Stuff Happens – The heavy lifting of positivity
Nothing would give me more pleasure than telling you that after 11 years as a coach, and studying the ins and outs of happiness, that there’s a golden light at the end of the tunnel where you live happily ever after and life is a long string of joy, love bubbles and blissful moments. However, I don’t deal in bull... dust, I deal in positivity, and quite frankly, there is no pot of gold to find. (Sorry.)
What I have discovered, is that regardless of how positive you are, life still throws you challenges. No matter how mindful, engaged or compassionate you are, bad stuff still happens and weather you’re generally more optimistic or more pessimistic, when disaster strikes, it still sucks! The pain feels the same regardless of your disposition, it’s what comes next that separates us. I think most people believe that the optimist is like an endangered species on a protected list that is simply immune to disaster or negativity, not so my friends. The optimist is the guy working overtime to make sure that when disaster strikes it doesn’t’ take him (or those around him,) down with it.
Being optimistic and remaining positive in the face of adversity is the biggest challenge of all. It’s an illusion that positivity comes easily to some. The more happy people I meet, the more I’ve realised it’s not that they are genuinely happy all the time, it’s simply that they value happiness so much they are prepared to do the hard work to make it happen. Yes, I did just say that happiness is hard work, it is.
So, when my daughter whines about how terrible her life is, (which is quite literally the most frequent conversation were having at this point in time) it’s not my natural inclination to respond with joy, compassion and optimism (despite all my happiness training.) My instinct is to shut it down in a tyrannical rant about how ungrateful she is, what a crappy attitude she has and how I’m the one with something to complain about. This rant would naturally be followed by an internal dialogue of self-loathing, guilt at how I’m failing my daughter and why I’m generally a bad person. The easy thing to do is follow my instinct and let rip with the rant, the hard thing is to stay positive, and my word, it’s hard!
The heavy lifting of positivity involves knowing and managing your emotions, being mindful of how you react and communicate and consciously trying to promote kindness and positivity. Here’s a few tips on how I do it, and believe me, it’s a work in progress, my daughter still gets the ‘tyrannical rant’ sometimes, but as much as I can, I work towards a better way.
Eject – recognise when your emotions are about to boil over and find an eject button. Something you can do to safely remove yourself from the situation and make sure no harm is done. I’ll often walk outside to the letter box and stand awhile and breathe. Whether it’s feeling overwhelmed with work or frustrated with kids, it shifts my perspective.
Be selfish – being positive is hard, but being positive on a smattering of sleep and a constant feeling of overwhelm is near impossible. When I make time to do things I enjoy and manage my daily routine well, I’m able to cope better with the inevitable stress that life delivers.
Understand Neuroplasticity – knowing my brain is totally changeable means that when I allow negative thoughts in, those thoughts become easier to access. When I work hard to focus on and find the positives, (despite having the same negative thoughts as the average person) it does become easier, not easy, but easier and that’s an advantage I need. The more often I stretch my brain to acknowledge the positives the better I become at noticing the positives, so the harder I work, the more optimistic I become.
So, I probably haven’t sold you on positivity, but hopefully you have a few insights into how the positive people in your world see things. Life isn’t any easier for them, they just work harder at it. Being positive is hard work, but is it rewarding? Absolutely! Positivity creates opportunities. Hopefully you’ll take some of these ideas and have a crack, or at least, appreciate the positive people in your world a little more.