With the beginning of a new year, I wanted to talk about the importance of positive thinking. There is so much negativity these days, from the shrill of the media, to unhappy coworkers, to angry bosses, or simply whining and complaining children. It can really be a challenge to stay positive. To make things even more challenging, neuroscientists suggest that we have approximately 80,000 thoughts a day, three-fourths of which are negative.
We know negative thoughts fuel our negative feelings and show up as negative words and actions. All the negative thinking, feeling, saying, and doing, translates into negative results. The negative results, in turn, end up reinforcing our original thought processes. How do I know all this? Like you, I, too, have had some bouts with negativity. Sometimes it is difficult to see beyond our current field of vision.
Much of how we see the world and ourselves in it depends on our “come from.” Our “come from” is nothing more than the perspective we have adopted or the meaning we have assigned to the sum total of our experience. Unfortunately, unless we consciously make an effort to give our experience a different interpretation, we may miss the opportunity to see more objectively and realistically.
One of the most positive people I know is my executive assistant’s father, Sigi. No matter what he is experiencing or has experienced, everything “is just fantastic!” For example, he is a native born German who emigrated to the U.S. in 1959 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, so he carries a U.S. passport. After his widowed mother passed away in 1991, he decided to return to his parents’ home in Germany to live for a while. One of his daughters went over for a visit, and together they decided it would be fun to drive around Europe and visit a few countries.
Sigi thought it would be fine to drive his deceased father’s car (registration expired in 1985) using his California driver’s license (also expired) as they toured and his U.S. passport. While visiting the communist Czech Republic, they took a wrong turn in the middle of an old town and drove through an area that was designated as a pedestrian zone. Needless to say, the local police pulled him over and ordered him out of the car. Sigi later described the experience as, “Just fantastic!”
Let me tell you a little about Sigi. He has never met a stranger. He genuinely likes people, and he fully expects people to like him too. From all the stories you have heard about communist countries, you might have expected the authorities to confiscate the vehicle, dump Sigi and his daughter in jail, and throw away the key. Instead, the Czech officers thought Sigi was so friendly, they personally escorted the lawbreakers to the border and told them, “It would create just too much paperwork. Go back to Germany, and don’t come back here.” Which was, of course, “Just fantastic!” They even agreed to drop the daughter’s postcards in the mail so her friends could receive mail with a Czech postmark.
No matter what Sigi experiences, or what consequences others might think he deserves, he seems to live his life riding his own personal beam of light.
Here are some things you might try in the New Year to increase the positivity in your life and improve your “come from”:
Give People the Benefit of the Doubt
When it comes to holding difficult conversations, remember that everyone is rational from their own point of view. Asking questions and taking the time to listen will help you discover the other person’s thinking and help you see things differently than you did before.
Try to Do Something Different
Doing something you have never done before can be humbling, but it can also be exhilarating. Give yourself an opportunity to feel some new feelings with a new experience.
Look to Learn Something New
When things don’t go as planned, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” Honestly try to assess a situation and your part in it. You might also ask yourself, “How have I contributed to the results I am getting?” Having a clearer perspective allows us to make different choices.
Quit Speaking Negatively
Speaking negatively seems to add more fuel to the fire. My five-year old daughter recently asked me, “Daddy, what are your new year’s revolutions?” Create a revolution this year to catch your “negative talk” and change it to be positive—or don’t speak at all.
The Aramaic word “abracadabra” means “I create what I speak.” It seems that even the ancients understood that we end up creating what we think and speak about.
Challenge Your Perspective
When you notice that you are thinking negatively, ask yourself if there is another way—a positive way—to interpret the same set of facts.
Our lives would be so much more enjoyable if our “come from” was “just fantastic!” Then, no matter what our circumstances, we might experience the exhilaration of riding our own beam of light.
Originally published on January 18, 2014 at www.dialogueworks.com
For over 20 years, John R. Stoker has been facilitating and speaking to audiences, helping them to improve their thinking and communicating skills. He is an expert in communications who believes the human capacity to achieve astonishing results depends on the individual’s ability to interact with others.
John holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Behavior as well as a J.D. Degree. His landmark book, Overcoming Fake Talk, is both entertaining and engaging, and it presents skills that help readers talk about what matters most.
In the past, John worked as a practicing criminal defense attorney, spent summers as a Grand Canyon white-water guide, and taught on the university level for 13 years. John has been happily married since 1994 and he and his wife Stephanie are the proud parents of five children.