Can I Learn to be Positive?

How do you approach a problem or a challenging situation? Are you one that takes a problem on head on looking for the means of turning it around? Or do things seem to swallow you up when you’re faced with adversity or trials? Maybe neither of those quite fit and you’re somewhere in the middle. Many people are able to take on whatever life throws at them, but the difference lies in the amount of pain and angst they feel in doing that. That difference depends a great deal on their outlook on life; whether they have a positive outlook on life or a negative one.

For me, it is easy, I always (I hate to say always but I truly can’t think of a time in the last decade where it hasn’t been true) see the opportunity or the blessing in a frustrating situation. I was once dubbed the queen of silver linings and honestly, I wear that crown with pride. Important to note that I did not start out that way. One of my favorite quotes from a childhood movie was ‘You be positive I’ll be realistic.’ Cool. As I got to adulthood though I realized that negativity, branded as realism, is poisoning life. Things that were minor inconveniences were throwing people into a funk that would impact their entire day and the day of those around them. I watched a friend get so angry about waiting in line for coffee at a drive through that he was actually angry and treating other people badly for days. There was a boyfriend who assumed I would get fired from my job (for things like speaking up with solutions) and would tell me to keep quiet. I had a co-worker who complained about not having enough time to get her work done for an hour every day. (Yes I timed it and no I’m not super proud of that but this is where we are.) It seems to me that an extra 5 hours a week would go pretty far in impacting the time you have to get things done.

I lived in a rental house which I never wanted to do but was able to enjoy gorgeous sunsets that I could never see from my house in the woods.

More than being annoying to listen to and distracting at work, I could see the weight that this negativity was adding to people. The pain and frustration that they had because they were choosing to focus on the negative. Thankfully I didn’t waste much time thinking about how I wasn’t that bad and comparing and justifying my own negativity. I realized right quick that wherever I was on the negativity spectrum would only compound if I didn’t start being more positive.

So then how do you change it? How do you go from seeing the pain to seeing the blessing? From begrudgingly getting things done, seeing the worst case scenario, to seeing the opportunities that it could be laying out for you? I will tell you that for me, making the switch just sort of naturally came over time. I couldn’t allow my thoughts to drag me down they way I was seeing it impact others but I wasn’t making intentional change. Looking back though I can identify a few key tips.

I get to do a lot laundry because my kids play hard and get dirty rather than being on screens.

Find the ‘get to’ in anything you’re doing. Sometimes it’s hard to see the blessing in all you do and all you have. Instead of coming up with reasons why you have to think of why you get to. For example, I hear all the time that people have to work. I disagree, there are plenty of people out there not working for any number of reasons. You have so many blessings through working, you get to help others (customers, team members, and more), you get to share your talents and inspire, you get to improve your life and the lives of your friends and family by adding your income and what you’re able to do with it. On the flip side of that, I’ve seen people lose jobs and do the same thing. It would be easy to go with negativity during job loss but some people say, I get to spend more time with my kids, I get to start fresh somewhere new, I get to pursue what my passion is instead of what I fell into. Sure there are terrible parts of job loss, see antonyms of all of the working get to’s, but there are blessings on both sides. Not only does thinking of the get to’s flip the script to one of gratitude but it also gives you back the control in the situation. You don’t have to do anything, you are choosing what you get to do.

Define the problem and go to solution. This tool is something I used to reframe all of the negativity I was seeing when I first realized I wanted to change. I started out by telling people why things weren’t as bad as they seemed to think which only got us into a spiral bringing both of us down. Then, I started asking, OK what is the actual problem and what can we do about it? So, for Crabby Mr. Coffee, can you make coffee at work or at home next time? If you wanted the treat of going out, can you leave a little earlier or stop at a different coffee shop? Often times people who are negative don’t really want to change anything, they want the attention and the self serving talking about how terrible life is for them, but it allows you (hopefully them too eventually) to see the choice in allowing situation control their life. It’s practice ground for you to use the solution finding skills yourself for when your own negativity takes hold.

Imagine what it is preparing you for. When things are really frustrating and when I really can’t see how something is going to present an opportunity or is the result of a blessing, I challenge myself to dream about what I could be preparing for. For example, with a loss of a family member, dear friend, child or miscarriage, it doesn’t make sense to look for the blessing or try to find a solution but you maybe are being prepared for something greater. You’re being prepared for all the strength and courage and empathy that you’ll need in future situation to support yourself and others.

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