I doubt anyone reading this woke up today and said “I hope today sucks! I really want to be miserable and negative. With luck, everything and everyone around me will help by working to suck the life out of me. Today, that’s the plan!” Nope. Nobody wants that. Everyone wants a good day.
This is not about arrival, but direction. These are simply steps towards a positive mindset. It means moving in the right direction. If you want to get from the start of a trailhead to the end, you have to take steps. Steps, one after another get you heading towards where you want to be. Often times, you know that trail is leading you to a happy place. Maybe it is a beautiful vista view, a mesmerizing river or a majestic waterfall. There could be a lot of reasons not make the adventure. “But it will take too much time and effort. But it’s too hot or cold. But no one else is going . But I’m tired and sore already.” The first steps can be the hardest.
LIsted here are seven steps to take, as you move towards a better, happier and more positive day. To help drive each of these point home is a quote by sages from various well known and lesser known films. Here we go.
Lose your “but”. Don’t let the challenges blind you from the possibility.
“Everyone I know as a big but.” - Pee Wee Herman, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. In this cinematic classic moment, Pee Wee’s friend Simone is lamenting because her dreams seem unattainable. She can see many reasons not to move forward, because of her current and bad scenarios. The point is to focus on the ‘what if’ rather than your big “but”.
2. Gimme some skin. Take time to understand the “why” before you react.
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." - Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird. A huge challenge to a positive mindset is a quick reaction to others. Others have the potential to make us angry simply by their demeanor. How many times have you been frustratedly perplexed by a person’s seemingly stupid action/reaction at work, home or play? It is easy to make quick and unkind judgements when only looking at appearances. If you exercise a little empathy, you can see people in a very different light. You may see them as real people, not just an irritant.
3. Don’t lose hope. No matter the situation, there is hope.
“He’s only mostly dead.” - Miracle Max, The Princess Bride. Though Wesley was a character in a fictional story, there are thousands of true stories about those who did not give up when facing dire times. Against all odds and sometimes against all reason, people chose not to surrender in light of what was happening in the moment, but to press on because of hope. Joy is found in hope.
4. Be the good out of the spotlight. Let your character grow, not your recognition.
‘Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.’ – Aragorn, The Return of the King. Kind words in response to good work feel great. Recognition feels good and can be very encouraging. However, this is a double edged sword. Praise has the potential to boost an ego in a dangerous direction. If you become dependent on praise and it doesn’t come, that can be a real disappointment. Full disclosure: this is a challenge for the author penning these words. I feed off of the response of others to know when I’m on the right track (which can be ok). That praise can become a gauge of self worth (which is less ok). Mother Teresa was a good example of someone who worked diligently for good. She was 20 years in before much notice was taken of the work she was doing Even then, her worth and motivation did not come from the praise and notice of presidents and royalty.
5. Attitude of gratitude. You may be frustrated by what you don’t have. Deal with what you have.
“Life's a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you're gonna get”. “You have to do the best with what God gave you.” Mrs. Gump, Forrest Gump. A lot of bad stuff happened around Forrest and yet, out every circumstance, there was something good that resulted. Rather than be angry about what you don’t have, make the best of what you do have. Be satisfied with that and watch what happens. I have a friend who recently had a huge career disappointment. After 20+ years of commitment to her work and organization, a political decision changed her path from promotion to demotion. She was devastated. However, within two months, her talent was recognized by another, more stable, organization. She was hired to a new role which came with greater influence in her industry. You never know what your gonna get!
6. Stop the cycle. Watch your reaction to criticism and attacks.
‘It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.’ – Frodo Baggins, The Return of the King. Criticism can be hard to take. Be very careful not to be drawn into a fight. “Justified” revenge is still revenge. Here’s the definition of revenge: “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.” That doesn’t sound like a step towards positivity! Try this instead: be nice. Be nice in response to harsh words, constructive criticism and meanness. If you respond to any of those things with those things, you will find yourself in an ugly cycle. Here’s a bonus quote “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1.
7. You need help! Spend time with happy people to be more happy.
"When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming." Dory, Finding Nemo.
Marlin was irritated and put off by such a happy and seemingly clueless Dory. Many people have that reaction to happy people. Grouchy and peppy struggle to coexist in the same space. Morning people get berated by those who’ve not yet had their coffee. Misery loves company is an unfortunate truth. Negativity tends to breed negativity. If you want to be happier, find people who will encourage that mindset.
One last quote to wrap things up. “Baby steps. Baby steps. Baby steps through the office. Baby steps out the door. It works. It works! All I have to do is take one little step at a time and I can do anything,” Bob, What About Bob.
Take your first step to positivity. GO!
Steve Sweeney is a true believer in using fun to communicate. The context of play and laughter creates opportunity for connection. It also sets a great tone for driving home serious points. Every organization can benefit from some Serious Fun! Visit seriousfunteams.com to learn more.