For this month’s blog, I thought I would share my thoughts on a problem that we all face from time to time - remaining positive yet realistic in a challenging world.
I think it’s fair to say the human mind is a very powerful tool and with that comes thoughts and emotions that can take us away from what’s really going on. Later in this blog I will share with you a technique for dealing with this age-old problem but for now, let’s reflect on a few things.
As human beings we can choose how we act or react but as John Milton, the famous poet once wrote “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven”.
My first thought is, we all hear voices in our heads (don't we?). Well think about this for a second, would you ever speak to others the way you speak to yourself in your own head. Sometimes saying it out loud makes you realise how absurd you are being, how your mind is controlling you and not the other way around! Try it, you will laugh about how paranoid and ridiculous you sound.
And that got me thinking about the language we use. Positive people see things in temporary terms “he’s picked me up on just one thing”. Pessimistic people see things in more permanent terms “He’s always on my case!” Positive people also see good events in more permanent terms “I’m a good facilitator of meetings” but pessimistic people see events in more specific terms, “That meeting went well” So what am I saying here? Well, watch your language because, what if everything you said about yourself were to come true today? Just think about it.
Steven Covey, once said ‘live out your imagination and not your history”. In other words stop letting past events dictate your future thoughts or actions. Not all relationships go bad, not all jobs end in redundancy, and not all holidays are a disaster. See what I mean? If you’re not careful you will create a more pessimistic view of the world than actually exists. Try a different outlook for a while and see what happens. It won’t solve everything but why create your future based on past experiences. Learn from them by all means but don't take them with you.
Perhaps the best tip of all for taking a positive view is quite simply to check your sense of reality with someone else. Get them to check your internal dialogue or the lens you are putting on something. But remember, if they are just like you, chances are they have the same lens so get a different perspective!
There is so much I could write on this subject and I’m sure some of you reading this are saying, “yes but that's not realistic”. Well, I know which side of the fence I would rather be on. If your mind is making you negative most of the time and it isn’t real, then change your lens. And if your immediate response is I’m just realistic then consider changing your lens on a few subjects to start with!
So as promised here is a technique that's is literally as easy as ABC(DE).
The next time you think you might be allowing your mind to control your thinking or your well-being, then write this down and use it. Work through the following questions and be completely honest with yourself:
A Adversity What’s the issue?
B Beliefs What have you made that mean?
C Consequences How does that make you feel?
D Disputation What’s really going on?
E Energisation What are you going to do?
One final thought from me and a bit of psychology if you like. Have you ever noticed how you never see any Black Convertible Saab’s anymore? Guess what, you will now, they will be everywhere! And just like that, you can train your mind to see the positive - it’s called reframing. “Oh no, it’s Sunday and it’s pouring down!”…. “Well, at least that means I don't have to cut the grass or wash the car!’’
Don't take my word for it, here's some great reading that will tell you similar things, if you can be bothered to read them that is!
The Happiness Hypothesis
Jonathan Haidt (2006)
7 Habits of Highly of Effective People
Stephen R Covey (1989)