Maintaining a positive mindset is one of the key elements to achieving any goal. It is also one of the cornerstones of crafting a satisfying life. I spend a lot of time during wellness coaching sessions helping clients train themselves to reinforce positive thought patterns in daily life. And that’s a good thing because I have a lot of personal experience in doing just that.
I admit I am not a positive person by nature. In fact, for years that was not an adjective that many of my friends or colleagues would use when describing my personality. I was raised to be very cautious, considering every angle and worst case scenario for any situation. That mindset may serve a good lawyer, but it doesn’t really work for someone who helps others reinforce the best parts of their own lives.
A few years ago I decided I needed to overhaul the way I looked at the world and how I interacted with it. I wanted to create the best possible life for myself and it finally dawned on me that by trying to second-guess the worst outcome, I was usually ignoring the best possible outcome. All of the research in the science of positive psychology shows that a positive mindset creates a positive outcome so I decided it was time to focus on the positive instead of the negative. (Cue Monty Python “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.)
Guess what? It works. Maintaining a positive attitude really does help create a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in life. But it isn’t always easy. In fact, for someone like me staying positive can be one of the hardest things to do on a consistent basis.
Life can be pretty overwhelming at times. Days are filled with multiple responsibilities and deadlines. Trying to keep all the balls in the air at work and at home has a way of really wearing you down after a while. Sometimes it just seems like quitting would be the easiest thing to do, especially when all of your efforts don’t seem to be going anywhere.
If you reach that point (and just about all of us do at one time or another), here is an exercise to help reboot your attitude and reinvigorate your determination.
Don’t deny the way you are feeling. Recognize the fact that you are overwhelmed and not channeling Pollyanna all the time. Here is the key. Acknowledge and accept what you are feeling, but don’t let those thoughts engage your emotions. This is difficult since most of us are used to reacting on an emotional level when a thought enters our minds, but it is not always the healthiest thing to do.
If the day has been particularly difficult, take some time–possibly before bed– and write down all the problems you encountered. Take it to the extreme. If you are concerned about work, what is the worst that can happen? Write that down. Give yourself the luxury of writing out and acknowledging all of your fears and anxieties about what might happen. No one else will read this so it should be as personal and honest as possible. When you have finished, end with the phrase, “and tomorrow will be better.” (You could cue “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” but please– don’t).
When you do this exercise, you give yourself permission to admit all of your doubts and concerns. If you consistently try to steer your mind away from those thoughts, it simply tries to double-back and revisit them which only serves to strengthen them. However, by admitting those thoughts exist, you lessen their ability to influence your actions–up to and including quitting.
This exercise works like a mental detox. Once you recognize those thoughts exist, you expend less mental energy trying to avoid them. They exist, but you don’t need to react to them any longer, so you have more mental energy and clarity to spend on moving forward on a positive path.
We all have self-defeating thoughts. They become especially powerful when the world keeps throwing roadblocks in our path. However, they lose that power when you observe them as thoughts without feeling the need to react to them. Writing them down does just that. And that will give you the freedom to keep moving ahead with a positive attitude.
I recommend this exercise to clients and I use it when I reach a tipping point. I let it all out, writing down all my anxieties and fears of what could possibly happen if I fail in whatever I may be trying to accomplish. I write it all down and end with the phrase that tomorrow will be better.
And you know what? It is. Always. I lose that sense of underlying anxiety that has been building over time, and I can actually focus on what I need to do to make the good things happen in my life and spend my energy pursuing that.
Give it a try if you find all the negative ideas about what could happen are holding you hostage and keeping you from going after all the positive things that could be filling your life.
I’d love to hear how this works for you. Please feel free to comment or share and let me know your thoughts.
Are you ready to own your own well-being? Schedule a free thirty minute consultation to discuss how we can work together to get your health and happiness back on track quickly and for good.