Our brains are biased to think negatively. We lean naturally to the glass half-empty. We love to dwell on our mistakes.
Think about it, if I asked you to remember your worst day, you’d probably hit me square in the face with a big ditty story very easily. You’d take me through all the horrible details, make it clear that nothing could have been worse. In short, it would be an easy answer to a softball question.
But if I asked you to remember your best day, you’d probably ponder, think for a little while about something suitable for consideration, and you’d probably question whether or not I will feel like it’s a good enough day to be worthy of the response.
We love talking about the bad stuff that happens to us.
We love the judgmental conversations, if not judging ourselves, then judging other people.
We are all quick to kick someone else in the ass, take a poke.
We are even better at self-deprecation.
Why did I do that!?
How stupid was that!?
What was I thinking?!
Come on man!?
You’re just so stupid sometimes?!
That’s what’s circulating in our minds all the time. So when we look outward to take stock of what is going on in our life, we are already biased to see the crappy stuff.
We are biased to choose the one tough thing that’s in the way then the twenty reasons why things look good. Even when things look good, we question how it can possibly be that good!
So if this is our natural state of mind, how do we change it? How do we move towards a more positive state of mind? How do we begin to see things with rose coloured glasses instead of dark lenses?
Step 1 – Acceptance
We first have to accept that this is our tendency. The tendency to be negative, to think negatively, is a truth. So let’s get past debating it and understand that it’s a biased starting point for most of us, even those who profess to be glass half full people, the conversations going on in their head are rarely quite as positive as the image on their face might profess.
Step 2 – Awareness
Once we accept that we lean towards the negative, we need to start to become more aware of how often we take the negative line.
Most of us don’t even realize how negative we are most of the time. It becomes habitual.
We wake up and we start thinking about how bad we feel, how crappy our sleep was last night, how late we got to bed, how hard it was to fall asleep, how tired we are, and on and on. Really, that’s the type of narrative our lives take on a daily basis from the minute our alarm sounds and jerks us out of our comfort zone.
You know what I am saying is not far from your truth. And the conversations just keep coming.
Could be a thought train about the daily commute, or what project you’re working on, or who you have to deal with today, these conversations just keep coming.
So awareness becomes our next step in the process of change.
We need to start to acknowledge these conversations and recognize that we do live in this negative dialogue space.
We need to start to record it.
Journaling daily can be a very powerful mechanism for increasing our awareness. Writing down the negative topics that are our favourite discussion points. Become more aware of the commonalities, of the traditional discussions of sort. What are our favourite negative topics?
Is it self-judgment?
Is it lack of patience?
Is it anger at everyone or anyone?
What do you think about regularly?
When we recognize the frequency and consistency of these conversations, we can begin to understand where our state of mind likes to reside. Now we can become accountable to our language.
Step 3 – Be Accountable
Being accountable means that we don’t just have these conversations without any recognition. We start to see them, own them, and understand how much and how often we have them.
Sort of like understanding how many calories are in a cookie, or a bowl of ice cream. If we don’t know, then we can’t be held accountable to the cost of eating them. But if we know we only have 2000 calories to eat in a day, and the cookie and ice cream are worth 800, we now know that we’ve used up a lot of our allotment on two little snacks.
But, that knowledge in and of itself is not going to be enough to change things.
Accountability means we do something about it. It means that when we notice ourselves in these little conversations, we do something to change it. We recognize it, and we apply a strategy to change the direction of the conversation.
One such strategy is a flow switch.
When we begin to hear ourselves entering into one of our negative discussion paths, we immediately apply a flow switch.
A simple and effective flow switch is intentional breath. When you start to have a discussion that is one of your favourites, acknowledge it, and then take five long slow intentional breaths while you clear your mind of the clutter.
Breathing intentionally is an amazing counterpoint to negative talk.
Step 4 – Adaptation
When we start to recognize our daily language, we can then begin to apply accountability strategies and tactics to move away from the negative and move towards the positive.
Another huge and extremely powerful mechanism for positive adaptation is counting your wins. At least once a day, preferably at the end of the day, take stock and count the things you achieved or had happened to you that were positive.
Injecting your mind with intentionally positive thoughts helps to shift the flow towards the positive. By ending the day with positive thoughts, you begin to start the next day with more positive thoughts.
The combination of being more aware and accountable of your internal language, and then injecting intentionally positive language will begin to shift the tide. You will never be perfect, no one ever is, but you will begin to see life in a new light.
A light that lifts your mojo and sends you on your way each day with a little more jump in your step.
Start taking these steps today, and walk the road to a more positive life!
This is just one of the concepts we dig into in our MpwrU program, designed to support human performance professionals in living their best lives! Next quarter starts in January and we’d love to see you there!