Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Now Say Something Positive

The fact that negativity is rewarded in society is self-evident to anyone who can turn on a television or read a gossip website. It's pervasive, and we're all encouraged to be that way, pretty much all the time.

It's pervasive, because society rewards it, by and large. From Perez Hilton, to the unprivate woes of the Jon and Kate Plus 8 couple, it seems like we all love to hate.

I know for a fact that I'm as guilty as anyone of behaving badly, and maybe more guilty than most. Like the food critic in Ratatouille said, it's often fun to be negative and mean for it's own sake.

Don't forget that a little cynicism is healthy. Certainly, it doesn't hurt to be unafraid to point out to someone that they're pissing on your leg and trying to tell you it's raining.

But how much is enough? If you're a bottomless pit of cynicism, how are you going to enjoy life at all? Who even wants to spend time with you if everything out of your mouth is a critique?

Like all guilty pleasures, negativity is something that you have to enjoy in moderation. If, like booze, you feel powerless over it, maybe the best thing you can do for yourself is abstain.

Another alternative, is that if you indulge in negative commentary, follow it with something positive. Say to yourself, "Now say something positive." Much like a palette-cleanser between courses, refocusing on positivity will help get the taste out of your mouth.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

There's A Fine Line Between Goals And Barriers

While setting goals is critical, you need to achieve them. That's the whole point, after all.

Oddly enough, goals can become barriers. You set them, but never reach them. Or if you do reach them, it took an unusual amount of time and effort to do so.

Self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors come in a lot of different guises, and can have many different underlying motivations.

Making a conscious effort to change and progress can be one of the scariest things a person can undertake. Even in the most motivated individual, deep down you'll find kernels of doubt and worry.

Often, when faced with a goal, there's a feeling of existential dread, of worrying "what then?" Other times, you lack a deep-seated belief that you can do it. Wanting it, and wanting to do it are two different things. Lots of people "want" things, but lack the resolve to take the steps on the path to get there.

Set goals. Achieve them. Once you're there, set some new goals and set about achieving them.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Gorilla's Number One Favorite Aphorism

"If you want to do something you'll find a way, if you don't you'll find an excuse."

-- Unattributed

I love motivational aphorisms, and this is my absolute favorite. So much so that it's on my laptop's screen saver.

It really speaks to me because, for me at least, it cuts both ways. It's 100% true for me, in that it reflects both the best and the worst of my character.

Since that quote says it all, I'm not going to belabour the obvious here. I'll just say that central to making big positive changes in your life is to figure out exactly what you really want. Not what you kind-of want in a vague, half-assed way, nor what it's hip or fashionable to want. No, find out what you really want, and once you know that you'll do the things to need to do to get it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"It looks like someone's got a case of the Mondays."

I'm not a big fan of small talk. For one thing, it's how people who barely know each other kill time during interpersonal interactions at work, school, or the grocery store without having to go to the trouble of getting to know each other better.

For another, some people's brains are on autopilot when they engage in small talk. For some, the opposite of talking isn't listening, it's waiting and thinking about what they're going to say next.

Another good reason to examine small talk is to take an honest look at how much negativity gets thrown around in casual discussions.

Examine your own conversational habits. How much of what you say to fill up space is a complaint? Complaints about the boss, about the hours, about the kids, about the weather?

The weather, that's always a popular topic to bitch about. Where I live, winter has settled in. Complaining about the weather is a "safe" topic that people can use to drum up some contrived camaraderie.

But what's the point? The weather is what it is, whether you like it or not. I remind myself of what Milton wrote, that "The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." Winter's here, and it's not going to disrupt my serenity. I dress warm, drive safely, and enjoy the life I've made for myself, indoors or out.

-30 with the windchill doesn't impinge on my personal happiness, so why whine about it?

Why whine about anything, really?

I acknowledge that small talk is socially necessary. The checkout line at the grocery store is no place for an in-depth discussion of anything. Regardless, every time you speak with another person, you have an opportunity to be a positive influence, even in the smallest ways.

If what you feed grows, why would you foster negativity? Think about what you have to say, and be positive.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What You Feed Grows

If you have a garden, and you only fertilize the weeds, but not the flowers and the vegetables, then the plants you don't want will grow bigger and stronger than the plants you want.

The same thing is true with your thoughts. Most people have both good thoughts and bad thoughts running through their heads. Unfortunately, it's easy to fall into the bad habit of dwelling on and nurturing the bad thoughts. Like all habits, running a discouraging internal monologue can be a tough habit to break.

What you feed grows. Make the decision to dwell on and nurture postive thoughts about yourself and others. When negative thoughts come to you, put them aside and think about something else that's positive instead. In time, thinking positively will be as much of a habit as thinking negatively used to be.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Idols, No Pedestals

It's hard to find an angle to make my point here without coming across as an arrogant jerk, so to hell with it, let's just go for it.

It's great to have role models, and goals to which you aspire. In fact, I'd say that they're necessary. But the last thing anyone who is committed to success should do is to idolize another person, put them on a pedestal or make them your hero.

Idolizing someone is a mental construct that causes you to place them above you. Once you've programmed yourself into a subservient role that way, there will be a small part of your psyche that shys away from excelling. It sounds silly, and it is, but you'll begin subconsciously sabotaging your best efforts to avoid the emotional stress that comes from unseating your idol, and the uncertainty that follows afterwards, the "What now?"

Respect the achievements of others, but remember that "what one man can do, so can another," set big goals for yourself, and always look to better yourself in the ways you've decided to grow as a person.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Perfect Is The Enemy Of Great

Quentin Tarantino said that "directors never finish their films, they abandon them."

One of the biggest challenges to achieving excellence is the little voice inside your head that warns you that your efforts aren't good enough. Self-awareness and introspection are crucial to growth, but it's easy to fall into the trap of being your own worst critic.

"Paralysis by analysis" can tie you up in knots, and interfere with your ability to be productive.

Even today, when working on projects, prior to submitting them to my clients, a little voice inside sometimes thinks "Oh god, this is shit. I can't hand this in!"

Fortunately I've learned to give that little voice no power. I know that my work is appreciated, so listening to irrational fear instead of the positive feedback of others makes no sense.

If you hold off on getting something completed until it's "perfect" then you risk never accomplishing anything. At the very worst, you're better off doing something, anything, than doing nothing.

By all means, look for opportunities to improve and accept constructive criticism, but it's just as important to believe in yourself, believe in the value of what you can do, and go do it!