You’ve heard the terms: Negative Nancy. Debbie Downer. And you know the sayings: “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have none at all.” “If it can go wrong, it will.” None of us like being around this person, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that they are indeed this person.
Those used to be my mottos before I went to grad school and learned how, and why, to be more optimistic. A professor of mine taught us how to do “positive thinking,” in which you counter every 1 negative thought with 3 positive ones. It changed my life. I wrote a whole blog on that, if you would like more details about that practice, but here are some other tips I’ve picked up on along the way.
Think about the words you use and how it effects your actions and beliefs. Be aware of when you say “I can’t” do something. If you say that to yourself long enough, you’ll start to believe it. Also be conscious of when you say words like “always” and “never.” I heard this statement today from a transgender client: “People ‘always’ react badly when I come out to them.” I find that hard to believe since I know hundreds of trans people and they’ve had mostly good reactions. Another example is: “My husband ‘never’ takes out the trash.” Realize that what you’re saying is your husband has literally never taken out the trash a single day in his life.
Notice what you’re noticing. I heard about a seminar in which the speaker had everyone look around the room and look for how many brown things they see. Most noticed about 10. Then the audience was asked to close their eyes and make a list of how many red things they had seen. On average, people could only list 1-2 things whereas the speaker had purposely placed 15 red things in the room that were very noticeable.
You get what you’re looking for and you get what you expect. If you expect that your next date is going to suck, you’ll probably make sure that comes true. If you expect that a visit from your in-laws this weekend is going to go differently and everyone will have fun, you’ll feel more motivated to make that happen. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful – it’s all there. Your reality is no more than what you expect and notice about it.
I use the example of green traffic lights. No one ever notices them. But the red one, the one that stops us from getting where we need to go, is the one most of us focus on. I used to go through 7 traffic lights on the way to work and I made it a point to count the green ones and, most days, it was 4-5 out of 7. But I was looking for green lights and, sure enough, I found them. Hmmm. Go figure.
Hope this helps!