Persevering Toward Positivity
Is being optimistic and finding the best outcome in a challenging situation hard for you?
It is for me.
Since I can remember, I’ve been a pessimist. I chucked this off as “being a realist,” and weighed myself against the optimists. I told myself that they were living in the sky, not reality, and that they only needed one thing to go wrong or badly for them and their entire house of cards would deconstruct and fall down.
Except, that wasn’t the case. Time and again, my optimistic friends would show up, even when things went badly for them, with a positive mindset and an encouraging attitude. It seemed like I spent more time worrying on their behalf than they spent themselves!
I was left holding the bag, squeezing blood out of the proverbial stone even in positive things, waiting for something bad to happen.
I used to think that I was unlucky, and that more bad things happened to those who were unlucky.
But now I’ve come to see that this is really about mindset. Luck–either good or bad–does not factor in. It’s a trick we play in our minds to excuse our own mindsets. If I’m too negative and pessimistic, and don’t see the good all around me, then, when it happens to someone else, it must be good luck! And when something bad happens to me, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy–I’m unlucky, and that is why this happened.
I’ve been working on my mindset this year. As I wrote in a different piece, it’s hard to know day-to-day how we are doing with our growth. It’s often in hindsight where we see how far we’ve come. But something happened to me this week, and my response was notably different than what it would have been even three months ago.
I was applying for a government program for a student loan (I’m planning on taking a diploma program beginning this summer to buff up my skills). I opened my email on Tuesday morning and was surprised to see a notification from the program, so I quickly logged in and read the message I had been sent.
There was a problem with my social insurance number. (This number corresponds to a social security number in the US.) I was going to have to go to a Service Canada branch and sort it out.
I was instantly deflated. Submitting the application had been a pain. I was glad just to have it sent out. And then, just days later, I hit a roadblock. But here is where things were different for me.
Previously, I would have erupted with anger, assumed this was one of many roadblocks that were going to be in the way, assumed a long, complicated process to sort out the problem, and felt like giving up altogether on the program.
Instead, this time, I acknowledged my frustration. Yes, I was angry about it, but the anger manifested as uneasiness in my shoulders rather than an outburst. I stayed calm, and resolved to go to the Service Canada branch in a couple of days. I gathered the documents I needed and set them aside so they would be ready for me to go in.
When I arrived at the branch, I was surprised to find no one there! I had no wait, and was able to meet with a gentleman who quickly solved my problem–because I had lived outside of Canada for more than five years, my number had gone dormant. He simply needed to check some information and reactivate it.
I was in and out in less than fifteen minutes, and I called the government program and they were quickly able to resubmit my application. I felt good, and a little proud of myself for how I had responded.
Here are some things I have been doing that helped to make a positive difference in my mindset.
Going for regular walks. I know I write about this ad nauseum. However, if I had to pick only one habit that I would continue practicing for the rest of my life, it would be this one. There is something about being outside and moving that is therapeutic for the mind and body. It helps to release tension and relax the mind.
Daily (nightly) quiet times to focus and relax. At night, I listen to a specific song on YouTube for about fifteen minutes. I sit quietly and do my best to focus on the stillness around me. I release all negativity that has held on throughout my day before going upstairs to bed.
A desire to be more positive. This was a big one for me. Once I realized that I can set an intention to be more positive, I began to notice all the ways I drifted toward being pessimistic as a default reaction. I started to note these, and then think about a way to respond positively instead.
Visualizing outcomes. Lastly, I began to visualize positive outcomes for different scenarios. For example, I often get tense going into offices like I needed to do to fix the problem with my application. I expected the worst–problems piled upon problems–and could feel it in my body. But, the night before, I told myself, “There is a simple solution and the office will help you find it.” I visualized a hassle-free experience, and as a result, was able to walk into the office confidently and without worry.
Perhaps one or more of these four points will be helpful for you.
What did you find helpful in this article? What questions did it raise for you?