Stay Positive in a Negative World, Part 9

January 14, 2008

50 SIMPLE WAYS TO STAY POSITIVE IN A NEGATIVE WORLD - PART 9
by Matt Michel

“People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.”
Brian Tracy

You’re assaulted by negative information, making it tough for anyone to stay positive in this day and age. So how do you manage it? Some of these techniques may work for you, while others will not. Some might work for a while, but lose effectiveness over time or with repetition. That’s why there are 50 tips.

36. Write It Down
A contractor I know said he came across an old goal he had written down before he started his business.  The goal was to be the highest paid employee at his company and worth every penny.  He said he achieved this goal and now was trying to figure out the best way to craft a similar goal for his business.  Though his company is profitable, the profitability is recent.  The contractor wonders if the lack of a goal has impeded his success.  It probably has.

In a longitudinal research study, the graduates of an Ivy League university were asked about their goals.  Only 3% of the graduating seniors had written down their goals.  Twenty years later, in the follow up research, the 3% who had written down their goals had amassed more wealth than the 97% who lacked written goals.

There’s something about the power of a *written* goal that makes it more tangible.  There’s something about writing the goal down that forces a psychological commitment.  Earlier, I wrote that motivational psychologist Denis Waitley says our subconscious mind moves us in the direction of our currently dominant thought.  When a goal is written, the imprint on the subconscious is stronger.  The pull is stronger.  Written goals have added strength.

Written goals are powerful motivators.  They direct your subconscious in a positive, forward direction.  Your subconscious directs you.

37. Give People the Benefit of the Doubt.
People who wrong us stand out.  They stand out because they are few.  If a lot of people wronged us, they wouldn’t stand out.  They would be in the majority.  Fortunately, most people are honest, ethical, and well meaning.  Most people are nice.  Most people are good.  Most people deserve the benefit of the doubt.

At the scene of an accident four different eye witnesses offer four different interpretations of the event.  You would think the observers were watching four different accidents, instead of the same event from four different perspectives.  All of us are like that.  All of us view things from different perspectives.  Thus, we interpret the same event differently.

If we can interpret a car wreck differently, imagine how many ways we can interpret the off hand comments of another?  I’d say, oh, a gazillion.

When someone says something stupid, insensitive, hurtful, or offensive to you, it probably wasn’t intended that way.  You expect mean people to say mean things.  Most people aren’t mean.  If someone sounds mean, it may only be the way you’re interpreting things.

Of course, someone might be having a bad day.  Sadly, all of us have our moments when we say or do things that hurt those around us.

The next time someone makes you mad, upset, or hurt, give him the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe you are misinterpreting things.  If not, maybe he’s simply having a bad day.  Assume the best in people and you will be surprised how often you get it. 

If more people gave others the benefit of the doubt, this would be a better country with fewer misunderstandings.  The majority of racial tensions, for example, would evaporate overnight.  After all, most racism is the perception of the worst in others. 

Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Your world seem a little cheerier and brighter.

38. Laugh
We need to laugh more.  When we were toddlers, we laughed an average of 400 to 500 times a day.  As adults, we only laugh 15 times a day.

A Robert Half survey of executives found that 84% believe employees with a sense of humor perform better on the job.  I expect the executives believe people with a sense of humor are fun to be around, positive, and less easily offended.  All told, this makes them more productive.

According to the human resources and payroll company, Ceridian Corporation, laughter reduces the number of sick days in a year.  Fifteen minutes of unrestrained laughter does the same thing for your body as six to eight hours of mediation.

In the classic book, “Anatomy of an Illness,” Norman Cousins wrote about the use of laughter in his recovery from a serious illness.  While it’s true that laughter won’t fix a broken leg, it does appear to have a positive effect on health.  Patch Adams aside, the healing power of laughter is still poorly understood within the medical community. 

Laughter is an antidote to stress and worry, which drain the body and spirit of energy and will.  Stress and worry cause illness and shorten life spans.  So laugh more.  Live longer.  Live better.  Enjoy life.

39. Ignore criticism
When I was in high school we played a game at Plano, a wealthy suburban community of Dallas.  Plano’s high school had the best of everything, including a stadium many small colleges would envy.  It was the first time I played in a big concrete stadium and the first time I even walked on Astroturf. 

The stadium and atmosphere was intimidating.  Making things worse, kids were catcalling.  I made a mistake and they jumped all over it.  I let them get to me.  I let their criticism influence my play.  My game spiraled down and I played my worst game as a senior.

A year later, I was a freshman at TCU.  The coach of the basketball team had a block of seats behind the opponent’s bench reserved for my fraternity.  It was our job to catcall the other team and we were good at it.  A couple of times we even got the other team’s players and coaches so mad they lost their tempers, screamed things at us I won’t repeat, and drew technical fouls. 

Our game was to influence their game.  When we succeeded, our criticism was controlling them.

Steve Saunders, the President of Tempo Air, one of the country’s most decorated contracting companies, has a good answer to criticism.

“Ignore it,” says Steve, with a shrug.

He’s right.  Of course, ignoring unbridled criticism is easier said than done.  Maybe Steve learned how to ignore it when he played basketball at TCU.

Critics aren’t in the arena, on the field, or on the court.  They aren’t playing the game.  They’re sitting in the stands, exerting negative influence.  They win when you react.  You win by treating them as the distractions they are, ignoring them, and focusing on improving your performance.

It’s not easy to ignore criticism, especially when your performance slips and there’s some truth to the critic’s call.  Yet, heeding the critic does not help your game.  The critic is not a coach, who offers *constructive* criticism, designed to help you improve.  The critic is destructive.

At best, the critic seeks attention at your expense.  At worst, your failure is the critic’s aim. 

When there wasn’t anything substantive for us to criticize at TCU basketball games, it didn’t stop us.  We would make something up.  For example, we would get a cheerleader to give us the name of some poor kid sitting on the bench and start riding him.

“Put Miller in.  Miller wants to play.  Miller practiced hard all week.  Miller can’t be that bad; c’mon, put Miller in.”

Miller would slump down and try to disappear.  Sometimes his teammates would catch on and start laughing and elbowing the poor guy.

The only way Miller could get the better of us was to ignore us, pretend to be deaf.  It’s the only thing you can do with a critic.  Ignore criticism.

40. Remove Sources of Irritation
Sometimes improving our outlook is as simple as eliminating sources of irritation.  When I worked at Decision Analyst, one of the company’s employees would send emails to all employees that represented her rather extreme political views.  Since I inhabit the other end of the political spectrum, these emails tended to get under my skin.

Complaining about the employee would have seemed rather petty.  Responding would have placed me at her level.  So when her bosses failed to act, I removed the source of irritation.  I created an email rule that automatically deleted anything sent from her address.  If she ever emailed something work related, I never missed it.

The email rule worked so well I created rules to autodelete email sent by particular obnoxious people on several email lists I subscribed to.  It was better than removing spam.  I don’t read spam.  I tended to read these emails.

Email isn’t the only source of irritation I’ve removed.  I avoid certain agenda driven television shows, movies, and actors.  There are radio programs, news programs, and magazines I avoid as well. 

Growing up, we received one television station.  VCRs had not been invented.  Today, I’ve got choices and exercise them.  You can too.

Remove your sources of irritation.  Life will improve.

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2006 Matt Michel

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