Updated: Feb 12, 2021
Usually, when the calendar flips from December to January there is a renewed sense of optimism and wonder as we contemplate what the fresh set of 365 days might have in store. Not so for 2021. With a global pandemic forcing many countries to head back into lockdown, this January felt like "more of the same". I didn't want outside circumstances to dampen my spirits so I decided to shake things up. Just after the new year started I found a glass jar and two different colored post-it notes. Every day since I sit down each morning to note at least one thing that went well from the previous day and one thing for which I’m grateful. In no time I was noticing something...not only do I "really get sh*t done!", I'm trying a fair number of things outside my comfort zone. Would I have acknowledged this awareness if I hadn't been actively looking for my 'wins'?
People talk all the time about gratitude and gratitude practices, but when was the last time you turned your attention to your WINS? Wins are the things you’re pleased with-- the things that went well or better than expected, no matter how large or small. Some days a win might be “I signed a huge client and got a big thank you from my boss”. Some days it might be “I managed to get out of bed and shower”. Both are wins!
Why track your wins? You’ve probably heard me say this many times, but we’re wired to focus on what’s wrong. It’s called negativity bias and is the reason we recall the criticism instead of the praise. It's why we relive the traumatic or embarrassing situations and not the everyday interactions. Negativity bias had it's utility-- it kept us alert to possible danger back when threats to our survival were very real and present. Since then we have evolved our environments not to pose daily threats, but our brain hasn’t caught up. We are still inclined to see the worst in a situation. To that I say “Stop it!” You’re making yourself miserable! Just the simple act of finding the goodness will slowly begin to rewire your circuits. Before long you’ll be seeing silver linings everywhere!
So, how do you combat your nature and see more of the positive? One way is to do what I'm doing....deliberately go out and find the good. Bias is enabled by laziness. It works best when not confronted. When we don't consciously make a decision to think differently our brain reverts to its default setting for negativity. Combat it with recording the good! So get a jar and some post it’s and let’s gooooooo! Track. Those. Wins!
Negativity shows up most, sadly, in how we speak to ourselves. Our self-talk can do a number on confidence. Start noticing your internal dialog and whether or not you chastise yourself unecessairly when mistakes are made. Replace it with statements like "That didn't go as planned, but next time I'll do better". "I made an oversight on that file but it's not the end of the world. I can correct it and move on". Reframing is the difference between letting a situation nag at you and being able to put it behind you. If that doesn't work try distraction. Find something to do that you enjoy and put an end to the rumination over what didn't go your way.
But let's get back to the wins jar...
As I read through my wins from January and February another notion took hold. The wins I was most proud of were the ones where I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. Here's an example. I looked at the quiet, mostly at-home month of January 2021 as a good time to attempt (again!) building a yoga practice.
In my mind, the story I had been telling myself was that "Yoga isn't for me". If anyone dared challenge me on it I could point to at least 8 different times over 15 years that I'd joined a class or tried a video. And each time I got the same result...'I don't get yoga'. It's not strenuous enough. I have too much on my mind. This is moving way too slowly. What is she talking about 'follow the breath'?? These were my thoughts.
But THIS, remember, is January 2021 and where else do I have to be?? In addition, I had really done a number on my lower back taking down the Christmas tree, so I was in no position to complain about the rigor of yoga. I'm sure you can see what's coming.... It turns out that I what I needed, right in this moment, was yoga. At home, in the privacy of my office, with a super-sweet instructor, and the encouragement (with a little bit of a challenge issued) of a friend, I embarked to attempt number....9?....to like yoga. This time, it stuck! I can't say for sure why, but I suspect 'right time, right place' had a lot to do with it. Either way, in coming to the mat every day for 30 days I confronted the old "story" and challenged its validity. In doing so I gained a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride. And that's ALWAYS a good way to banish negativity!
What story have you been carrying around too long that could use a challenge?