Tag Archives: Practice

Monday Morning Moment – Negativism – Its Cost and Cure

Photo Credit: Forbes, Jacquelyn Smith

Who ever aspires to become negative? No one out there wants to be considered a Negative Nancy, or, get this, a Debbie Downer. Sheesh.

The fact that there are names for people who struggle with negativism shows they are not fun to be around, even laughable for some. We stir up little compassion for the person inside of that moniker and what might have gotten them there.

Negativism  happens by degree…with time and practice.

Even the Eeyores in our lives, those darksome brooding outsiders, have our sympathy, even affection. We allow that they can’t help their personalities. It’s just how they are. Except for our Eeyore colleagues, friends and family members, we communicate little time or patience for negativism. In fact, we default to our culture’s no-skin-in-the-game of “you’re better off without them around you”.

Well…give yourself time. With enough life experiences and bumps along the journey, you might find yourself becoming that “grumpy old man”. Without even being aware it’s happening.Photo Credit: Pixabay, Peter ZieglerPhoto Credit: Flickr, Paul Waite

You can probably tell I care about this.

Not so long ago, people in my life considered me almost Pollyannaish (determined to be positive about everything that happens; always refusing to think ill of others). I still want to be that person, to be honest. Unfortunately…a few rough hits happened.

Abruptly having to leave a country through circumstances beyond our control. Our home, our friends there. [That story is for another day.] Watching family members go through extreme hard times. Having to leave a church we loved. [Also another story.] Retiring earlier than I wanted. Living day-to-day with this incredible man who has experienced more loss than he imagined or that others really know…squeezed into a few years. I could go on…but then you’d know I’m at risk of becoming a Debbie Downer.

[If you think it’s already happened…I refuse that…because it is not really who I am.]

Our kids have always been taught not to hold court in judging whether something’s fair or not. We did not want to raise a bunch of fairness police. However, we have had numerous round tables over whether something is right or not…and if not, what might our role be in righting a wrong.

The biggest initiator of negativism is figuring out how to respond to something that is just wrong. At home. At work. In our community. In the world.

If you are struggling with negativism, is it because you believe something is just not right?

You could be entirely correct about what is terribly wrong. Unfortunately, if you find you can’t fix what’s broken, then what can be altered are your own relationships, health, and well-being. Either toward the negative…
Photo Credit: Pixabay

or, hopefully, toward the positive.Photo Credit: Skilled Impact

[For those struggling right now with negativism…or maybe not struggling anymore but just living negative at the moment: remember what it was like before when your life was more like the caped crusader in the above image?]

We can flip our negativity to positive but it takes great effort… especially if we’re so drained from it, we can hardly get out of our own way. Just getting the job done or barely maintaining the relationship. This is understandable given what negativism takes out of a person over time. Photo Credit: Pixabay

[That’s one of the reasons I feel strongly about how others respond to it because they don’t see the toll it takes on the individual experiencing it. Not judging here, because I have been exhausted by someone else’s negativism as well. Just more understanding now… having gone through it and seeing those I love slog through it.]

As this has been weighing on my mind recently, I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the topic. There is no small amount of writing about it. Very helpful pieces are linked below. My takeaways are bulleted with the link below it (take time to read more if you will, because I’ll be leaving a lot of great advice out of the bullet points).

Flipping Negative to Positive:

  • Don’t allow yourself to complain unless you also offer one or two possible solutions. Use complaining as a catalyst for positive change.
  • Be aware of the external environment, but don’t let it consume you.
  • Practice the art of “zoom focusing.” Tune out the negative voices, focus in on your choices, and start getting things done.
  • View your life as an inspirational tale, not a horror movie.
  • Make a gratitude list and start a success journal.
  • Don’t quit at Mile 20.
  • Trust in God, not the media (or other naysayers).

 15 Ways to Turn Negative Energy Into Positive SolutionsJon Gordon

  • Psychologists link negative thinking to depression, anxiety, chronic worry and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  Almost all human beings contend with it — even those born with a positive outlook.

    It’s because of the way our brains are constructed. Our amygdala and limbic system are built to notice threats, to protect our survival. Today, the same parts of our brain are active even when physical threats are minimal. The threats we deal with today are more cognitive — involving finances, whether we’re loved, whether we’re succeeding at work. They can set our hearts racing. That’s why we can panic on a Sunday night just thinking about work.

    Rather than change the way you think, I recommend changing your relationship to your thoughts. Those thoughts that are negative are more likely to capture our awareness, or become “sticky.”

    I recommend learning to watch your thoughts, rather than engaging with them. Practicing mindfulness can take you away from the thinking experience.

    Mindfulness helps us program in ourselves a sense of that which is right. We can systematically notice what’s going well in the present. We can notice something favorable about each person we encounter. Words of admiration help us notice the rightness of things.

How to Turn Around Your Negative Thinking Scott Bea

  • Value the negative experiences.
  • Don’t rush judgment.
  • Take complete responsibility for your life.

3 Ways to Turn Negative Experiences AroundMatt Mayberry

  • A problem can only be resolved if someone brings attention to it but if you don’t plan to be constructive, keep your thoughts to yourself.
  •  If you, however, would like to be, known as a problem solver instead of a complainer, speak up. If you do it the right way, you will make a positive change that could do a lot to improve your work environment. Rather than raising your boss’s ire, you may instead be the recipient of his or her appreciation.

5 Tips to Help You Lose Your Negative Attitude at WorkDawn Rosenberg McKay

  • It takes a real effort a lot of the time to concentrate on the positive. I know there’s a direct link to positive thoughts and success. I have read about it, studied it, and tried to live it most of my adult life.

“The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism”Gary Weiner

[Again, the articles in full have more helpful info…when you have the time or inclination to read further. At the end are two links to HR and supervisors/managers.]

My own small observations (beyond the above excellent points):

  • If the workplace itself is fueling negativism, do what you can to shakeup where you work. Try a different venue for day-to-day work. Traveling can be a tremendous help (if you can financially and strategically make it happen – for yourself and others). Working remotely doesn’t fix what’s hard but it dilutes contact and interaction with what’s hard.
  • If others have judged you by this current season of life and don’t want to work with you, don’t let that deter you from your purpose. Mend relationships if you can. If not, embrace the “what is” in your life, and celebrate the healthy relationships you have and pursue work you love, wherever you can make a difference.
  • Stay in the present moment. The past, distant or recent, is where your negativism was birthed. The future either strikes more fear in your heart or stirs hope (as in a job change or some other imagined change) that you can’t be sure is real. For this moment, stay at task, nurture your current relationships, focus in.

An expression floating around the internet lately goes something like this:

“What you practice, you get very good at.”

As that relates to negativism, do we really want to get good at that? No. In fact, practice doesn’t always make us good at something. We can practice unhelpful, unhealthy habits and they can become ingrained….even permanent…unless we intentionally do the work to reverse them. Photo Credit: QuoteFancy

Where are you in all this? Please comment below. It would be helpful for us to hear from each other. This is a safe place.

Negativism is contagious, but so is positivity. Both have their own satisfactions. There may come a day that the new-honed habit of negativism turns on us and we see if for the robber it is. Then the work will begin to turn our lives around…before it’s too much damage is done.

If you don’t currently struggle with negativism, take note of those around you who do struggle. This is not something (or someone) to just avoid…this is someone who even the Apostle Paul determined to help…

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

3 Tips for Decreasing Workplace Negativity – [written with a Human Resources focus]

Turning Around Negative Attitudes [a must read for supervisors and managers]

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that shocking experience when you are driving to a known destination and then get lost in your thoughts? At some point, you snap back to attention and wonder, “How did I get here, I wasn’t even thinking about it?!” That is neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. It is an amazing capability we all have and can be nurtured and utilized throughout our lives. Yes, “old dogs CAN learn new tricks“.

What is this phenomenon?

Mike Torres, of Refocuser, gives an excellent definition, as well as an explanation of function, in his piece Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice. An example of how neuroplasticity works: when you view the brains of people who frequently practice playing the violin under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them... The more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become.  Of course the inverse happens as well: if those pathways aren’t utilized, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow. Use it or lose it! …Your brain can change based on repeated experience…People of any age have the ability to learn new things and form new habits. Mike Torres, Refocuser

Watching Nathan play intricate, complicated runs on his classical guitar boggles my mind. How can he think that fast? It’s lots of practice that causes the brain to connect to the hands, and those difficult pieces get “under his fingers” almost without thinking.

Years ago a friend gave us this book Never Too Late by John Holt. In his “musical life story”, Holt describes how he learned to play the cello in his 40s. We were encouraged by this during a time we moved to Egypt and learned Arabic in mid-life…when language-learning is supposed to be especially difficult.

I love neuroplasticity but it gives me hope, in getting older, of keeping skills and developing new ones, even as an aging person…unless I give in to dumbed-down practices excusing myself for the same reasons of “getting too old”.

When my older brother suffered a stroke, it was neuroplasticity and the repeated efforts of his medical and therapy team that got him back on his feet. He finally “repeatedly practiced” his way back to independence. The personality changes seemed more ingrained, however, they changed, too, as he exchanged his anger and bitterness for a hopefulness and longing for healthy, loving relationships. As he refused to give into anger and chose soft responses, his personality seriously changed over time…with conscious that eventually turned unconscious practice.

How does all this apply to us in the workplace and life, in general? We are confronted at times with a situation that confounds us – a new uncomfortable skillset, an unpredictable relationship, or an unfamiliar decision-making process. Neuroplasticity helps us to not just give up on mastering either a new work process or a complicated interpersonal situation.

Debbie Hampton has written an excellent summary piece on this that will help kick-start any new habit formation necessary for us to continue to do excellently in our work. She was influenced by Dr. Michael Merzenich’s work published in his book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. I have listed below Merzenich’s 10 elements of how we can rewire our brain. You will find Hampton’s summary on each very instructive. [I comment briefly on each but don’t miss what she says in her article.]

10 Core Principles for Remodeling Your Brain

1. Change is mostly limited to  those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. We have to want to learn and change. If we give up, stay resigned to the status quo, or remain fed-up, change will not happen. Want change!

2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse)  the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. Focus and persistence or key to mastery.

3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. Practice strengthens pathways for behavior. Whether it’s learning a new computer system or developing a different way of communicating with a boss…practice hard-wires.

4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to cell cooperation, which is crucial for increasing reliability. I see this in musicians who live-stream and can read listener chats, respond to them, and continue playing all at the same time. Crazy.

5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This is definitely the mechanism that gets us to our destination when we stop thinking about where we’re going.

6. Initial changes are temporary. Habit formation takes time, and somehow the brain interprets whether the change is vital. Amazing.

7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. At the simplest level, this is the mechanism of how we “talk ourselves through” a situation. Or when an athlete goes through his routine in his mind before he’s back out on the track or in the pool.

8. Memory guides and controls most learning. Our brain actually helps us to remember what we did well and discards what we didn’t.

9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of — potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” The more we practice, either a physical skill or a way of thinking through a problem, we actually get better at it because somehow the brain reduces the background noise (which can include insecurity, fear of failure or self-doubt).

10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Dr. Merzenich warns us, as we get older that we “use it or lose it” by our own decisions to stop learning and mastering new skills and behaviors.

Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

How are you using neuroplasticity to help you continue to grow in your work and personal life? Trevor Blake encourages us to set the tone of the day positively and don’t defect from that. Using self-defeating language can blur our focus and mental capacity for mastery. Read more of his excellent counsel here.

As we age, or give in to “what is” at the moment (tracks greased by depression sometimes, or perceived lack of ability or opportunity), we may not realize the great positive effects of neuroplasticity. However, the good news is that we can keep learning and changing and mastering what work and life and relationships bring our way. It’s never too late.

 

Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits – Mike Torres

How to Rewire Your Brain for Success – Trevor Blake

Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life – Trevor Blake

Brain HQ Website

How Does Neuroplasticity Work – an Infographic

Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story – John Holt

Deadly: Brain on Multitasking – Bukunmi Adewumi

Toxic Thoughts – Dr. Caroline Leaf