Thinking positively is hard.
Shit. See what I mean? That’s a negative statement about something positive.
As someone who is achievement oriented with a high need for productivity, I have a tendency to focus a ridiculous amount of energy on the next goal that hasn’t been accomplished, the deal that hasn’t been landed, what isn’t happening fast enough…I think you get the picture.
This drive is good for me as an entrepreneur – it keeps me from lying in bed all day, bingeing Netflix or mixing a gin and tonic at three in the afternoon. But it can also suck. When I reflect on my day, I typically only remember the things that didn’t go well.
In my book and speeches on stress and resiliency, I talk about our primitive brains’ hardwiring to be negative and always assume the worst. They’re also designed to pay more attention to negative events. It’s the part of our brains I call ‘Sneaky Pete’. This biology has been helpful as an evolutionary survival tactic: focusing on the potential dangers and downsides of every event keeps us safe and alive. But in everyday modern life, it’s a drag.
We are our thoughts. Our thoughts become our reality. I don’t want to live my life being negative, full of self-doubt and focusing on things that aren’t working. I don’t want to feel unfulfilled.
In a serious attempt to override my brain’s primitive hardwiring, I’ve been journaling under the heading “Positivity Practice”. Each day I have to list things that are going well professionally. While it’s been fairly easy to come up with some “wins” each day, by the time I’m only half way through writing the first sentence, Sneaky Pete has already snuck in like a thief, trying to steal my happiness and self-worth.
For instance, I was just writing about a speaking event that checked all the boxes for what I define to be a big success. Before I could even finish the second sentence, Sneaky Pete interjected “But these don’t happen often enough.” Ugh. I refocused and tried again. I wrote about how the best part of the whole experience was the book signing afterward that allowed me to meet and connect with people. Sneaky Pete blurted “The only reason there were that many people in line is because they got a free Hit the Deck if they came over.”
He can be the biggest A-hole! If we’re not conscious and careful, Sneaky Pete can fill our lives with doubt, negativity and a constant desire for more. His definition of success typically has to do with perceived popularity, money, status, looks – and the fear of not having enough. There will always be someone who has more.
A great way to kick him out of the conversation (and in the goods) is to connect with our beliefs. Do I believe I did the best job I could? Do I believe I showed up wanting to be of service? Do I believe I made a difference in someone’s life? The answers are all yes. And they’re how I define a truly successful event.
Beliefs dispel doubt and anxiety and instill a sense of confidence and completeness.
The next time Sneaky Pete tries to have his way with you, reflect on your belief system. Ask yourself if you’re acting in accordance with those beliefs. Are your behaviors an expression of what you believe? Define success on a rating system that really matters to you, and Sneaky Pete has very little ground to stand on.
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