“Every day may not be good… but there's something good in every day” ― Alice Morse Earle
Over the years, I have been asked many times how I remain positive and can see the good in situations. Reflecting on this, I asked my husband what his view was on this, and he said “You work at it”.
I started my own coaching journey about 15 years ago when my manager at the time let me borrow a 28 day CD programme by Anthony Robbins. There were daily activities, and lots of information about mindset, but one of the key things that stuck with me was if you change direction by 1 degree each day, although you may not feel those changes, over a month you will be on a different trajectory, and within a year you could be on a completely different course. Working on my own mindset, trying to understand the world around me, the psychology behind my thoughts, actions and behaviours, and analysing on how I interact with others has been key to deepening my own knowledge and awareness about myself.
When another colleague a few years later introduced me to ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, my mind was blown! I read, and then bought the audio book, and listened in the car, over and over again. Although over the years my understanding of the law of attraction has developed, and I now maybe don’t agree with all that was written, or may have a different interpretation of the ‘law’ I am forever grateful for ‘The Secret’ as without it, I wouldn’t have looked further into this fascinating topic. And it is ultimately this law that has helped me to be positive in life. The thelawofattraction.com website defines the law of attraction as “the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on.” So, if you focus on good things, you will attract more good things; if you focus on negative things, you will attract more negative things to you. A major criticism of ‘The Secret’ is that people got into debt because they were living beyond their means and thinking about the life they wanted, and this would be enough to attract it to them. I believe the law of attraction is about lifting your energy and how you show up in the world, but you also need to take action. It is about being grateful for what you have, as well as being optimistic about the future and believe that more amazing things are coming to you. It is being open to opportunities and stating what you would like - and by this I mean the real reason you want something, for example, if you state you want to be a millionaire, I would want to know your ‘why’ behind this - is it the sense of security you would have, the ability to provide for your family, you would be able to travel the world, you could design your dream home. Ultimately money is a resource, and it is what it gives you that helps you define your real desires. Once you know the purpose you want to achieve something, then you can let go of the ‘how’ and accept you will achieve this outcome. By being open I believe you will achieve what you want, it may just come to you in a different way to ‘how’ you originally thought it would.
An example is I worked for a great company on a one year contract. After the year, I found a permanent position in an amazing job, for a company that on paper looked great, but, days after joining (and if I’m being really honest, I knew at the interview stage, I just didn’t listen to my gut) I knew I hated the values of the new company. I started looking for another job, and 9 months later, a permanent position at the great company I worked at previously became available. It was a tough 9 months for me. During the time, I took the opportunity to update my skills, learning new desktop publishing capabilities, building my personal resilience and doing the best I could within the role. I decided that a role alone was not enough for me and I had to feel aligned to company values, so I was selective in roles I applied for, but ensured I was taking action - applying for roles, and using my network. It is through keeping connections at the previous company, I was alerted when a new role was created. I also continued to practice gratitude. I could have spiralled into all the things I wasn’t happy about, but each morning and evening, I consciously thought about at least 3 things I was grateful for during the day - they often may not have been work related, such as no queue in Starbucks for my morning coffee, having an extra 5 minute cuddle with my husband before starting the day, my favourite song coming onto the radio when I was driving into work, the beautiful sunset I enjoyed in my rear view mirror on the drive home, the funny conversation with my colleague over lunch, it not raining until I got into the office, the hot water in the shower, the green traffic light when I got to the roundabout. Big or small, there is so much to be grateful for in life - and I chose to see that and say ‘thank you’ on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I still got cross, frustrated, angry at things, and some days I did just wallow in self pity over hating my current situation. However, I kept focus on the outcome I wanted to achieve - an amazing job in a company with values I felt aligned to. When I started my search, the job I eventually got didn’t even exist, there were no roles within the company I went back to, there had been a change in top level management - basically I couldn’t imagine the exact outcome I got, because it literally wasn’t there, but I took actions to move me towards something different, something I wanted, and an amazing opportunity was delivered to me.
There are also some things in the world that I can’t find the positive in - bad and evil things do happen, which just seem mindless to me - but, wherever I can, and where it is about me, I try my hardest to find the good. I believe for the law of attraction to work you need to ensure you are doing something every day to move you closer to your dream or ideal state. If you are worried you are not good enough in your career, read up on industry papers, blogs, textbooks; if you are scared of speaking up, find a way to start a conversation with someone at the coffee machine, then the next day, start a conversation with someone at the bus stop, then review an agenda for a meeting and ensure you have a point you need to raise; if you want to run a marathon find a training plan and start training - each day do what you need to to get fitter and be able to run further, faster. Click here to see a short video about changing some old limiting beliefs into something more positive and empowering.
I had learnt that it takes 21 days of consistent action to form a habit. Jeremy Dean’s research, which can be found in his book Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick, says it takes on average 66 days to form a habit. That is just over 2 months of consistent change before this change no longer requires the same level of effort.
Making changes isn’t always easy, whether it is stopping a ‘bad’ habit, such as smoking, or starting a ‘good’ habit, such as regular exercise. I have tried to make positive thinking, and having positive thoughts a habit, but I do find it still takes some degree of effort. The more I do it though, the more often it is just my way of choosing to see the world. This is why people think I am a positive person - and I love that people perceive me in this way - it is how I want to be perceived, and how I perceive myself. But, it is something I work at. The same way a good driver only remains a good driver, by keep doing all the good habits whilst in the car, or an outgoing person remains outgoing by keep talking to people in social settings. I remain positive, because I choose to keep seeing the positives and verbalising what these are to people. The good news is, anyone can cultivate this attitude if they want. The ‘bad’ news is that once you start you will need to keep going to keep it up.
In any situation you will react or have a reaction. You have a choice - you see the good or you see the bad, you see the positive or you see the negative. Yin/yang, dark/light, day/night - everything has an opposite and it is about the balance. Knowing you have a choice to see the positive over the negative, even if it takes a bit of work to begin with, you can choose to do this. If you see the positive, and you will then see more positives, then I would suggest this is worthwhile. If you choose to see the negative, maybe you will then see more negatives - does this make you feel better?
A story I remember from Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly successful people was about paradigm shifts. He tells the story of a woman on a train in the quiet carriage. At a stop, a man gets on with 3 children. The man sits down opposite her, staring at his feet, whilst his children run rampant in the carriage. The woman starts to sigh and huff as the children are loud and she cannot concentrate on reading her paper. Eventually she coughs and the man looks up. She asks, “Please can you control your children?”
“Um, oh, I’m so sorry.” Tears start to fill his eyes. The woman is a little taken aback and starts to justify her position, “It is just, that, I’m trying to read and this is the quiet carriage”, pointing at the sign on the window.
“Of course. It is just that… we have come from the hospital, and their mother has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I don’t know how to tell them. I think they might know but…”
“I am so sorry. What can I do to help?”
The situation hadn’t changed - the children were still being disruptive in the quiet carriage, but the woman had a paradigm shift - she was seeing the world through a very different lens. The overall situation is a negative one, but the woman was now seeing that the children could have a little longer before hearing the sad news, or that they needed this time to process, if they were aware; that she could be of some comfort to this stranger and maybe be a listening ear in his darkest moment.
As Jen Sincero puts it in ‘How to be a Badass’, your reality is what you choose to focus on and how you choose to interpret it - and this includes what you focus on about others, what you see, what you hear in your head. As she explains, if someone says something to you like “you are an idiot” you can focus on several things:
- How rude they are
- That you feel angry
- That what they are saying is correct
- That maybe they are having a bad day
- That maybe that is how they feel about themselves and are projecting this onto you
- Think it is funny as it doesn’t resonate with you
Everything is a potential learning opportunity. When things bother us about others it is because it has triggered something in us - maybe it is a fear, or it reminds us of something we don’t like about ourselves, or it has triggered an insecurity we didn’t know we had.
If you actively don’t like something it resonates with you on some level. Confront the situation and you will move from a victim mode of something happening to you, to choosing to have a different reaction/interpretation/response. You cannot control other people, or situations, but you can totally control how you choose to react to that person or situation.
Sometimes, just stopping focusing on yourself, and imagining things from someone else’s perspective can give you a completely different thought process and reaction. I know how I want to choose to see the world, how about you?
My challenge to you, if you choose to accept it, is for the next 66 days is:
Every morning or evening write down at least 3 things you are thankful for
If something happens during the day that makes you smile, say a ‘thank you’ in your mind [or out loud]
If you are going to say something negative, and you catch yourself in time, choose to say nothing
If there is a situation you feel negatively about, think if there is a positive way to view this - maybe a different perspective you can take?
I’d love to hear your successes, thoughts and actions taken as a result of this challenge. Please feel free to comment on my social media*, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.