How to turn Negative Rumination into Useful Reflection

We all know people who slither down the rabbit hole of bad memories and wriggle out frazzled on the other side.

Ruminations shape responses and attitudes.

The future reflects the rumination of the present.


We all know people who slither down the rabbit hole of bad memories and wriggle out frazzled on the other side.

Negative rumination:

It doesn’t bode well that you tend to remember bad experiences with greater clarity and frequency than good.

Rumination seems smart:

Bad memories instill ‘realistic’ expectations and protect your heart.

  • Disappointment prepares you for potential setbacks and frustrations.
  • Negative memories lower expectations. “It will,” you think, “happen again.”

Experience teaches you to prepare for disappointment.

Make rumination useful:

#1. Don’t be a cow:

It’s natural to chew on the bad qualities of your boss or employees like a cow chews on her cud. She chews awhile, swallows, and brings it up again for more chewing.

Ruminating on bad memories contaminates your future.

#2. Reflect, don’t ruminate:

Turn negative rumination into learning opportunities by reflection on your response, not on disappointment or offense. What response is most beneficial for yourself and your team?

Maintain personal responsibility even when disappointed in others.

#3. Admire, don’t condemn:

Choose to admire strengths and contribution, not condemn mistakes or weaknesses. There’s a difference between resolving and condemning.

Create an admiration journal. Write three things you admire about every person on your team. Record a new point of admiration before you deal with disappointments or mistakes.

If you don’t admire the people on your team, someone has to go.

#4. Shift from complaint to compliment:

Write one encouraging email to a friend, team member, or customer every morning.

Click out a few sentences that explain how someone matters and send it on it’s way before dealing with the pressures of the day.

#5. Create triggers:

Use negative events, emotions, and thoughts as triggers for positive action. When it comes to rumination, we think too much and act too little.

What happens when leaders go down the rumination rabbit hole?

How might leaders turn rumination into something useful?

Bonus resources:

Rumination: Problem Solving Gone Wrong | Psychology Today

Repetitive Thoughts: Emotional Processing or Rumination? (

How to Stop Obsessing Over Your Mistakes (