habits

how positivity cultivates resilience

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I was reading Positivity the other day, by Positive Psychologist from UNC Chapel Hill, Barbara Fredrickson. Barbara has dedicated her life's work to the study of positivity. For so long, psychology was dominated by the study of negativity. Seeking to find cause and cure to the ever increasing depression that plagues our society. 

Not long ago, Barbara and other brilliant psychologists decided to turn the tables not his idea, and start studying the other side of the spectrum: positivity. Positive Psychology was born. 

In her book Positivity, Barbara talks about how cultivating more positivity can make us more resilient. It is proven that naturally positive people carry higher resilience than their not so positive counterparts. 

Resilience helps us to better react and recover from tough life situations that may come our way. Positive people are better suited to handle themselves in tough situations and bounce back after an event much quicker. 

A section of her book really hit me...

"...resilient people are highly attuned to the ever-changing circumstances in which they find themselves. They are emotionally nimble. They react to what is happening now, not to what-ifs. They don't spend time worrying about the future. Instead, perhaps appreciating that they can cope with whatever comes their way, they adopt a wait-and-see attitude. They're also quick to tell the difference between good and bad - they don't overgeneralize or overreact. They minimize their angst by cutting out advanced worry and afterglow obsessions, focusing instead on reality of the present moment." 

I feel like this is something so many of us struggle with. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the what-ifs of tomorrow. Spending hours ruminating about what could happen or should happen. But we really have minimal control over events that cross our path. We simply can control our thoughts and reactions to those moments. 

How different would things be if you too adopted this wait-and-see attitude? Choosing to live life in a much more intuitive, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of mindset. How refreshing would it be to just focus on now, and not worry about tomorrow? 

There are times where thinking about the future is very beneficial. When we are visualizing our goals and dreams. This visualization can help us work through our thoughts, and form a clear vision and path moving forward. 

But when we start thinking through the negatives. the what-ifs of what could happen or what could go wrong, this visualization is no longer beneficial, but rather severely detrimental. A good question to ask yourself is simply: 

Is this useful? 

A certain amount of worry can be good, to safeguard us against danger, and to keep us alert, and in the here and now. But once you pass the point of a thought serving a purpose or bringing useful, it is better to discard the notion. 

Worry less about things out of your control. Think less about possible outcomes that do not match up with reality. Wait and see what happens before sending out the bat signal of despair. 

This week, try out being emotionally nimble. Let things roll off your shoulder. If you feel something getting under your skin, take a breath.

Know that a thought is simply a thought. And by increasing our positive outlook on life, we are setting ourselves up for greater resilience to safeguard against whatever life may throw our way. 

past circumstances, ideas and fears do not determine your future

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free yourself from the bind of who think you used to be.

An issue I often see is the internal struggle of feeling trapped or constricted by past circumstances. As if where we were born, who raised us, and every idea, fear, and thing that has happened up until this point, has some form of cosmic control over our lives. 

I promise you this is not true. 

The universe does not take your prior understandings and bind you to them for eternity. We all have a chance for growth, and at times redemption. 

Our learned habits can seem binding at times. I have found that many things I learned early in life, I in turn had to un-learn later. Whether the be work habits, life habits, personal priorities, irrational fears, or just how to live life in general. 

When we are younger, you are immensely influenced by everyone around us. Parents, siblings, caregivers, teachers, neighbors, that guys are the grocery store. Everyone we come in contact with has a change to impact us. They help for our neural pathways that help determine our future self. 

But that doesn't mean we can't change.

An astounding amount of psychological and neurological research had come out in the past years that proves the plasticity of our brain. Our brains ability to learn, un-learn, and in fact grow and change. 

This gives me the peace of mind and confidence to know that none of us have been pre-programmed. We are not bound by what may seem instinctively set within us. We have the ability to re-adapt ourselves to live within the constructs of the life we want, not just the life we are currently living. 

If you are naturally timid, you can learn to be brave. If you are naturally scatterbrained, you can learn to be organizationally conscious (I'm still working on this one).

We can reset our mental presets, much like reseting the presets on our radio. It may take a great deal of time, but we can always change. 

Too often we use these past influences and ideas as excuses. Claiming that we are in fact incapable of this or that. "I'm bad at math." "I'm not disciplined enough." "I need this." "I'm not good at that."

But none of these are hard facts. Yes we all have strengths and weaknesses, but why not change them? A lot of the time we do not in fact have a weakness, but have rather constructed the idea of a weakness for ourselves. And we have full capacity to change our thoughts. 

Because they are just that, thoughts. Assumptions that we have about our natural or un-natural abilities. These ruminating thoughts become our reality, whether they measure up to reality or not.

It is much easier to blame our circumstances, rather than take responsibility for our future. Or is it? 

"The extend to which you fulfill your hidden calling depends on how you respond to the challenges you meet along the way. No matter where you live, and whether you are born into poverty or privilege, you still have the responsibility, opportunity, and the capacity to reach toward the highest light within you. But take to heart the higher truth your life is unfolding as it should. We cannnot predict, force, where our paths may lead - but we can bring a measure of grace to the journey with each small step." - Dan Millman, The Four Purposes of Life

Whether you feel trapped by your learned habits, or find yourself using them as a crutch for not pursuing a dream, you are the only one who can decide to change and adapt. 

Your ultimate human potential is out there waiting for you to reach out and grab it. Don't let past circumstances, habits, ideas and fears hold you back from becoming who you may be. 

 

 

quit while you're ahead

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How stopping work when you are still energized can help you get more done, in less time, and eliminate the possibility of burnout. 

Over the years, I have gone back and forth on the concept of when to stop working for the day. We all have those days where we can hardly get going, and feel as if we are getting nothing accomplished throughout the day. And then we have those days there we are so "on." Where productivity is oozing out our pours, and we seem to just be flying through our to-do list. 

It has been suggested by minds far more advanced than mind, that it is in fact beneficial to stop working while you are in one of these energized, flow states of mind. Now I am not saying to stop right when you start the feel productive. Obviously if you get into one of these amazing flow states of mind, you should use it to your advantage. But the idea here, is to not push it. Know your limits, and stop working before you lose your flow, and move into the aftermath of burnout for having pushed past your limits. 

This is something that I first learned while working out. Being a college athlete, I was used to working out for 4 hours a day. As I got older, and didn't exactly have 4 hours to dedicate to hitting the gym anymore, it was hard for me to find my ideal balance between feeling like I got a good workout in, not wasting my entire day, and not completely exhausting myself in the process. 

I used to get up and work out for 2 hours to start my day. An intense 2 hours. Although I was getting in a great workout, I would come home exhausted, and honestly just want to sleep and eat for the remainder of my day. An activity that should have been waking me up, and getting me into a productive zone, was zapping my energy and killing my work flow. 

Finally I landed on the idea of only working out until energized. Work out long enough to wake up, feeling like I got a workout in, but not push it to ultimate exhaustion. This was not always easy. Some days a good workout would consist of a walk around the block. Others I wanted to keep going forever and ever because I felt great. 

Just the other day I was out for a run. It took me a bit to get into it, but once I hit my stride I felt amazing. Eventually I hit the 4 mile mark - which is really good for me since I was just getting back into running - it was the longest I had run in a while, and I felt fantastic. A big part of me wanted to keep running. I had more energy at mile 4 than I had my entire run. I knew I could run 5, maybe even 6 miles that day. 

Ultimately, I decided to stop while I was at the height of this energy. It was hard - I wanted nothing more than to run further just to prove to myself that I could. But I knew if I pushed it, I would approach the point of exhaustion. 

I ended up going into my work day completely energized, and in a great mood. I finished my entire to-do list before noon and was absolutely amazed by what I had accomplished, and how much of my day was left. Once again I was confronted with the idea of "do I keep going" or "do I stop?" Part of me was boring with energy and wanted to jump into tomorrow's to-do list and maybe finish that to. I was ready to take on the world. But once again, I stopped. 

I took the rest of the day, and read, enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and spent some time with my dog. I felt accomplished for having gone on a great run, finished my to-do list in record time, and had the rest of the day for some much deserved R&R. I ended up getting some more work ticked off later in the day, and went to bed well rested and ready for tomorrow. 

The next day followed suit. 

I could have easily taken advantage of my energy burst and road out my flow as long as possible. Maybe to the point to ticking through the following days to-dos and beyond. But knowing myself, I would have been completely burnt out at the end of the day. And odds are, it would have taken me days to recover. I would have been too exhausted to enjoy a day of sunshine and reading, and would have ultimately ended up at the same place on my to-do list a few days later. 

So maybe there is some weight to this idea of stopping while you are ahead. To try to keep yourself, body and mind, in a constant state of energy and excitement. If you avoid approaching the brink of burn out, you end each day with happiness, and accomplishment. And you start the next day with energy and excitement. If you ask me, that sounds like a pretty dreamy way to build your life and business. 

This week, set the intention to stop while you are ahead. And that doesn't mean just ahead on your to-do list, but instead when you are ahead emotionally. Stop while you are still energized, no matter what time of day it may be. Don't let yourself approach the point exhaustion, boredom, or burnout. Start living in a heightened state of energy and excitement every day in your life and business. Work less, play more. And above all else, put your happiness and wellbeing first. When you do that, everything else will work out better than you ever could have imagined. 

Show yourself some much needed grace this week.