The Habit: Week-12 (Overcome Our Natural Tendency to be Negative)

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“Negative is normal. It is not successful, but it’s normal.” Jim Rohn

When the negative thoughts come – and they will; they come to all of us – it’s not enough to just not dwell on it. You’ve got to replace it with a positive thought.” Joel Osteen

Negative is normal. Neglect is natural. They aren’t helpful, but they are natural. People don’t rubberneck when they see a beautiful sunrise; they rubberneck to see a horrific accident. Weeds don’t require nurturing; they only need neglect to grow.

This week’s challenge is to cultivate a positive outlook, so we begin each day energized to pursue our goals and live a rich, fulfilling life. As you learned during Week-2 (Motivation), our subconscious is most impressionable in the morning, so this is our best opportunity to overcome our natural tendency to be negative. Before we discuss what we can do to cultivate a positive outlook on life, let’s first seek to understand why negative is normal, and its impact on our lives.

Our ancient mental programming was designed to ensure our survival, not our happiness. When we neglect to control our thoughts, our mind will look for lack and attack. Our mind looks for problems that could threaten our survival, like a lack of water or a threat of attack. It is programmed to constantly scan our environment for problems.

It is important to recognize problems, but focusing our time and energy on taking positive action is a lot more productive. We don’t solve problems by worrying about them. We solve them through action. Our energy and enthusiasm is a product of our emotional state.

Negative thoughts like worry, frustration, and hopelessness produce a low energy state. It is possible to take a negative emotion, like anger and use it to fuel positive action. We can use anger to fuel our efforts to address the situation with an I’ll show them attitude. Our focus and energy are precious. We don’t want to waste them on the wrong things.

Energy is vital to our success. It is often said energy is more important than intelligence. You probably know some brilliant people that aren’t successful. Would you agree with any of these statements? They have a negative attitude. They are always complaining or being critical. They are low energy. Spending too much time with them is draining. They never seem to get things done. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you answered the affirmative on all five questions.

Avoid negative people. We want to eliminate these energy drainers from our lives. They are toxic. They will rob you of your energy. In his international bestseller, The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, author Jon Gordon describes these negative people as “energy vampires.” He says “these people suck the life out of you and your goals and vision if you let them.”

Constantly focusing on our problems makes us feel overwhelmed. It produces a feeling of hopelessness. The best way to snap ourselves out of a depressed state is by forcing ourselves to take positive actions that will make us feel better. This strategy is simple to understand, but difficult to do; especially if we have conditioned ourselves to focus on things that put us in a depressed state. Positive action activates our dopamine system and makes us feel better. Addressing a problem makes us feel in control of our lives. When we take back control of our lives, we feel better.

Depressed people typically lack an internal locus of control. They feel that outside forces are controlling their lives. They fail to take positive action because they don’t believe they can affect their outcomes. Life is happening to them. They often waste their time and energy focusing on things they cannot control, like the actions of others or their environment. “Where focus goes, energy flows,” Tony Robbins. We shouldn’t waste our valuable energy focusing on the things we cannot change.

Let’s focus on what WE CAN DO to solve the problem, then pour our energy into the solution. We cannot ignore our problems. We must address them. We do this through action NOT anxiety. We cannot hope someone will solve our problems for us. The only one we can count on to address our problems is ourselves. We develop an internal locus of control when we solve our own problems.

If I were laid off from my job tomorrow, I would immediately take massive action to find a new job. I would resist my natural tendency to spend time worrying about how I am going to pay the mortgage and other bills because that isn’t going to solve my problem. Worry is normal, but it isn’t productive. Worry will not pay the bills, finding a new job will.

Like many people, I use to watch the news daily. I didn’t realize what a negative impact this was having on my life. If you still have any doubt that we live in a negative world, just watch a few minutes of a news broadcast. It is an all you can eat buffet of negativity. Everyday miraculous things are happening all over the world, but you will not see them covered by the news.

Our mind is the factory that produces the social, economic, and financial fabric of our life. We must stand guard at the gates of our mind. If we want to weave a positive, fruitful life, we must only permit positive influences in. We want to feed our minds positive, inspirational information. We want to surround ourselves with positive, uplifting people. If you cannot find these people in your environment, you can find them in the pages of an inspiring book, on a podcast, or on YouTube.

Everything we do in life begins with a thought. The bible says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.” A great attitude produces great results, but our attitude begins with our thoughts. Our thoughts are a product of what we are pouring into our mental factory. It isn’t enough to simply block negative influences.

We must condition ourselves to be positive. If cultivating a positive attitude isn’t a daily priority, it won’t be a priority. We condition ourselves by repeating something daily. If we neglect to cultivate a positive attitude, our minds default programming will produce a negative one. In the absence of light, darkness takes over. Being negative doesn’t require effort. Weeds don’t require nurturing to grow.

Beginning and ending each day with the news is like choosing to cultivate weeds. Our need to identify problems is normal, but it isn’t beneficial. Viewing the world through this negative lens certainly doesn’t inspire us. It is much more likely to leave us feeling depressed about the world. It creates a pessimistic view of life.

The pessimist is the person that doesn’t see the beautiful sunset because he is too focused on the crack in the window. The pessimist leads a miserable life. Pessimists don’t accomplish much. They are too busy studying why something will fail instead of why it might succeed. “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution” Albert Einstein

When we stock-up on wars, riots, scandals, tragedies, and murders, what hope do we have of living a dynamic, positive life? The news filters out almost everything that is good, so what you are left with is all the injustices of the world. Not only is this view of the world overly negative; it is also inaccurate. Most people are good. Millions of acts of kindness are carried out each day, but they aren’t newsworthy. The news focuses on problems, not solutions. Tragedies, not triumphs.

People get depressed by the news. Some become disheartened by what is transpiring in the world, but if they stopped to think about it, they would realize that the world is mostly good. How much of what they see on the news do they experience in their own life? A poor national economy doesn’t mean your personal finances are being affected. People like Franklin Templeton made their fortune purchasing stock and assets when people were most pessimistic about the economy. In my opinion, unless we are going to throw our hat into the political arena, we only need to know enough to be an informed voter. Watching the news is like worrying about something instead of addressing it. It is a passive activity. Our time would be better spent taking active measures to make the world better.

When we end the day watching the news, our subconscious mind is made to worry about all the problems of the world. Problems that we have no power to fix. What a waste. If we had chosen to review our goals or plan our tasks for the next day, our subconscious mind could have been put to work on how best to accomplish them.

Our subconscious mind is powerful. It holds immense amounts of information and can piece that information together to form creative solutions. The more we draw from it, the more successful we will be. When we draw on its power, we wake up the next morning better prepared to overcome our daily challenges. “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”-John Steinbeck

This week’s challenge is to cultivate a positive attitude, so we begin each day energized. As you learned during Week-2 (Motivation), our subconscious is most impressionable in the morning, so this is our best opportunity to overcome our natural tendency to be negative. The easiest habit to adopt is listening to something inspirational each morning. Everyone can control the first 30 minutes of each day. This might require us to wake up earlier than we do now, but we can all control our mornings. Our workdays are often filled with obligations and commitments that make forming a consistent routine difficult, but we can usually engineer the bookends of our days; our first and last hour.

I keep a pair of wireless headphones next to my smartphone so I can put them on after turning off my alarm. Before I take another step, I immediately begin to listen to something inspiring. It could be an audiobook, a YouTube video, or a podcast. I resist the urge to check email, FaceBook, Instagram, or anything else. How we begin each day determines how we live each day. We want to be proactive, not reactive. Every minute is precious. Our energy, focus, and creativity are at their peak levels during the first couple of hours each day.  While I am listening, I complete a few morning chores, which usually lasts 15 to 20 minutes.

motivational videoClick to watch

This easy to adopt habit shouldn’t add any time to your existing routine. If you only adopted this one habit, it would give you a more positive outlook on life in just a few weeks. Motivation, like everything else, doesn’t last; that is why we need to do it daily. We need to nourish our spirit like we to our body. We need to make regular deposits into our spiritual bank account so we will have something to withdraw from.

If something is important, we must wire it into our daily schedule.  It needs to become a habit. What we do every day matters most. We become what we habitually do. No one is naturally positive. They develop that mindset through conditioning. “Men’s natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart.” Confucius

Cultivating a spirit of gratitude each morning is highly effective at promoting a positive outlook. It helps us put everything in better perspective. It is easy to ignore all of our blessings and focus on all of our challenges. As we have already discussed, that is our natural programming. We look for lack and attack. Like the news, it creates a distorted perspective. Gratitude helps us gain a truer perspective. We shouldn’t ignore our problems, but neither should we ignore our blessings. Only by looking at both to we gain a more accurate perspective.

I recommend keeping a gratitude list in your journal. Gratitude is highly effective at chasing away negative thoughts. Negative feelings are incompatible with gratitude. We cannot be upset and grateful at the same time. The most effective way to combat negative thoughts and feelings is with gratitude. Remind yourself of all your blessings. Put the problem in perspective. Ask yourself, what can I do to make this situation better.

Commit to spending 5-minutes each morning re-reading your gratitude list, and updating it occasionally will give you a much better perspective on life. This tiny investment of time, repeated daily, will pay huge dividends. In a few weeks, you will begin to notice that you are complaining less, and doing more. Negative emotions, like negative people, are draining. Consistency is the key. Anything worth doing is worth doing daily.

After we have identified all our blessings, I suggest we spend 5-minutes reviewing our goals. When we review our goals, we reconnect with our values. It helps us to avoid the trap of being swept-up by daily obligations that distract us from what is truly important to us. It is easy to get caught up in our daily obligations and neglect to work toward our personal goals. Neglect is normal, but our challenge is to do better. We will be much more likely to take daily actions towards achieving our goals if we begin each day reconnecting with them. Focus on consistency. Commit to taking at least one action every day, no matter how small. “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” Jim Rohn

So what does pursuing our goals have to do with cultivating a positive attitude? When we are pursuing a goal, life takes on special meaning. Our life becomes purposeful. The bigger your dreams, the more they will inspire you to act. When we pursue our dreams, it forces us to become more than we are. Nothing is more universally linked to happiness than progress. Tony Robbins often says, “progress equals happiness,” and I agree.

Progress activates our dopamine system. When our dopamine system is activated, we are more positive, excited and eager to pursue our goals. I believe self-improvement should be everyone’s goal because making improvements in any area of our life leads to lasting happiness. When we stop growing, we start dying. In life, we are either saying hello, or saying goodbye.

So far, we have spent approximately 10-minutes identifying our blessings and reviewing our goals. Last, I would recommend you workout for 20-minutes. As you learned during Week-3 (Morning Exercise) It’s for the Mind more than the Body, exercise not only stimulates the release of endorphins which make us feel wonderful, it also stimulates the production of Brain-derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF).

BDNF is a protein vital to the health and function of your brain and peripheral nervous system. BDNF has often been described by scientists as “Miracle-Gro for the brain” because it stimulates the production of new neurons. Low levels of BDNF is linked to Alzheimer’s, accelerated aging, poor neural development, neurotransmitter dysfunction, obesity, depression, and even schizophrenia.

Beginning your day working-up a sweat is going to prime your mind and body for the day ahead. After a few workouts, you’ll start to notice you have more energy. Working out in the morning also allows you to begin each day with a sense of accomplishment, which also activates our dopamine system. Morning exercise primes the mind and body. It increases our metabolism and energy. It improves our mood, focus, and impulse control. It simply makes us feel wonderful. 

If you don’t exercise regularly, begin by taking a brisk walk each morning. The key is to get started doing something that simple and easy; build momentum. Make it as enjoyable as possible. Create a great music playlist or listen to something that inspires and motivates you during your walks. There are a lot of great YouTube channels that provide great motivational speeches set to music. Listening to these during a workout will energize and inspire you. It is like having a coach or personal trainer giving you encouragement during your workout. We all need a little push, especially in the beginning. 

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Click to watch.

Do it every day until you are conditioned to do it, without the need to muster up much willpower. If you are pressed for time, it is better to do 5-10 minutes, than to skip the workout. Good is not the enemy of great. Inconsistency is the enemy of progress. You want to make a commitment to yourself and keep it every day. Every day you do it, you’ll be making another deposit into your self-esteem account. Make morning exercise something you do, no matter what. Focus on making your workouts as enjoyable as possible and doing them as consistently as possible.

After it has become a habit, you can start building up the intensity a little at a time. There is no rush. Life is a marathon. Avoid the urge to push too hard too soon. The worst thing you can do is make your workouts drudgery. Pushing too hard too soon could cause you to quit, and that would be a terrible outcome. Don’t focus on optimal, focus on sustainability. Consistency is the key. We form habits, then they form us. “We become what we repeatedly do.” Sean Covey

You don’t need any equipment to begin an exercise program. Learn more, THE NO EQUIPMENT, NO EXCUSES WORKOUT. Don’t overcomplicate exercise. Complexity is the enemy of execution. Start out small and easy. Focus on building momentum through doing a little each day. Focus on consistency. Make a small commitment to yourself and keep it. Wire the activity into your day. Make consistency your top priority and everything else will fall into place.

As you develop these three habits, you will begin to recognize negativity in yourself and others. Awareness is the first step in transformation. Gradually your new positive conditioning will replace the old. You’ll notice you have more energy. You’ll stop complaining about things. You’ll start viewing life through an empowering positive lens. Instead of complaining about problems you’ll recognize your ability to address them.

You’ll do more and complain less. You’ll have more energy and vitality because you’ll have eliminated most of the negative thoughts that use to drain you. It is hard to eliminate all negative thoughts, but when they surface, you’ll recognize them as a problem. You will immediately begin to put them in proper perspective by counting your blessings.

I hope you will accept this week’s challenge to cultivate a more positive outlook on life. Being negative is normal. It doesn’t require any effort, but it certainly takes a toll on your emotional state and energy levels. I hope you accept the challenge to wake-up each morning energized to pursue what is truly important to you each day. How you begin each day determines how you live each day. Start your day with intention. Don’t allow yourself to sleepwalk through life like most people do, being reactive instead of proactive. Allowing the negativity of others to affect your attitude and energy. Begin with the desired outcome in mind; a positive outlook on life where you feel energized to pursue your dreams and desires.

Until next week, good luck!

Key Points:

  1. Control the spirit of your day: Listen to something inspirational, the first 15-20 minutes after waking up.
  2. Stand guard at the entrance of your mind: Don’t allow all the negativity around you to creep into your mental factory.
  3. Begin each day with Gratitude: Review a list of things you are grateful for, a gratitude list, to help put your problems in proper perspective.
  4. Reconnect with your goals: Review your goals each morning.
  5. Begin each day working up a sweat. Starting your day with 20-minutes of exercise will improve your outlook on life, rev-up your metabolism, increase your energy, and mental focus.

Until next week, good luck!

All actions begin with our thoughts. Everything is created twice, first in our mind, and then in reality. Change your habits, change your life! 

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