Your brain is always trying to make sense of things:
- What’s causing all this traffic?
- Why isn’t my prospect emailing me back?
- Why in the world did I just say that?
You then tell yourself stories to answer these questions, even when you don’t truly know what’s going on.
- What’s causing all this traffic? Needless construction projects.
- Why isn’t my prospect emailing me back? She finds me annoying.
- Why in the world did I just say that? I am an idiot.
Why do we do this?
WE ARE ALL CONTROL FREAKS
In a word, control.
Your brain regularly seeks a sense of understanding, because understanding provides a sense of control. If you can make sense of something and discern why it’s happening, you won’t feel like you’re a victim of it. Helplessness and powerlessness are two of the most painful emotions that humans can experience, so you will do almost anything to avoid them, aka tell yourself stories. By creating explanations, you are trying to feel more autonomous, less anxious, and fully secure knowing that there is a reason.
Even if you are wrong.
Did you get that? Your brain’s irresistible need for certainty that is pushing you stay in control, isn’t all that concerned with right and wrong. It turns out that the traffic wasn’t caused by construction after all, your prospect wasn’t responding because she was on vacation, and you said what you did to defend yourself, not because you are stupid.
Your brain just wants an answer right now and because it has more neurons that are wired for negativity than for positivity, your stories instinctively lead you down a darker and more negative path.
THE DAMAGE YOUR STORIES CAN DO
Jessica, a thoughtful public relations specialist who had taken a career break to care for her children, was struggling with a strong inner critic that had drained her of the confidence needed to make a move. Wanting to find work that aligned with her strengths and purpose, she was able to identify some interesting career options, but her negative self-talk convinced her that she didn’t have what it took and kept her from doing anything about it. Stories make you more negative and less brave.
Sarah, a wonderfully driven solopreneur, had a habit of focusing on the weaknesses of others. She often recounted stories about how uncaring her customers were, how passive her husband was, and how judgmental her friends were. Convinced that she was right, Sarah overlooked their positive qualities, justified her distance, and complained about her isolated life. Stories make you more negative and more lonely.
Jennifer, a fun and loving marketing analyst, hated her job. She disliked her company, her boss, and most of the tasks that had been assigned to her. She didn’t want a promotion or even a lateral move. She didn’t see the point, so she coasted during the week and lived for the weekend, certain that there was nothing she could do about her situation. Stories make you more negative, more passive, and less successful.
Negative stories do damage to the life that you could live. They keep you focused on what’s wrong instead of enjoying what is right. They keep you fixated on problems when possibilities are all around you. A pessimistic (or realistic, as pessimists often say) attitude may provide you with a sense of security and a justification for all that can’t be done, but that way of thinking will never allow you to tap your full potential, live a life of purpose, and enjoy the vibrant relationships that make life worth living.
“Negativity may keep you safe, but it will keep you small.” Dale Wilsher
HOW TO REWIRE YOUR NEGATIVE BRAIN
The good news is that your brain is neuroplastic, meaning it is fully capable of change. With a little rewiring, you can become more grateful and even make it your default. An inner critic can become an inner coach. With a renewed mind you can start to see the good in the midst of the bad and the hope found in hardship. You can transform difficulty into determination and jabs into joy. A new way of thinking is sometimes all it takes for you to rise up to into all you are meant to be.
As a coach, I know the power of a good question. Well placed and sincerely reflected upon, a question has the ability to break through mental strongholds and stories and open your eyes to a whole new reality. This is how you change your thinking, your attitude, and ultimately your life.
Here are a few questions that have helped my authentic and inspiring clients:
I asked Jessica, What if the difficulties of your life happened FOR you instead of TO you?
This one simple question helped Jessica examine the negative stories she had been telling herself. It gave her a way to see the same set of circumstances as opportunities for growth instead of assaults on her future. She pushed ahead and took a position with a nonprofit, creating space for her to contribute her best gifts, and prove her inner critic wrong.
I asked Sarah, What strength might their weakness source from?
Since all weaknesses are strengths that have gone too far, it’s helpful to think about the original talent that someone’s flaw has sourced from. In this way, you can appreciate the unique qualities of imperfect people. If you know your personality type (DISC types on top and Your Authentic Personality Types on bottom) you can see how your weaknesses source from a greater strength. This allows you to see yourself and others in more positive and compassionate way. If you’re a mom, you can take the Motivated Mom Quiz here.
I asked Jennifer, What are three gifts in your job?
She didn’t like this question as is so often the case when you’re miserable and in pain, but since my job is to challenge as well as support, I pressed on. What are three gifts in your job? Slowly she began talking about a presentation she had done and how that brought her alive. Then there was the opportunity to learn and use her writing skills. She also saw how her work aligned with two of her core values, ownership and connection.
CHANGE IS POSSIBLE
Thinking in a new way is like working an old fashioned water pump. You have to pump the handle a whole bunch of times before you start to see results. So, don’t give up easy. Stay with it. A flow of positivity is on its way. And with it, greater courage, better relationships, and abundant success.
If you want a few more tools to help you with an attitude of gratitude, get the Gratitude Boosters here. These are four simple yet effective ways to increase the meaning in your life through positivity and productivity.
If you are in need of a coach or someone to ask you the right question at the right time so that you can determine the answers that are authentically right for you, I can help. Reach out over email or book a complimentary Discovery Coaching Call today.
If you are looking for more meaning in your work or how to be more intentional with your time, check out Career Kickstart: 30 Days to your Ideal Job.