The other day, I was listening to business podcasts while I was leisure walking—as one does—and the guest interview was a productivity coach who spoke about success, and the habits of successful people.
One thing that came up is the concept of “positive thinking.”
I love this topic, because while I consider myself a positive person, and I do believe that happiness is a choice, I see a lot of utility in seeking out worst-case scenarios.
Yes, I know it sounds counterintuitive, but this can actually be a productivity tool. We have talked about the concept of Practical Pessimism before, and how when we think about the potential negative outcomes of doing a thing, we actually feel more motivated to take action because now we see all angles. We’re mentally prepared.
The coach being interviewed, Todd Herman, explained that though successful people are generally positive, they consider the negative quite a bit. In other words, they don’t shy away from considering poor outcomes, not because they expect them, but because they are not scared of them.
I found this so interesting, because as a recovering perfectionist, I operated with the Pollyanna attitude for a long time—and feared thinking anything negative, not because I didn’t think it could happen, but because even thinking about bad outcomes filled me with a dread that if they transpired, that I would be bad.
This is the crucial difference between those who are taking big risks, doing big things and putting themselves out there, and those who are trapped in indecision and paralyzed with second-guessing themselves. The latter are constantly fearing that if they make the wrong choice that they are somehow wrong. They make it mean it’s all bad and they might as well pack it up.
Successful people know poor outcomes are a very real possibility. And they are not scared of them.
They don’t let the potential for struggle keep them from taking action. They don’t let big decisions intimidate them, or make them feel less-than. They take a much more clinical, objective approach when it comes to dealing with failures and setbacks.
In other words, those who are successful don’t make their failures mean that they are a failure.
This is huge! This is the difference between taking a struggle personally, versus viewing it as simply part of the learning process. This is a mindset shift, no?
If you are starting a new fitness regimen, jump in. You don’t need to know exact outcomes, or exactly what will happen every step of the way. You get to change things up on the fly, adjust as needed, stay mindful and choose to do things differently at any point.
This is freedom.
This is self-trust.
This is not attaching meaning to what everything needs to mean about you every second.
Could you simply start and then … watch? Could you trust yourself enough to navigate the negative? Could you harness the confidence to work through anything that comes up? Could you harness that little bit of conviction to know that you’ll be okay no matter what?
So, back to positive thinking. There’s a difference between expecting negative outcomes and simply being ready/real/okay with them.
Optimists practice the latter. They very often look for what potential negative outcomes could transpire and then ready themselves for it, so that if it shows up (they don’t expect it to, necessarily), they’re good. They’ve got it. They’re can handle it.
Then Todd was asked, “So what’s the difference between thinking about potentially negative outcomes and simply worrying? Besides, it’s been said that worrying is basically wishing for what you don’t want.”
Todd replied, “Worrying is seeing things through to no conclusion.”
I loved that because it reminds us that the power is not in the negative thinking but instead in our response to what happens.
There is power in our response always, which brings me to the most important question you can ask yourself in those moments of struggle, negativity and fear:
WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL RESPONSE I CAN HAVE TO THIS?
Let’s try a few:
My friends and family think I’m nuts for starting a blog or online business.
- Your powerful response: Show up with the conviction and confidence and be the example that following your dreams is possible.
- The tool: Conviction.
You are embarking on the #moderation365 journey and everyone is judging your food choices.
- Your powerful response: Own your process and be as open about your struggles and successes as possible. Write about it, share your successes and missteps in a super honest way. Show others the process is not simple but that you are courageous enough to try a new way.
- The tool: Authenticity.
You write a blog and some trolls show up to tell you you don’t know what you’re talking about.
- Your powerful response: If it’s rude, you delete and ban, no questions. Or, if you are interested in moving into the discussion, use it as an opportunity to show all those who are watching and who love your stuff that you can handle criticism with grace and kindness. My go-to start: “Thank you, I am going to assume that your response was made in an effort to positively add to this discussion so I will answer your question as I see it …”
- The tool: Confidence.
You want to share with your romantic partner some things that are on your mind, but you are scared they are going to be mad or you are scared of their response.
- Your powerful play: You tell them ahead of time that you are scared to share this because it makes you feel vulnerable, but that you know in the interest of the relationship, it’s important and ask if they can hold space for you?
- The tool: Vulnerability.
You give your two weeks notice at your job and your boss is pissed.
- Your powerful response: Know inside that his/her response only solidified that you made the right decision, and you were right to trust yourself. And then take the high road, sharing your truth about how you feel, and then saying you are sorry to put them in a bind but that you have to do what you need to for you and your family.
- The tool: Honesty.
WHAT IS WORST CASE SCENARIO? Write it down. And then ask, “What is the most powerful response I can have if this were to transpire?”
And remember, a response is “powerful” if it leaves you feeling relieved, honest/open, in your power and in a position to do what you need to for you. To me, being in my power means being in my integrity.
Ask, “Did I act in accordance to my internal moral code? Did I allow the other person to have their response, and did I speak my truth?”
When you come at things from this angle, there doesn’t need to be any hard feelings, hurts, expectations or resentment. Remember, we’ll only feel those things when we act in a way that is not true for us.
We hold grudges because we have not cleared the air. We feel resentful when we don’t speak our truth. We feel bitter when we are still holding out expectations for others.
Acting powerfully is a choice.
And if we just focus on doing that, those negative moments can come as much as they please because we trust we have an arsenal full of self-trust, confidence and competency.