I had the day all planned out. We arrived at Sea World right on time, all thirteen of us. First we could watch the dolphins, then ride our first roller coaster, then later in the day at 5:00pm sharp, the whale show. Everything was going perfectly…until the rain came.
Ten minutes into the whale show, the skies darkened and then opened with a vengeance. The radar showed that the rain would not let up for hours. The show was cancelled and the day, it seemed, was ruined.
I still remember the first time I saw my dad having a panic attack. It was utterly terrifying. He was rocking himself back and forth on the floor, sweating profusely, trembling from an unknown fear. I didn’t know it at the time, but his heart was racing, his body was numb, and he was detached from reality.
At an extreme level, my dad’s fears were just like our fears. They cause us to tremble, cause our minds and hearts to race, and ultimately detach us from reality.
For nearly a year I watched those panic attacks cripple my father. He’d been wrestling with them for months before I found out. He couldn’t sleep most nights. He seemed distant and depressed. The medications made him feel even worse.
69% of the population thinks that career success is dependent on chance encounters.
In other words, success is based on luck. Not hard work. Not talent. Not determination, discipline, or sacrifice. Luck.
At first glance, that might seem depressing. But then I realized it’s great news for the other 31% of us. We’ve already got a leg up on them.
When you expect good things, your mind is open to seeing the opportunities. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook
According to a 2005 study done by Jim Bright, Robert Pryor, and Lucy Harpham, 69% of high school and college students believe that their career decisions depended on chance encounters. That was in 2005. Based on what little news I listen to, I’d have to guess it’s higher today.
Why am I so negative all the time?
That’s the question I’ve wrestled with for years. I know that as a leader at work, at home and in the community that I should be looking for the good in people and in situations.
I’m still a work in progress (aren’t we all), but I’ve turned a corner due to one huge revelation.
People aren’t born positive. They are trained. Here are 6 ways to help you be more positive. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook
Looking for the good in people is not a natural thing. We are wired to look for threats. I believe in micro-evolution. It’s real. Just look at what modern technology has done to the brain. Over the course of thousands of years, we’ve evolved to look for threats to our survival and well-being. In other words, being negative, seeing the worst in others and situations, is a survival mechanism.
And the winner of the Murphy’s Law Award goes to…
Those words began twenty-one years of negativity, self-doubt, and a victim mentality. And they came from my eighth grade social studies teacher.
It seemed funny at the time, but she awarded me the Murphy’s Law Award.
Other kids got “Hardest Worker,” “Most Creative,” or “Most Helpful to Others.” I got “Most Likely to Have Things Go Wrong.” Gee, thanks Mrs. So-and-So.
I recently developed an awful habit.
I started reading the news again. It’s an awful habit indeed.
Before the habit
Let me take you back to four years ago. I had just shunned smartphones after spending two years in which my iPhone slowly became a permanent part of my body. For the previous two years, I filled every five-minute wait for a haircut, every moment in line at the grocery store, and yes, every bathroom break either checking email or reading the news.
The most powerful words are always the simplest.
For instance, the most powerful word in leadership is “believe.” That is a word we all know, yet we rarely use it with our team. You can read more about that powerful word here.
In his best-selling book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (I have read it three times now and highly recommend it), social psychologist Robert Cialdini tells us about the power of this word. In it, he shares a study by Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer that shows the almost irrational effect the word “because” has on the hearer:
A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do. Langer demonstrated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favor of people waiting in line to use a library copying machine: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush? The effectiveness of this request-plus-reason was nearly total: Ninety-four percent of those asked let her skip ahead of them in line.
Compare this success rate to the results when she made the request only: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine? Under those circumstances, only 60 percent of those asked complied. At first glance, it appears that the crucial difference between the two requests was the additional information provided by the words, “because I’m in a rush.”
Your subconscious mind doesn’t understand the word “don’t.”
To illustrate, don’t think of a warm, piping hot pizza.
What did you just think of? There is a good chance your mind pictured the details right down to the bubbling cheese, oily pepperoni, and steam rising from the surface. (Now, if you’ll pardon me, I need a snack…and by snack I mean large artery-clogging feast)
Never Look Down
I recently read a story about a tightrope walker who was asked about the secret to his success. His reply applies to achieving any goal in life:
The secret is to keep your eyes fixed on where you are going. You never look down. Where your head goes, that’s where your body is going too. If you look down, there’s a good chance you will fall. So you always have to look to where you want to be. (emphasis mine) From Become a Better You by Joel Osteen
Looking down only identifies where the tightrope walker doesn’t want to be. Immediately thoughts such as “don’t fall” go through his mind. That usually leads to a whole range of visions that play out in his mind…and ultimately an ugly fall.
Positive words lead to positive mindsets.
I was listening to an interview on NPR recently with a former White House staffer. I, sadly, don’t even remember his name. But he taught me a valuable lesson:
People who answer questions in a foreign language are more positive (and succinct) than when they answer in their native language.
“How was your day?” asks the camarero (waiter) as he serves the evening meal.
“Good, thank you,” you say in reply.
But if an American asks you the same question, you are more likely to reply with something like:
“I can’t complain.”
“Pretty good overall.”
You qualify the quality of your day, because to have a “good” day seems almost mythical or perhaps arrogant.
What if you just kept it at “good,” as you would when answering in a foreign language?
The reason you are more succinct and more positive while speaking in a foreign language is simple: you know fewer words. You also are less familiar with the complexities of the language.
“My business is failing.”
With a look of resignation and defeat, Tom uttered those pitiful words to me in early spring.
The future is undetermined. If you talk about your future negatively, you prophesy your own downfall.
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By summer, it had become a reality. His business had failed. He was down to his last few dollars and looking for work.
According to him, it had “been failing” for two years, since the economy made a turn for the worse.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Tom was speaking prophetic words. He was speaking future events into current reality.
Saying “my business is failing” is, in its essence, a prediction of future events. It is no different from saying, “I am going to eat.” That is a predictor of future behavior and activity. Hours later I “will have eaten.”
To suggest “my business is failing” is to declare that at some point in the future it “will have failed.”
“My marriage is failing” is no different than saying “I’m going to be divorced.”
“My child is failing math” tells me that the end result will have been an “F” in math.
If Tom were to tell me now what he told me then, I would respond much differently than I did then. Here is how the conversation might go today:
Tom: My business is failing.
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