“It's so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind.” - The Smiths, “I Know It’s Over”
It can be so easy to hate your life when things are not going your way. It can be just as easy to hate other people, your situation at work or home, and even yourself. Why is that? Why is it so much easier to be negative than positive when facing life’s challenges?
I recently talked about this with my friend and empowerment colleague, Mark Lees. Creator of “Hiker Therapy,” Mark counsels and empowers individuals and couples while on hikes. He also recently wrote a book, “Pops Takes Us to the Top,” a true story about a father and son adventure climbing to the top of Mt. Whitney.
In our “think tank,” we discussed why it was so much easier to be negative than positive. It's easier to lean on the negative side of life for a few reasons:
1. People have more negative experiences. Most people tend to know negative experiences better because it’s what they've experienced more. The more often we experience something, the better we can remember it. Negative experiences brand our brains with harsh memories that are easier to recall. They leave scars that can reach so far under our skin that they've created conditioned responses within us. So, the next time we face a challenge, these conditioned responses kick in to protect and prepare us for the worst. We believe the situation feels safer that way.
However, feeling safe doesn't always make it safe. It just makes it familiar. People get comfortable with what’s familiar. Familiarity breeds predictability. People think they can handle any situation or challenge better - no matter how uncomfortable - when it’s predictable. People prefer things they can anticipate so that they know how to act or respond.
2. Negativity takes less energy. It's easier to be negative about ourselves, our situations, and other people because we think it takes less energy. Therefore, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine failure as well. Negativity is the path of least resistance for those who don't want to put in the effort to create success. If you’re not willing to set a goal or attempt to do anything about your present circumstances, then it’s unlikely you would expend any energy on cultivating positive thoughts or imagining success.
Your thoughts collectively create your mindset. Your mindset shapes your attitudes and beliefs. What you think and believe directly impacts how you feel. How you feel about yourself and your life impacts your actions and behaviors. Ultimately, your actions determine your results and outcomes in life.
To change your present situation, retrace your steps back to how you think. Then, start taking charge of your thoughts now. Choose thoughts that support the person you want to become and represent the life you want to create. With more positive thoughts and passion behind your purpose, you can create prosperity in your life.
3. Fear. Fear is the number one killer of dreams. Fear can stop you from achieving health, happiness, and success in any form. Fear is crippling. It can paralyze even your best intentions to take action on your goals and dreams. People live in fear of failing as well as succeeding. Some people are so afraid that they won’t achieve their desired result, that they stop before they even start. So, they don't even bother to expend any amount of time, money, energy, or other resources toward the life they want.
Don't let fear stop you from experiencing joy in your life. Life is the greatest risk of all. But, life is too short not to ask what if. You might ask what if you fail. But, you could also ask what if you succeed.
Asking what if led me to many exciting places in my life. From England, Poland, and Russia to Belize, Spain, and so many places in between, I’ve travelled around the globe.
Asking what if led me to do many amazing things in my life. From meeting celebrities and professional athletes while working at the US Open Tennis Championships and watching the New York Yankees play from my seat three rows from the third base line to cheering for the New York Giants as they ran out of their tunnel onto the field, I've been able to create many magical moments in my life. Asking what if helped create volumes of unique memories I wouldn't have had otherwise. A volunteer opportunity even turned into four amazing years of working with the elderly, which led to a spot on the Monday morning news with my gray-haired cheer squad.
Lastly, asking what if led me to meeting many amazing people in my life. I’ve been fortunate to make friends all around the globe and from all walks of life due to the various jobs I've had. And, thanks to social media, I'm only a click away from the friends I’ve met along the way. It's wonderful to reconnect with friends I met as far back as 30 years ago.
The best way to conquer fear is by taking action. Taking action moves you forward and builds you up. Taking action cultivates self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love, which are all superpowers of inner strength and resilience. When you love yourself enough to do something about your circumstances, you cultivate a positive mindset, which enables you to take positive actions.
Cumulative action breeds courage and confidence. The more actions you take, the better you will feel about yourself and your progress. You will be less fearful about trying new and different things. You will step out of your comfort zone more and take more risks in life. Therefore, developing inner strength is the key to keeping fear from holding you back from living your best life. And, action transforms fear into positivity.
Three keys to taking action:
Learn. Knowledge is power. Empower yourself by educating yourself on a subject matter that will benefit your life somehow. Acquiring knowledge, expertise, or experience will also help boost your confidence.
Positive self-talk. Practice talking to yourself and speaking out loud with more kindness and respect. Words are powerful. Your body hears everything you say with your thoughts and with your words. So, be mindful of your choice of words. Talk positively because your words help manifest results. Examples include: "I am studying to be a doctor!" "I'm training to run a marathon." "I'm exercising and eating better to improve my health."
Change your environment. Your environment impacts your mindset and ultimately impacts your actions. To create positive actions and positive outcomes in your life, create a loving, positive environment where possible. Declutter and detox your environment from people, places, and things that hold you back from living your best life.
4. Being around the wrong people. Being around the wrong people is the number one reason we have negative thoughts or feelings of hatred. The people we associate with become our teachers. If you surround yourself with hateful, fearful, negative people, their attitudes, actions, speech, and behaviors will impact how you think and feel as well as what you believe, speak, and do! We become who and what we're taught by others!
When I was in my twenties, I dated a guy who hung out with a group of friends who lacked motivation and drive. They smoked too much marijuana, drank too much beer, and lacked manners. They spoke disrespectfully about women in front of me and, over time, it mentally wore me out. After a while, I even started looking at myself and thinking about myself like a man. As a result, I didn't think I was pretty enough, and I didn't feel good about myself at all. However, I lacked the self-esteem to walk away from that experience sooner. I was more focused on being liked and accepted. But, if I could go back in time, I would not have even dated that boy!
If you don’t like your current circumstances, consider getting new teachers. Distance yourself as much as possible from negative, toxic people. Instead, read about, listen to, watch, or be around those whose courage and achievements you admire as much as possible. Be around those who practice love, kindness, and compassion (live aloha). Living aloha cultivates inner strength and positivity, which will keep you going until you succeed.
You can learn to be more positive, my Pineapple. Everyone has a starting point. Start with your own thoughts and go from there. Have patience and compassion in your journey. Your thought patterns will not change overnight. But, you and your dreams are worth every effort to make a positive change.
Everyone experiences failures. But those who are strong enough to take a stand for the life they desire usually achieve it. The ones who are kind and loving toward themselves, put passion in what they do, and have faith in the process are the ones who succeed!
Live, Love, and Lead with Aloha.