June 27, 2009

Overcoming the Negativity Virus

By Patrick Mahan

Negativity surrounds us. And now, more than ever, it seems we are constantly bombarded from every direction. Every time we pick up a newspaper, turn on the television, tune in the radio, log on to our computer, or engage in a conversation, the doom and gloom follows us like a black cloud.

There is no doubt this negativity has a crippling effect on our attitude and performance. It strangles our productivity, robs our peace of mind and adversely influences the way we deal with friends, family, colleagues and customers.

While the financial crisis and economic downturn is real, the level of fear it has spawned may be a bit excessive. After all, nothing is ever as bad as we imagine it in our minds.

“Our imagination can make things ten times more intense than anything we can experience in real life.” – Tony Robbins
Don’t give in to the “Negativity Virus” that is spreading throughout the world. And most importantly, don’t perpetuate it. Nothing good can come from spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt. This negative energy is CONTAGIOUS and the more we allow it to creep into our daily conversations, the stronger it becomes.

Another viral characteristic of Negativity is its tendency to mutate over time. How? It’s similar to the game Telephone we used to play as kids. Remember? Everyone sits in a circle and a secret is passed from one person to the next. And what always happens? By the time the secret has made its way around the entire room, the message has been completely distorted!

This same scenario plays out everyday across the world. Every news story is FILTERED as it passes from one person to the next until it becomes one distorted, embellished, “representation” of the truth.

In 1906, Orison Swett Marden, a pioneering author of success and motivation literature, enlightened us with this thought: 

“Whenever you are timid, inclined to express doubt, fear, or anxiety in any form, expel these destructive suggestions with their counter suggestions. You have the antidote - just the opposite thought.”

The Antidote to the “Negativity Virus”…

  • Reduce or eliminate the time you spend watching the news and reading newspapers. Anyone who has watched an entire newscast knows that nearly 80% of the coverage is negative. Also, choose the homepage on your Internet browser wisely. You don’t want negative headlines flashing in your face every time you log on.
  • Spend your drive time listening to audio programs that inspire, educate and empower you. Zig Ziglar calls this concept "Automobile University." In a year, the average driver can learn the equivalent of an entire semester’s worth of college classes.
  • Guard Your Mind. Avoid negative people and avoid negative conversations. The “hot topic” right now is obviously the economic recession. It is doubtful the two of you will resolve the world’s problems. The only thing you will come away with is a bad mood.
  • Exercise. Physical activity is one of the all-time greatest antidotes for relieving stress and clearing your mind.
  • Focus on the Positive. Use the economic downturn as a time to reach out to new customers. Customer dissatisfaction often occurs as your competition cuts costs at the expense of customer service. Now is your chance to grab some more market share. Also, when times get tough it forces us to look at our systems and processes. A close evaluation may lead to small improvements that will make a big difference down the road.
  • Put things in Proper Perspective. No matter how bad things may seem, things are always worse somewhere else.
  • Faith and Gratitude. These are life’s ultimate solvents. By definition, a solvent is a substance that dissolves another to form a solution. In much the same way, Faith and Gratitude can dissolve any form of negativity. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for and your “problems” will naturally fade away.
  • Law of Substitution. Your mind is only capable of focusing on one thought – or one emotion – at a time. Use the Law of Substitution, or what I call an “Emotional Transplant”, to replace the negative thought with a positive one. Marden said: “We cannot drive darkness out of a room. We let in the light and the darkness flees.” As such, flood your mind with positive energy and allow it to dissolve the negativity. Another effective technique is what I call “Best and Favorites.” This is a visualization technique in which you re-live your Best and Favorite moments. Your favorite vacation … your best round of golf … your favorite song or movie … your best accomplishment. As you re-live these fond moments, be sure to stir up the emotions. By evoking all 5 senses, you intensify the experience. This technique is a guaranteed instant energy boost and it can be done anywhere, anytime.
  • Let go of the things you can’t control. We can’t control the actions of other people. And we certainly can’t control nature. Therefore, if something is outside of your sphere of influence, learn to release it. As the saying goes, “Let Go and Let God.”
  • Help Others. Undue Stress and Anxiety are two symptoms that you have been “infected” with the Negativity Virus. One of the best ways to overcome stress and anxiety is by reaching out and helping others. First, this takes the focus off your own challenges. Second, serving others is our ultimate calling in life and doing so actually changes the chemical composition in your blood creating a sense of well-being.
  • Choose Your Words Wisely. Language is powerful. Words cause people to go to war and they cause people to fall in love. What you say when you talk to yourself has a dramatic impact on your mood and behavior. Every word carries with it an accompanying emotion. Some words, obviously, are much more powerful than others. Developing a heightened awareness is the key to ending negative self-talk. One example is to replace the word “problems” with “challenges”. This simple shift will make a significant impact on your ability to find a solution.
Points to Ponder…

Remember, everything you hear has been filtered by the person relaying the story. And it was probably filtered many more times prior to reaching that person. It is nearly impossible for a person to be completely objective. Naturally, their personal beliefs, values and biases are going to distort the information. If you question the validity of something you hear, get a second opinion or research it yourself.

And keep in mind the words of Bertrand Russell,

“A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”
You become what you think about, so be very careful what you think about. Your inner thoughts are responsible for creating the outward circumstances in your life. Or as the Bible says, “As you think, so shall you be.”

You gravitate toward whatever you focus on, positive or negative. Negative thoughts, self-talk, mental images will attract more of that negativity into your life. So be sure to dwell upon positives thoughts of courage, faith, confidence and victory.

Words of Wisdom in Troubled Times…

“Everything can be taken from a man but the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances." – Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)

“Nothing happens to any man that he is not formed by nature to bear.” – Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius

“There is no such thing as stress, only people thinking stressful thoughts.” – Wayne Dyer

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” – Buddha

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." – Charles Swindoll

And of course the all-time classic...

"Tough Times Don't Last, Tough People Do."

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