Stretching toward the sunny side

I never think of myself as a gloom and doom person, but last Thursday I caught myself being ridiculously negative. All it took was one small incident with a client to bring me down. For hours  I kept going over the situation and bemoaning how silly it was and oh-poor-me-I-should-just-be-independently-wealthy-and-never-have-to-work-with-anyone-again. Then it hit me, probably 5 good things had happened that day, including a colleague sharing a really nice comment a client had made about my work and another client liking an ad headline I had struggled with. Why was it that one bummer incident could overshadow positives that were much greater?

In yoga these past couple weeks, our instructor has been urging us to make a new year’s resolution and reflect on it every time we practice. Hers was a good one — to see the good in everyone and to respond to even negative people and situations with love. She joked about that guy who cuts you off in traffic or the maddening wait in a line behind someone taking forever. (Basically taking to heart the “namaste” we end each practice with, loosely meaning “May the light and love in me reach out to meet the light and love in you.”)

I didn’t really make any resolutions this year — I could have the same resolution every year for the rest of my life, probably involving eating healthy, exercising, losing weight, or whatever. But last Thursday’s negativity wake-up-call made me think I should focus — again — on being a more positive person.

This is not news. I read the seminal The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale 6 or 7 years ago and really appreciated the message and that this was something I needed to work on. I did adopt some of the practices into my life, but clearly need to work on it more. Seriously, with so many positives in my life, I’m rather ashamed that I’d waste more than a minute or two pondering some little “shit happens” moment or dwelling on a criticism, perceived injustice, or anything not impacting life, health, or livelihood. That’s not to say self-reflection isn’t good or you can’t learn from negative events. It’s what “they” always tell you: It’s about perspective. How you choose to think about something. Recognizing and acknowledging the trivial bad stuff and then letting it go. Glass half full and all that.

Obviously, I’m not the only one who struggles with this. It seems to be a very common, very human failing (hence all the aphorisms). So I can’t claim to be unique, or that my failings are somehow more profound than anyone else’s. Nope, they’re common and boring and as far away from rocket science as it gets. All the more reason to vanquish them.

Be careful how you interpret the world: It is like that.
~ Eric Heller

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Remember: Mind over mind

The latest stop on my ongoing (oft-detoured) journey to “get healthy” has involved taking Pilates and yoga through our local health system (that means “hospital” to us plain folk). I’m almost done with my second 8-week session with the same Pilates instructor — she’s great — and 5 weeks into my first session with the yoga instructor.

The last (and first) time I took yoga was almost 5 years ago — a community college “self-enrichment” class, and I didn’t remember a whole lot about it. But I had high hopes for this one because of my good experience with Pilates.

I’ve been disappointed — the class is so slow-paced. The instructor is nice and inspiring in her own way (she’s 61 and looks 50), but not very dynamic. And while it’s relaxing, I don’t feel I’m getting much of a workout. (In contrast, I sat in on the yoga class my Pilates instructor teaches after my Pilates class and was blown away. Talk about a workout. I’ll be taking her yoga class next time and, sadly, foregoing Pilates — just can’t handle two hours of classes back-to-back.)

One thing the yoga instructor does do is emphasize the mental aspects of yoga. She includes a “meditation” for each session, usually focusing on some aspect of positive thinking or feeling empathy for others or being present as we go through life.

Along those lines, she prefaced last night’s end-of-class meditation period by saying she has a little sign at home that reads:

Don’t believe everything you think.

If I take away nothing else from this yoga class, I’ll always remember that. It’s just the thing for a glass-half-empty, has-to-be-reminded-to-be-positive, needs-to-count-her-blessings kind of thinker like me.

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.
~ Henry Ford

So, is it time for that change yet?

I’m not the first or only one to say this (I rarely am). But isn’t it time for that change we kept hearing about? Specifically, isn’t it time for the powers-that-be to stop dwelling on how awful things are and start leading the charge? (And I don’t mean with plastic.)

I get it. The economy is bad. It’s likely to get worse. Much of the retirement fund I spent the last 20 years building is gone. I won’t be able to afford to retire or to have long-term care when I simply can’t make my fingers push the keys anymore. I GET IT.

And so did the powers-that-be — to the tune of $787 billion. 

Isn’t it time, finally, for some encouragement from our leaders?

…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…. (FDR)

Isn’t it time for reassurance that we still live in the greatest country the Earth has ever known and we will not let this destroy us?

We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender! (Winston Churchill)

Isn’t it time for a little pep talk?

But don’t forget, men — we’re gonna get ’em on the run, we’re gonna go, go, go, go! — and we aren’t going to stop until we go over that goal line! And don’t forget, men — today is the day we’re gonna win. They can’t lick us — and that’s how it goes… The first platoon men — go in there and fight, fight, fight, fight, fight! What do you say, men!  (Knute Rockne)

Isn’t it time for a little positive thinking?

Isn’t it time for Hollywood to get back to its roots?

Isn’t it time to restore our confidence?

rosie_the_riveter

Sadly, it seems to be time for more platitudes about tightening our belts (mine, like most Americans’, is too tight already, and it has nothing to do with economizing). And scare tactics. And a lot of preaching, but not a lot of practicing.

I’m a pretty good self-motivator. But in tough times, it would be nice not to have to be.

To lead the people, walk behind them. 
                                      ~ Lao Tzu