The Power of Positivity

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You hear a lot about positivity, there is even strand of psychology devoted to research around the topic. But is it just wishful thinking, woo-woo-ra-ra stuff or is there some truth to the fact that have a positive mindset can influence the results you get?

Having a positive mindset is not about thinking that you must be happy 24/7, that you'll never experience negative emotions or have negative thoughts. It is about thinking positively, re-framing negative thoughts and limiting beliefs. It's enjoying the little things and how these small everyday things compound to have a positive effect on your life.

Positive thinking becomes a way of being, a framework by which you live your life. In the beginning it's about being conscious of stopping and thinking, to consider alternative perspectives. Not jumping to conclusions that the universe is out to get you, seeing the world and the people in it differently. For example, you send a message to a friend, asking if they want to meet up for coffee. You don't hear anything from them. Having a positive mindset allows you to consider multiple options for what might have happened such as, they 're pretty busy right now and they simply forgot or maybe they think they have replied already (yes this is me, I sometimes think I have replied when I haven’t). Those not operating within a positive framework will likely take is a personal rejection, that they are being ignored or the other person doesn't like them. Having a positive mindset is more likely to put you in the shoes of others and to consider a greater variety of perspectives and reasons for certain actions or outcomes.

As you live your life from this positive standpoint, your reactions to events, people, environments become more unconscious. The generation of alternative options becomes more automatic to the point that you don't consider any negative aspects to it, you don't jump to those negative conclusions like you might have done in the past.

Having a positive mindset is not just about considering the different perspectives but about affecting our own thinking and behaviour and influencing the outcomes we get. Thinking and experiencing something positive can have an influence on actions and events which follow. A few weeks ago, my niece had a particularly stressful and pressurised day in which she had a piano exam in the morning and her driving test in the afternoon. Despite feeling naturally nervous for both and having previously failed her first driving test a few weeks prior, it would have been easy to be distracted when it came to the exam in the morning. As it was, she focused on the first task at hand. Throughout the exam she played the piano well and knew she had performed to a high standard. She carried the positivity from that through into her driving test and was faultless. It is no coincidence that the good feelings from the morning exam influenced her state of mind for the afternoon test. If she had played badly, the negative self-talk would have taken over, she would have dwelled on her previous failure and would have convinced herself that it was not going to be her day, she would have doubted her own driving ability. Going forward she can draw upon the day’s experiences and outcomes to help her through future challenges. I’m sure you can think of instances where your mindset affected your emotional state, influencing your behaviour and then the outcome, either negatively or positively. We can use our positive state and mindset in a variety of situations and challenges, to be in the right frame of mind to have a positive outcome.

People might think it is difficult to create a positive mindset but it's not, yes it takes practice; however, you all have the ability to do it and live your life more positively. Below are 9 steps to creating a positive mindset:

  1. Think positively, talk positively. Use language which is positive. Increase your awareness about how you are thinking and talking. If you the first thought you have or the first thing to come out of your mouth is negative, catch yourself and use more positive language.
  2. Use positive self-talk. Silence the negative voice. The little voice in your head is sometimes very loud and persistent when it comes to telling you what you can't do, the things you don't deserve, what kind of person you are and how things will end. Tell it to shut up, there are more important things to say like you are an amazing person, capable of fantastic things, reminding you of all the things you have achieved in your life. Let the voice that is promoting you sing loud and proud.
  3. Use previous positive experiences to get you in the right state giving you a boost when doing something which is challenging or stressful tasks. You will be surprised just how your body responds when you draw upon your previous experiences.
  4. Create a network that will stretch and challenge you, but which also supports you. They are there to take inspiration from you but nothing else, they push you to be your best and celebrate with you. Ditch the toxic people, they are not going to help you and will suck the life out of you.
  5. They say laughter is the best medicine and it is, use humour to alleviate stress and tension. You cannot be sad or upset at the same time as being funny, and by using humour, it allows you gain a better perspective on a potentially bad situation.
  6. Focus on the solutions, not the problems. By focusing on the problems, you are not moving forward and will be stuck in a spiral of doom and gloom. Switch to focusing on the solutions will create more options and whilst you might find more problems along the way, you will have moved beyond the original ones.
  7. Failures are not mistakes or world ending events, they are feedback, lessons to be learnt, opportunities for different courses of action, different journeys and different possible outcomes. Embrace them, don't fear them.
  8. Be present in the now, don't be trapped by the past. You are in control of your thoughts and actions, you choose what to think, what to focus upon, what to do. You do not have to choose to focus on the negative, you can choose a positive mindset.
  9. Be aware and practice. If you don't already, start to view the world and people in it from a different perspective. Get out of your own head and put yourself in the shoes of others and consider what might be going on from them in their world. See your life full of possibilities and opportunities, not a life full of danger, risk and potential losses. Practice to the point that having a positive mindset is your default position.

Choose to be the glass half full type of person, not the glass half empty.

5 Stumbling Blocks to Change

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If you read yesterday's blog in which I was talking about beliefs and those which limit us, in today's blog I continue along a similar theme, looking more at what's potentially going on behind those beliefs which hold us back from living the life we want. When it comes to making a change, there are 5 stumbling blocks which are influencing our limiting beliefs and preventing us from making the changes we might be looking to make.

Want to...

 Sometimes, what we think we want, in reality we don't. Back in 2014, when I was doing a 3-week training course, going into it I thought I knew what I was participating for and what the outcome, should I complete the training, would be going forward. On the first day, the very first exercise, it was clear I was in two minds. A week later whilst I wasn't 100% about the direction I was going to take, I was clear of what I wasn't going to do with the qualification I would be receiving at the end of the course. And this surprised me, it wasn't at all what I was expecting.

It's important to have clarity about what you want and why you want it. Regarding your goals, are you moving away from something you don't want or towards something you do want? Towards goals are often more motivating and encourage you to keep moving forward, keep adapting and evolving in order to achieve success. If you are wanting to make a change, spend quite a bit of time defining your goals and being clear on what your why is.

Possible to...

How many times have you said, "I can't do this" or talk yourself out of doing something like going for a promotion or following a dream because you don't feel you have the skills, knowledge or capabilities to stand a chance of getting it. If being your own boss is your dream, what beliefs do you hold around starting your own business? Five years ago, I would never have thought it was possible of being my own boss and yet, here I am. Everything I needed to know about business I have learnt and continue to learn. My biggest limiting belief was around the complexities of accounting and a fear of getting on the wrong side of HMRC. How I have got around this is by hiring an accountant. I now have the philosophy that I don't need to know how to do everything, I just need to where I can go and who I can go to when there is something that I cannot do.

Thinking of the changes you want, what would you need to make it possible? Is it a question of possibilities or capabilities? Do you need a new skill, more knowledge or more opportunities? Do you need to do it alone or can you utilise your network? Anything is possible, it is just a question of how.

Deserve to...

Sometimes we talk ourselves out of making changes, of striving towards achieving success because we believe we don't deserve to have a good life, to make more money, to be able to work part-time, to be in a loving relationship etc. Maybe you believe you are not worthy and so don't bother to make a change.

Who is telling you that you are not worth it and don't deserve this? Is it you with the stories you live by or is it someone external to you; a partner, family member, a friend or work colleague? If it is someone else, then question what their intention is and challenge it. If it comes from within you, what evidence do you have that you are not worthy of the outcome? Let it go by changing your story.

Safe to...

There will be part of your mind questioning whether it is safe to make a change. If you change careers, what happens if it doesn't work out? You worry that if you do move jobs and there are difficulties, it will be a case of last in, first out. However, within the public sector there is the perception that your job or your pension will always be safe, but this is not necessarily the case. Redundancies do occur within the public sector.

Safety is not referring to the immediate physical sense, though it might if you have a sudden urge to take up some extreme sport. It is often, at an emotional level, your unconscious mind is trying to protect you from negative emotions such as hurt, rejection, sadness, guilt for example. It is trying to pre-empt what might come based upon your past experiences and the beliefs that you hold. Feeling unsafe might lead to stress and anxiety and these can manifest themselves physically as well as psychologically.

Depending upon your values and beliefs around money, if you make changes this could impact you financially, and potentially your mind perceives there to be a threat to your wealth. This can have a knock-on effect with regards to your basic human needs of food and shelter; if you don’t have as much money coming in or if you lose your income, would your thoughts turn to you losing your home? When we make changes, our mind does not think rationally straight away, if it perceives there is a threat to your safety, it will put barriers in the way to make sure you are making the right decisions or you are planning accordingly, equipping yourself with the skills and knowledge for the changes ahead. Or it will just make you feel so uncomfortable that you change nothing.

Whether you are making changes in your relationships, career, environment, in being you or whatever other areas of your life, know that you will be safe, emotionally and physically, because you still have choices and you will not put yourself at such risk. Your brain is reacting to the perception of risk as though we are still living in the bushes and we need be aware of a tiger that lurks there. Our brains have not evolved yet beyond this point, so any transformational changes you make generate a feeling of fear which is out of proportion to the actual risk. You have all the skills and resources you need to be able to cope with anything.

Still be me...

If the change you are wanting to make is going be life changing and at a level in which you as an individual will be transformed, there is always a question in your mind as to whether you will still be you. Transformational change can have a profound impact on our lives, in the way we think and behave, opening the possibility of different opportunities and experiences. Yes, this is going to change your beliefs, your view of the world but you will still be you. Your core values will still be present, the essence of you is still there. Of course, if you make changes, then you will be different than you were yesterday, but today you'll be a better version of you.

The question then comes down to, do I want to be the 'old me' or the 'new me'? With the 'old me', you know what you're going to get, where that thinking will take you, what actions are required to keep the status quo and stuck in the rut. Is that what you want?  Do you still want to be the person you were? Or do you want to evolve who you are and be excited about who you could become and the life you could have?

If you have limiting beliefs, try to unpick what is behind them, it will not only help you understand more about what is holding you back, but help you to find ways to get around them and start to create your life the way you want.

What's Your Reality?

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In this moment think about all the beliefs you hold; what you believe about yourself, of those around you and the wider world. Consider how those beliefs influence how you think, feel and behave. Beliefs are our current thinking, judgements and evaluations about ourselves, other people and the world generally. They can empower or dis-empower, and they can have different strengths leading us to believe that they are true or considered to be facts.

We are not born with a set of beliefs; we acquire them as we grow up and interact with the world. As children we take many of our beliefs from our parents. As we mature, we are influenced by our peers – our friends or work colleagues. Authority figures - religious institutions, the law or teachers within the education system can have an influence either directly or indirectly. Think about the power of the media, be it on TV through both factual programmes, reality TV or fictional shows or through newspapers with the stories they report, or more often don’t report. The music we listen to can also influence how we feel about ourselves or others. And then there is social media and how this impacts upon our beliefs. All are trying to influence our thinking and behaviour, for us to pass judgement or for us to make a decision about what they are showing us, so that we act in a way they want. Consider our environment and the time period we are living in. Where we live, spend our time, these shapes our beliefs as does our previous experiences. The influences are endless, sometimes they are obvious but often they are subtle, we’re not always fully aware just how much or the impact they can have. Sometimes we challenge them, but not as often as we perhaps should.

But are the beliefs we hold real, in the sense that they are true or facts? And might this question have an impact upon what we think, feel and how we behave? How might it affect what we do or don't do in the future?

Let’s take a look at previously held beliefs which have influenced people's behaviour and then the outcomes they achieved. It was once considered that the Earth was flat, if you sailed to the end of the ocean your ship would fall off the edge and everyone would die. Then Christopher Columbus set sail to the new world, realised it wasn't. and then everyone began to sail around the world. (I know there is a current movement that still believes the Earth is flat, they clearly haven’t tested it out.)

Or what about the belief that you couldn’t run a mile in under four minutes, doctors said  to do so would cause a heart attack so no one risked it until Roger Bannister did it, quickly followed by many other people then running a mile in under 4 minutes to the point that  amongst runners it is no big deal.

Our beliefs influence how we perceive the world, other people, ourselves and our capabilities, they influence what action we take or don’t take, and they influence how we think.

A belief is real until someone or something proves it isn't. Then it changes how we think, what we are capable of, what we can become and the things we can achieve.

Of the beliefs you hold, how many of them are ones which limit the way you live, holding you back from making choices, doing things, being the person you want to be?

Have you ever said or thought any of these statements. I can’t do it, nobody likes me, I feel nobody loves me, it’s not fair, I'll never get another job, I am a failure, I’m not good enough and so on and so on? I’m sure you get the gist. These are limiting beliefs; they keep you in your comfort zone and they are not serving you.

(If you want to know more about comfort  zones, check out one of my previous blog post,
I Know What It Feels Like When You’re Stuck In a Rut) 

A limiting belief can only hold you back if you give it the power to do so, take control and reframe your limiting beliefs into empowering, positive statements.

Here are some examples:

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Think about all your limiting beliefs, sometimes writing them down helps and gives you a different perspective, reframe all of them in order to help you move out of your comfort zone and move forward. And if you're sat there thinking it's all woo-woo-ra-ra, ask yourself this, why am I so eager to believe my limiting beliefs are true but unwilling to accept a more positive belief which serves me in the way I want and helps me achieve my goals?

 Beliefs are not necessarily real, but they do create reality. So, what's your reality right now?

I Know What it Feels Like When You're Stuck in a Rut

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Does this sound familiar...When you wake up on a morning you don't look forward to the day ahead. At work, every day is a routine and drags by. You look around and know you deserve more, and want more, but don't have the time or energy to do something about it. You've been doing the same job for several years and you no longer love what you do. You have become the master list maker, creating to do lists but never getting anything done, or if you do, more things are added so your list is never-ending. You lose track of time because every day feels the same and you feel like you're the hamster trapped in a wheel, forever running but never getting anywhere. The sound track of your life rather than being something upbeat and exciting, has now become the sound of your voice constantly complaining about how unfair life is, that you're bored and you don't have a purpose. And now, you realise you're going through the motions and you're on autopilot in your life.

If this connects with what you are thinking and feeling right at this moment, then it's highly likely you're stuck in a rut and languishing in a comfort zone you have created in your life. When you are in our comfort zone, you don't have to think about the choices you make and what you are doing. What you do is easy because you know how to do it, what's expected and generally what the outcome will be. As you go through life in our little comfort zone, you're not happy, challenged or stretched and you are certainly not fulfilled; you’re just OK but not really in a good way. Life is ticking along, you've got a job, you're getting paid, you've a roof over your head, a great family and you can go away on holiday each year. And yet, you feel there is more to life than just going through the motions. You feel you have more to offer and you want to challenge yourself more and grow.

At one time or another, we all experience being stuck in a rut. So, here's what happens when we experience this. Here we are sat in our comfort zone, we're not asking for the earth, we just want to be happier, content, satisfied; we want to have more meaning and purpose to our days and life. We make the decision to do something about it. We come up with ideas, start to make changes, which to begin with seems OK but then as we get to a certain point the thought of stepping outside of the comfort zone becomes increasingly scary. Our fears, our limiting beliefs go into overdrive. We play the "What If" game; what if I move jobs and I can't do it, what if we move to renovate a house we have always dreamed of and it turns into a nightmare, what if I retrain and then can't find a job, what if I write a book and nobody likes it, and so on and so on. All these fears and beliefs become a barrier to us stretching ourselves and going beyond what we are comfortable with, so we just stay as we are. We can go through this process numerous times, something will motivate us to try again or it starts to create greater discomfort. Then when we're about to break through, we talk ourselves out of it again.

This is until one time, something forces us to break through that barrier. Either an external event, such as being made redundant or because staying as we are in our comfort zone has become too uncomfortable, it is causing us to hate the thing we used to love, it is causing us to feel stressed or depressed at the thought of continuing as we are. Suddenly, we find the motivation to move away from something we don't want becomes so great, it makes us act and pushes us out of our comfort zone. Once through this is where the magic happens. The negative emotions are gone; yes, it can be a little scary at times but in a good way, now it's exciting, we feel energised in a way we didn't before. We are doing something different, we're being stretched, growing and we are no longer going through the motions. Of course, after a while, we'll create another comfort zone, this time it will be bigger, there'll be more opportunities in there, more connections we'll have built up our skill set, our confidence will be higher, after all we've done it before so we can do it again. Maybe next time it won't take so many attempts to make the change.

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If you think now is the time you're ready to get out of that rut, here's what to do:

  1. Understand the comfort zone you're currently in and be honest with yourself as to why you stay there.
  2. Get out of your head. Simplify and gain clarity. Figure out what you want, what life you want to create for yourself, what's the magic beyond your comfort zone.
  3. Set your SMART goals; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.
  4. Focus on the future, don't be trapped in the past and your previous negative experiences.
  5. Act. If you do nothing, then how can you expect anything to be different?

Let me know what magic you create.