I Stink at Positivity

When you listen to people, you can hear the funniest things. We were connecting with a friend the other night and were talking about being positive.

“I stink at positivity!” They blurted out.

We all laughed.

For the remainder of our time together I kept coming back to that statement. I haven’t been able to shake it.

Our words reveal so much about us.

We can be so hard on ourselves.

Our words can create self-imposed limits.

We stop pushing against and become defined by those limits.

Spend the next few days listening to your own words, and those around you. Listen especially for the “I am” statements. Once you understand the landscape, maybe a similar approach can be used to reverse the trend.

Instead of limits, we could speak of possibilities.

“My positivity can be better, and I am making progress.”

This conversation reminded me of another recent interaction I had with someone who runs. I kept hearing the same statement over and over.

“I am not a runner.”

When I pressed further, I realized that this person ran about five races last summer. They trained hard, but past self-limits had convinced them that they were not a runner. They had convinced themselves that “a runner” was a specific kind of person who was better, faster, and thinner than they were.

We talked about how contrary this self limit was in the face of the evidence.

Running Shoes: Check.

Running regularly: Check. (But the internal voice kept telling them it wasn’t enough.)

Running outfits: Check.

Running five races: Check.

The evidence was clear: and it added up to a runner.  However, the self-limiting narrative remained. It took few tries, but eventually they were able to articulate the change.

“I am a runner.”

Without these self-imposed limits…we may just Change the World.

“I am good as possible”

I live in New Hampshire. With the exception of my time in the Navy and a few years of grad school, I have lived here my whole life.

Every winter, it snows here…a lot. The world slows down, and we tend to hibernate and stay inside more.

I have a confession: I never learned to ski.

Combine this fact with the fact that I agreed to chaperone my daughter’s ski club helped prompt me to do something that I have been meaning to do for years: learn to ski.

At 44 years old, I decided to stop putting this off and start taking a lesson (the Sunday before a Wednesday ski club). Despite my initial fear, of falling and/or making a fool of myself, the lesson went well and I had enough skills to chaperone. Enough skills to get by. I stared to wonder if I needed additional lessons.

I told this story to a friend. This friend had a story for me. Years ago when their young child was learning to ski, their family would spend days on the slopes. Most of the day was spent in lessons, and occasionally they would “free ski” afterwards. Their child had good skills and some natural talent for skiing and could out-ski most of their peers. The lessons continued.

After lunch, most of the family was going to ski the slopes and the young child had to return to their lesson. The child wanted to ski with the rest of the family, but the lesson continued in the afternoon. A meltdown ensued with this youngster trying to find a reason why they didn’t need to continue the lesson.

“I don’t need another lesson. I am good as possible!” they screamed.

We laughed at the story, but those words remained. “I am good as possible.”

How often do we think we are good enough at something and fail to continue to learn and challenge ourselves? When does “good enough” satisfy us so that we stop refining our skills? Lessons can be boring, especially when compared to skiing down the slopes.

For me, I decided to continue with the lessons. But this story and those words caused me to look to at my own life to see where I have shouted “I am good as possible” instead of realizing that I could improve with just a few more lessons.

Learning to Ski

P.S. For anyone who thinks they are too old, tired, experienced, afraid, (insert word here) to try something new, my instructor told me about a 78 year-old grandfather who decided to learn to snowboard so he could go down the slopes at least once with his grandchildren. And he did!