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.

The Optimism Zone

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(Image Courtesy of Real Balance Wellness)

Soccer, youth travel soccer to be specific, now fills most of our days. Practices fill the week. Games fill the weekend.

Each week we are surrounded by increased skills, increased playing ability, and an increased level of teamwork.

Each week something else has also increased: the negativity of the spectators.

Negativity creeps in, when something doesn’t go the right way. At first negativity is hard to notice, and it may begin as disappointment.

The collective “OH NO, TOO BAD” when a goal is missed, turns into “UGH.”

The “GOOD TRY” becomes “WHY DIDN’T YOU MAKE THAT PLAY.”

About a week ago, the negativity became so loud during the game that it made my emotional glass cloudy. For hours after that game, I had the kind of emotional hangover that lasted for more than a few hours.

At the next day’s game, we set up early and made a declaration:

“This area right here (pointing to the imaginary large circle surrounding our folding chairs) is a declared Optimism Zone. If you feel the need to be negative, you need to go someplace else.”

For the first few minutes of the game we had to remind others a few times.

“As a reminder, you are in the Optimism Zone, all statements and comments should reflect that, if not, you should find another area to sit.”

The game, the comments, and our experience improved dramatically. We were returning to positive comments, and encouraging remarks.

The original negativity comes partly from how much these parents, friends, and family care about the players and how much they want them to succeed, and to win.

What began as coaching, became tearing down. What began as cheering, became criticism. Once negativity becomes the dominant way to express emotions, it slowly becomes the only channel.

Our attitudes and emotional state are contagious.

Perhaps we could all use an Optimism Zone to recalibrate our interactions.