportionately focusing on the negative in a situation.

Disqualifying the positive

Ignoring the positive stuff in a situation.


Investing unconnected events with personal meaning; ‘My boss is in a bad mood, it must be something I have done.’

Thoughts are such tricky things. They can help you, they can hinder you, they can make you superman or they can sink you to the bottom of the ocean.

Want to ensure you are always flying high? Mastery of your thoughts starts with recognising when you are being plagued by ants. Argue back! Squash those ants! They’ll never truly disappear, but you can control them.

An excerpt from Harvard-endorsed book, The Smarts: Big Little Hacks to Take You a Long Way at Work, by Saj Jetha (Penguin 2019) available on Amazon.

Saj is founder of the multi-award winning The Smarty Train, a training and talent consultancy with a mission to unlock talent everywhere. www.thesmartytrain.com