Something we often don’t recognize as we go through life is how much the narrative that circulates in our mind throughout the day, determines the flow of our day, the connections we make or don’t make, and the outcomes of so many of the interactions and efforts we put out.
Despite what we would like to believe or hope, our brains are biased to think negatively. It’s a neurophysiological truth. A negative mindset biases everything that happens to us, or that we chose to do or not to do.
Our brain’s most important role is to keep us safe. It filters all the information coming into it based on a predictive, not a reactive model. If our brain waited to react to everything that was going on around us, we’d often be too late the the party, and that might end up being a loss of life equation.
We even have reflexes that are pre-wired into our neurological system to protect us from immediate harm, things we can’t afford to ruminate about, or we will most certainly be damaged.
But the rest of the information is filtered constantly through a lens of prior influence and experience, and any influence or prior experience that has been labeled as dangerous get’s a red flag.
When it comes to things we get to think and ruminate about, we love to dwell on our mistakes.
Think about it, if I asked you to remember your worst day, you would likely recall it in a heartbeat, with all the details and ugly facts. In short, it would be an easy answer to a softball question.
But if I asked you to remember your best day, you’d probably ponder, think for a little while about something suitable for consideration, and you’d probably question whether it is a good enough answer.
We love talking about the bad stuff that happens to us.
We love judgmental conversations, if not judging ourselves, then judging other people.
We are all quick to kick someone else in the ass or take a poke at them.
But, we are even better at self-deprecation.
Why did I do that!?
How stupid was that!?
What was I thinking?!
Common, you’re just so stupid sometimes?!
That’s the type of language circulating in our minds all the time.
When we look inward to take stock of what is going on in our life, we are already biased to see the crappy stuff. We are biased to choose the one tough thing that’s in the way, versus the twenty reasons why things look good. Even when things look good, we question how it can possibly be that good!
So if this is our natural state of mind, how do we change it? How do we move towards a more positive state of mind? How do we begin to see things with rose-colored glasses instead of dark lenses?
We first have to accept that this is our tendency. The tendency to be negative, thinking negatively, is a truth. So let’s get past debating it and understand that it’s a biased starting point for most of our internal conversations. Even those who profess to be glass-half-full people, the conversations going on in our heads are rarely quite as positive as the image our faces might profess.
Acceptance that everything we believe is a story is the essence of this process. Our stories, born of our influences and experiences, have shaped our belief system, yet these stories are falsehoods we continue to reinforce through our internal conversations.
Accepting that we have false beliefs and that our tendency is to reinforce the negative, and dismiss the positive is the first step in successful mindset change.
You have permission to grow and change, it is the purpose of your life.
Once we accept that we lean towards the negative and that everything we believe is just a story, becoming more aware of the negative language that circulates in our mind is the next step. How often do we allow the stories we believe to drive our narrative?
Most of us don’t even realize how negative we are most of the time. It becomes habitual.
We wake up and we start thinking about how bad we feel, how crappy our sleep was last night, how late we got to bed, how hard it was to fall asleep, how tired we are, and on and on. This is the narrative our mind takes on a daily basis from the minute our alarm sounds and jerks us out of our comfort zone.
And the conversations just keep coming.
It might be a thought train about the daily commute, what project we’re working on, or who we have to deal with today, but these conversations just keep coming.
So awareness becomes our next step in the process of change.
We need to start to acknowledge these conversations and recognize that we do live in this negative dialogue space.
You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.
So, we need to start recording it.
Journaling daily can be a very powerful mechanism for increasing our awareness. Writing down the narrative that is circulating, and becoming more aware of the common threads or the traditional discussions that keep coming up.
What are our favorite negative topics?
Is it self-judgment?
Is it a lack of patience?
Is it anger at everyone or anyone?
What do you think about regularly?
When we recognize the frequency and consistency of these conversations, we can begin to understand where our state of mind likes to reside. Now we can become accountable to our language.
Being accountable means that we don’t just have these conversations without any recognition. We start to see them, and understand how how often we have them.
Like understanding how many calories are in a cookie, or a bowl of ice cream. If we don’t know, then we can’t be held accountable for the cost of eating them. But if we know we only have 2000 calories to eat in a day, and the cookie and ice cream are worth 800, we know that we’ve used up a lot of our allotment on two little snacks.
But, that knowledge in and of itself is not going to be enough to change things. Just like knowing an Oreo, and a carrot doesn’t have the same number or quality of calories, this is just a starting point for change.
Accountability means we do something about it. It means that when we notice ourselves in these little conversations, we do something to change it. We recognize it, and we apply a strategy to change the direction of the conversation.
We want to flow switch, counter punch, or reframe the conversations.
A simple and effective flow switch is intentional breath.
When you start to have a discussion that is one of your favorites, acknowledge it, and then take five long slow intentional breaths while you clear your mind.
Breathing intentionally is an amazing counterpoint to a negative narrative, essentially flow switching the narrative.
Sometimes this won’t be enough, and you perhaps need to counter-punch the dialogue and bring a different perspective, simply thinking in opposition.
An example might be when your dialogue becomes judgemental of someone else and what they have accomplished, simply being more curious about how they accomplished it will shift your narrative to an inquisitive space. Counter-punching the narrative flips the script.
Re-framing the narrative is another way of changing the dialogue. Instead of looking at how something you did or didn’t do that is causing you to ruminate is a failure or a negative, how can you reframe it to find the opportunity or the positive outcome?
Perhaps you’ve missed an appointment, or are late for a meeting. Instead of beating yourself up about it, can you simply apologize and reframe what just happened, using it as an opportunity to show you are human, and that you make mistakes? Don’t ignore it, own it and move on to something you both value.
We either win, or learn, there is no losing in life.
The more accountability we bring, the more we flip the script, and the more we begin to see change and adaptation to a new state of mind. We adapt to a new level of thinking.
When we start to recognize our daily language, we can then begin to apply accountability strategies and tactics to move away from the negative and move towards the positive.
Another extremely powerful mechanism for positive adaptation is counting your wins. At least once a day, preferably at the end of the day, take stock and count the things you achieved, or happen to you that was positive.
Injecting your mind with intentionally positive thoughts helps to shift the flow towards the positive. By ending the day with positive thoughts, you start the next day with a more positive narrative.
The combination of being more aware and accountable for your internal language, and then injecting intentionally positive language will begin to shift the tide. You will never be perfect, no one ever is, but you will begin to see life in a new light.
A light that lifts your mojo and sends you on your way each day with a little more jump in your step.
Take the time over the coming week to do the following:
1 – Accept that everything you believe is just a story and that negativity is your bias
2 – Become Aware through journaling and acknowledgment of the stories and narratives that circulate in your mind
3 – Be Accountable, when you see these stories influence your behavior, shift the narrative; flow switch, counter-punch, or re-frame the discussion
4 – See the Adaptation, as you take control of your narrative, and make real change, acknowledge the adaptations, see the benefits, count your wins!
Start taking these steps today, and walk the road to a more positive life!