Several weeks ago, as the idea for The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP series began to develop in my mind, I put pen to paper and jotted down notes regarding the different areas that had led to my own progress and personal growth over the last year. When I got to the letter N, I knew I wanted to discuss negativity.
At that time, I was sure this week would be all about negating negativity. According to my Merriam-Webster dictionary app, negate means to deny or cause to be ineffective or invalid. And that’s exactly what I thought was necessary to be a purposeful WIP: Turning my back on negativity. But now I realize that isn’t possible. Negativity is everywhere—on our televisions, in our social media newsfeeds, in our relationships—and its prevalence is difficult to ignore. Even if we are fortunate enough to somehow avoid subjection to or absorption of the negativity from any of these external forces, we’d still have to deal with the often inescapable power of our own internal voices of pessimism and self-judgment.
And while we may not always be able to disregard that inner critic, I do believe we can navigate it. We can steer a course away from its progress-blocking negativity and toward a confident, uplifted mindset that will ultimately deliver us—in celebration and gratitude—to the summit of our sometimes seemingly insurmountable goals.
How do we do that? Here are three steps that I have found to be valuable in navigating my own negativity:
- Be aware of and take responsibility for your own negative mindset. Sometimes negative mindsets can sneak up on us. We can sink so gradually into a well of bitterness and resentment that we can no longer see the light of day, yet we are so busy blaming our circumstances or another person that we become blinded to our own responsibility in the matter. Case in point: Just last week I met with my life and business coach and rattled on for a good twenty minutes about my dissatisfaction and frustration with a number of things in my life. After a while, she settled her knowing gaze on me and said, “Sandy, what do you think is the real issue here?” It only took a few seconds for me to realize that the problem wasn’t everything and everybody at which I was pointing my finger. It was me. My attitude was in the toilet. And simply being aware of it and taking responsibility for it was enough to set my pathway straight.
- Uncover the root cause. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen overnight. Nor is it easy (or comfortable). But doing the work to become more self-aware and understand why we do the things that we do is a great way to prevent a complete and total submersion into negativity. Once we identify our patterns, we can recognize and therefore, thwart, those unhealthy and unhelpful backslides and slumps. (On a side note: I’ve recently began reading about the Enneagram, which is a personality typing system, and it has been eye-opening, to say the least. If you’re interested in learning more about it—and consequently, about yourself—check out the book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.)
- Adjust your focus. Earlier this week I was listening to Pastor Steven Furtick’s sermon on the Elevation Church podcast and he talked about our tendency to collect evidence. If we are down on ourselves, believing the lies that run through our heads telling us that we don’t matter or we’re not enough, we will zip through the worst memories of our past and collect evidence to support those claims. If we want to talk ourselves out of pursuing our big dreams, we can find a plethora of excuses to let ourselves off the hook. But if it’s true that we can easily find the negative in any situation (and in ourselves) just by looking for it, so, too, can we find the positive. All we have to do is adjust our focus. So rather than letting that negative inner voice take over every time you look in the mirror or sit down to write or step on a scale or take that next step toward your goal, flip your focus and let the affirmations flow.
So what about you? What tools do you employ to navigate negativity in your life?