Today’s Freedthinker will empower you with how to take a negative situation and transform it into optimism. We’d better get started.
Human beings love stories and we tell them the entire time. We have stories about our businesses, relationships and the economy. If somebody gives us a strange look on the street, we make it mean something and instantly create a story (i.e. “they are going to mug me!”, “they are going to hit on me”, “they are going to hit me”, “they are the world’s biggest loser”). Here’s the thing that most of us were never told; if we change the story that we are telling about life, we have the power to transform and enhance the very quality of our life.
Take a look at the world’s top three current news stories. If you took an average of newspaper headlines during the last thirty years, chances are that the most recurring themes include recessions, negative economic news and war (although if you read the UK broadsheet The Daily Mail, then the Top 10 stories will include the Royal Family). Now take a moment to consider the top three ‘news’ stories in your career and personal life. Are the highest-occuring themes positive or negative? If it’s the latter, then would you like to change things…RIGHT NOW?
In his powerful book The Uses of Enchantment, the Holocaust survivor Bruno Bettleheim wrote about childrens’ need for fairytales. Bettleheim recognised that we learn more effectively through stories, and these tales teach us important lessons about hope, courage, bravery and our ability to navigate the scarier parts of life. Subconsciously a child understands that she has characteristics in common with Cinderella and however overwhelming life appears to be, there is always hope. Jack and the Beanstalk reinforces the belief that however small you are, it is possible to defeat giants, and Hansel and Gretel implies that we will all lose our way at times but we also have the power to overcome the fear and eventually find our way back home.
When the Children of Israel escaped the slavery and torture of Egypt, they quickly told a new story about their life. It involved complaining about their fear of dying in the desert (Exodus 14:11), dying of thirst (15:20), dying of hunger (16:3) and more. Despite being instantly presented with an incredible solution in the form of heavenly food, this still wasn’t enough for most of them. No wonder Moses got angry and depressed at times – do you enjoy being around people who are continually complaining?
Today, I’d recommend identifying a negative story in your life (e.g. “my relationship stinks!”, “my business is down the tubes!”, “I’m having the fifth bad hair day in a row and my life is awful”) and then do the following; consciously retell the story out loud to somebody, and retell the story five times in a row until you have ironed out the negative aspect of the story and purely focus on the facts. Finally, add in a positive spin to the story and be creative! Here’s an example:
Story Version 1 – “My car broke down and needs $1000 of repairs. Life is awful and I can’t afford it”
Story Version 2 – “My car broke down and needs $1000 of repairs.” (e.g. cut the negative story and just focus on the facts of what happened).
Story Version 3 – “My car broke down, needs some work done and I’ll have it running better than ever before” (rewrite a new ending to your story and focus on the positive aspects).
It’s as simple as that. This technique takes some practice at the start but it can change your life. So whether your life feels wobbly or you’re lost in the desert being chased by Egyptians, you too can Kickstart Happiness.
HOW TO USE THIS IN THE BOARDROOM: Consider the negative stories plaguing your business. What is holding you back? What have you been collectively complaining about for the last few weeks/months/years? Rewrite your story and change your reality.
HOW TO USE THIS ON THE YOGA MAT/MEDITATION CUSHION: Be aware of negative stories as they arise within. Notice when things come up during the day, whether it is complaining about physical ailments or emotional dramas. Aim to focus on the facts, drop the unhelpful story, and create a new space with a positive outlook.
Based on Parsha Beshallach.