Managing “Automatic Negative Thoughts” with a little perspective.

Last week, I attended Professor Hitendra Wadhwa’s course at Columbia Business School, Personal Leadership & Success.  Throughout the course we used great leaders in history and business as touchstones for the concepts discussed — Lincoln, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Mandela, and many others.  While it’s always inspiring to study these leaders, I feel as if the temporal, geographical, and circumstantial distance make it more challenging for me to apply their principles.    I typically draw inspiration from the people around me.

In another class, I had the pleasure to meet Dr. Tomoaki Kato a humble and reserved Surgeon from New York Presbyterian hospital pursing his MBA.  In this class we had an exercise in which we had to motivate a fictional team of our peers/employees by sharing a personal story.  It was then that I learned of Dr. Kato’s historic achievement…


Here’s a short commercial from New York Presbyterian featuring Heather’s perspective.


Dr. Kato approached Heather’s case with optimism, hope, creativity, and logic where his peers from other hospitals responded with fear, self-doubt, and other “Automatic Negative Thoughts.”   Conventional wisdom offered no option for Heather, but Dr. Kato had the strength to see beyond the obvious reasons why he shouldn’t perform the operation,  and create medical history .

When I confront my personal ANTs, such as anxiety before reaching out to a very senior contact,  I’m going to think about Dr. Kato, the stakes of his decision, and courage it must have taken to forge on.   I’ll continue to draw from the great leaders we discussed in class. Through these lenses, I hope to bring some perspective to my doubts, discomforts, and anxieties, and more easily manage these emotions down to a productive level.

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