“A negative mind will never give you a positive life.” Zlad K Abdelnour
Part of taking care of yourself is developing a positive mindset.
A study by psychologist Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, shows that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ. Other studies have shown that optimism leads to success in school, sports and politics.
But as social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood discusses in her TEDx talk, our minds tend to get stuck on the negative.
My daughter and I started taking a yoga class together, and I HATED every minute of it. I would get frustrated because it felt like I couldn’t do anything and wasn’t making any progress. Instead of focusing on the wonderful people in the class or the poses that I was able to do, my mind would dwell on what I thought was too challenging and I dreaded going. I talked to one of my friends, and she shared that she had felt the same way about one of her yoga classes, but had stuck with it and now it is her favorite class. Because I enjoyed having an opportunity to connect with my daughter, I decided to use what my friend said to change my perspective. I assumed that this would end up being one of my favorite classes and instructors, and that I will be proud of myself for sticking with a challenging start and making significant progress – and I started imagining that was already true and what it felt like to be going to my favorite class and to have made significant progress with my yoga practice. And guess what, I stopped dreading the class and actually started to enjoy parts of it.
As you are making changes in your life to take care of yourself first before assisting others, negative thoughts will come up. To avoid having those negative thoughts derail you, work on putting a plan in place to address the negativity when it occurs.
For example, I recently started intermittent fasting. It’s going well so far, but I can guarantee that I will not fast perfectly for the rest of my life. At some point, I will have some ice cream at 10pm or I’ll go out for breakfast. In the past, when I haven’t been “perfect”, I tend to have an “all or nothing” response. I’ll tell myself that I’ve blown it – so I might as well go back to eating whatever I want, whenever I want it. That response doesn’t help me achieve my goals. Stephen Covey would recommend that I decide how I’d like to act in that situation instead, and practice it over and over, until I start modeling my desired behavior. When that situation occurs, I would like to be compassionate and remind myself that success happens by consistent IMPERFECT action. I would like to take a BRIEF period to reflect on what triggered the decision I made, so I can see if there is anything I can learn from it. After that, I would like to celebrate all of the days that I have successfully fasted, and focus on my motivation for making this change. I want to inspire myself to get up and start again. To get this in my DNA, Covey would suggest living the scenario in my mind – imagining how I feel after having eaten the ice cream and breaking the fast…where will I be? What will I be wearing? How will I feel? And then imagining myself responding in the way I would like to respond instead of how I’ve responded in the past. If I practice for this scenario, when it happens, I’m much more likely to inspire myself to move past that tiny slip up and continue making choices in alignment with my goals.
“The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude.” Bob Bitchin
I learned about the importance of a positive mindset from a man who has been very influential in my life.
I don’t even remember his name. I was on a cruise with my kids, and he was responsible for having the guests use hand sanitizer before meals. As you would approach the dining area, he would great you with a big smile and proclaim “Washy, washy! Happy happy! Smiley smiley!” It was a Mediterranean cruise…so you didn’t have a lot of irritable people… but if anyone wasn’t already grinning, they would be after using the hand sanitizer. When we were checking out sites away from the ship, when we’d use the bathroom, often we’d hear someone say “Washy, washy! Happy, happy! Smiley, smiley!” For months afterwards, we would say that at home when we’d wash our hands. It’s been almost 8 years now, and saying “Washy, washy! Happy, happy! Smiley, smiley!” will still bring a smile to my kids’ faces.
What I learned was that if you approach any task, no matter how insignificant it may seem, you can change people’s lives if you are present, genuine and have a positive mindset. So how do you get started?
Fostering a positive mindset
- Start a gratitude practice – taking time to reflect on the positive things in your life makes you more aware of all of the positive things in your life.
- Meditate – you learn skills with a meditation practice that will help you identify negative thoughts more quickly and techniques to shift those thoughts.
- Determine how you would like to respond in specific negative situations that you deal with often, and practice for the situations by imagining it happening and you responding in the new positive, supportive way you’ve defined for yourself.
Finally, sometimes when our body is out of balance, it can exacerbate negativity. When my qi is stagnant, I am more irritable and pessimistic. Call Northshore Acupuncture at 815.814.1319 to schedule a consultation to see if acupuncture can help you focus more on the positive.
Next time you feel like you are going through an ordeal vs your life being an adventure, remember the “Washy washy! Happy happy! Smiley smiley!” guy and that it is all about ATTITUDE.