Saturday, September 17, 2016

Let's get over the notion that positive is easier

In the work I do at NLP Canada Training, I teach people to notice the relationship between their own state (the combination of their thoughts, emotions and physiology), the states of people around them, and their behaviours. It's a complicated web: we are influenced by our own stuff, by the people around us, and by our situations and all of that gets processed by our brains and transformed into action. Our actions determine how our state changes, and what becomes possible as a next step.

Our situations and other people influence us because we pay attention to them. Some of this attention is involuntary: it's part of how the human equipment works. Other human beings are especially important because they can both help and hurt us. Our brains track their expressions and behaviours in an ongoing effort to predict what they will do. There's a downside to this. Our brains track other people's states by reproducing them in us. That means that negativity is contagious and we are all at risk for picking up each other's bad moods and less-useful states.

Positive states and moods are also contagious, but they tend to be in shorter supply. In any given group, the strongest state will document, where strength is a combination of the intensity of the state and the number of people who are choosing it. So one person determined to be positive is likely to be challenged by a room full of moderately negative people (or at least one blazingly negative person). It takes energy and will power to hold on to the positive focus when it is not supported by the people around you.

There's a good reason for all this negativity. Your brain looks around the world for trouble so that it can keep you safe. The problem is that it can keep you safe by keeping you negative, and that limits your options for both satisfaction and growth.

Here's a better way: understand that staying positive will take hard work and it will take support. As you walk into any situation, look for the elements in that situation that will support your positive focus. Practice withdrawing from rapport when you encounter states that aren't useful to you. That means deliberately changing your body, voice and focus to mismatch any state that you don't want to share.

See the clouds but pay attention to the sun.
Don't expect to be positive all the time: it wouldn't be safe or practical. Instead, practice experiencing tiny hits of positive - a moment when you notice that something is funny or beautiful or interesting; a moment when you catch something positive in someone else. Then amplify that feeling, not so that you can hold it (you can't) but so you can get back to it. Over time, your brain will learn that it is safe to pay attention to the positives for longer periods of time. You will find that your mind and your mood improve, and you will take action more often with less resistance.

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