“April is the cruelest month,” mused T.S. Eliot. Obviously, he wasn’t around in October a few years back. While the weather had been magnificent, many people were not so inclined.
For background noise there was the nightly news with an unrelenting stream of stories about war, recession and political nastiness.
Closer at hand were the two women who left their manners at home when they came to my English tea class and the burglar who removed the battery from my car.
Staying positive in a negative world is challenging even in normal times, but this felt as if guerilla tactics were in order. Here are some of the most helpful I’ve found for getting past negative times and creating positive ones.
° Bombard yourself with positives. Overcompensate. Sondra Ray has a wonderful affirmation that goes, “Every negative thought immediately triggers three more powerful positive ones.”
If things are looking dim, consciously create the opposite thought. Keep your favorite books of inspiration close at hand and read at random during crisis moments.
° Take a proactive stance—and keep it. Nobody does a better job of explaining proactive vs. reactive behavior than Stephen Covey.
In his classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he writes, “Proactive people focus their efforts on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying causing their circle of influence to increase. Reactive people, on the other hand, focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language and increased feelings of victimization.”
If you need more information about moving into a proactive position, revisit Covey’s book for practical suggestions.
° Indulge a passion. One year, I created two challenges for myself: to discover all the ways that chocolate and raspberries could be combined and to see all of the Monet paintings I could with my own two eyes.
Both of these quests added hours of pleasure when I was traveling—and when I was not. I highly recommend you give yourself a similar challenge.
° Catch someone doing something right and let them know. I noticed a woman at the airport in Chicago wearing a smart outfit. When she reappeared in Minneapolis, I walked up to her and told her I’d been admiring her clothes.
She thanked me and said, “You can probably tell by my accent that you’d have to go a long way to get one for yourself.”
“Where are you from?” I inquired. When she told me London was her hometown, I said, “Oh, but I’m going there next month!”
I came away with a warm feeling and a great shopping tip.
° Take yourself on a mini-retreat. Sometimes the only way to diffuse negative energy is to move yourself completely out of it. So plan a day or two doing something you normally wouldn’t do.
Spend Wednesday doing the Sunday crossword. Watch the seasons change at a cabin at the lake. Have a massage at bedtime.
While you are so engaged, concentrate fully on what’s going on in front of you—not the situation that upset you in the first place.
° Discover the hidden gift in the problem. When my car was burglarized, I was mighty upset. Then one of the handsomest men I have ever met arrived at my door (wearing his police uniform) and things began to look a bit brighter.
We even managed to laugh about the situation when he asked me to check the car for further theft. I looked around and told him all of my music CDs were in place. “I don’t suppose that people who steal batteries would steal Mozart, would they?” I asked.
Negative times can be profoundly diminished if you have tools for dealing with them.
Abraham Maslow once described the self-actualized person’s response to chaos by saying they behaved “like a clock ticking in a thunderstorm.”
It’s a picture I’ve tried to remember in crazy times and attempted to duplicate.
None of us is immune to life’s negative events, but it’s possible to minimize their impact. In the end, it’s really a matter of learning to starve our upsets and feed our opportunities.