A few months ago, a friend who knows me very well and has earned the right to speak truth in my life gently confronted me by saying, “Crystal, do you realize that you have a very negative view on life?”
Honestly, I didn’t know what to think because I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty positive person. I’m the person who will see the good in hard situations. I’ll find the blessings from failure. I’ll look for ways to bloom wherever I’m planted.
So at first, I was really taken aback. But this friend went on to explain how I’m always talking about how hard things are.
“You tend to have a negative perspective on life. When you look back, all you can see is how hard everything was. Is there ever a time in your life when you look back and think, ‘Life has been wonderful!’?”
Ouch! Ouch! I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew it was true.
Without realizing it, I’ve spent so much of my life looking back with negative-colored glasses. I look back on the week and will recount the hurtful, the discouraging, the hard. I’ll often say, “I had a really hard conversation” or “Last night was hard” or “That was such a hard time in our life.”
Now I’m not discounting that life is hard sometimes. But in all honesty, I have so much to be grateful for. So much. And I, of all people, should be looking for the beautiful, the praise-worthy, and the positive.
So, inspired by my friend and because I wanted to do something a little radical to change up my perspective, I made this commitment:
I will only speak positive words about everyone. I refuse to say negative words about anyone to anyone.
Little did I know how much this seemingly simple commitment would change my life.
As soon as I made the commitment, I was shocked at how I kept catching myself starting to say something negative. I had no idea how much negativity was spewing out of my mouth.
I could have justified it by saying, “Well, I’m just stating facts!” But even if those were true facts, did I really need to be telling Jesse or my close friends how a comment on my blog had bothered me. Or did I need to be complaining about a situation where I felt hurt or upset?
In addition, I was shocked to discover how much negativity I’ve allowed to take up residence in my brain. My whole thing is to choose joy and choose love, but I didn’t realize how I was often “choosing negativity”. I hate to admit that, but it’s true.
I was looking at situations around me and picking out the hurt, the hard, the pain, the discouraging, the struggles. I was also making up stories about situations — spending a lot of time thinking negative thoughts or stressing over what appears to be a negative situation or purporting a negative perspective on a situation.
It reminds of this quote from Rising Strong: “In the absence of data, we always make up stories.” It seems I’ve become quite skilled at jumping to conclusions and concocting stories when I haven’t taken the time to fact-check and make sure that assumptions are true. My brain can run wild with stories that aren’t true — just based upon a small little thing.
For instance, if I’m in a situation with a friend and she acts kind of cold toward me, I have sometimes made up a big story — that I’ve offended her, that she doesn’t like me, that she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore… when it could just be that she has something hard going on and she’s struggling with it. Or maybe she has been hurt by me about something.
Making up stories about a situation and then getting frustrated or hurt by someone based upon stories I made up or basing my actions and attitude toward someone on stories I made up is no way to live! It’s a surefire way to spend life feeling discouraged and disappointed — and likely needlessly, in most situations!
3 Ways This Challenge Has Changed Me
This challenge has truly changed my life! Here are 3 specific ways it has impacted me:
1. I’m talking a lot less! This challenge has opened my eyes to the fact that I say a lot more negative words than I realized I did. When I am only saying positive words, I have fewer words to say — which is a good thing. 🙂
2. I have a whole lot more space in my brain. By not speaking negatively of others, it has caused me to nip a lot of my negative thoughts in the bud and replace them with positive thoughts. I realized that I had been devoting a lot of brain space and energy to thinking about situations that were bothering me, upsetting me, or feeling hurtful to me.
3. I’m a lot happier. When I don’t dwell on the negative or rehash the negative with others, it gives me space to really notice and appreciate the beauty around me. It also gave me energy and space to pursue more creative things and to brainstorm great ideas for our business and family.
Of course this doesn’t mean that frustrating or hurtful situations haven’t come up. Sure, I’ve dealt with many things since I’ve made this commitment that would have usually triggered me into a tailspin of stress or negative thoughts or story concoctions.
Rather than dwell on what seemed like someone saying something hurtful or someone doing something that bothered me, I’ve decided to look for the good and the beautiful all around me.
I’ve been a whole lot happier because my focus is on the beautiful, wonderful, positive things in life. And I’m finding that I love life a whole lot more when I focus on those!
Need some ideas on what to replace the negativity in your life with? Here are two ideas:
1. Replace the Negativity with Gratitude
Your attitude can make or break your situation. You can choose to focus on what you don’t have or you can choose to be thankful for what you do have.
There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. When you have a thankful, grateful spirit, you’ll automatically have more joy, zest for life, and energy. It’s the natural outflow of gratitude. And not only will you have more energy, but I promise you’ll just plain enjoy and appreciate life a lot more if you choose gratitude.
Struggling to be thankful when you feel so much negativity and frustration about a situation? Try writing down a list of your blessings. As I’ve found, when you start writing down your blessings, you just may have trouble stopping!
Some days, I text pictures of myself like this to my family and close friends… just to make them laugh! 😉
2. Replace the Negativity with Laughter
It’s well been said, “Laughter is the best medicine.” It’s amazing how smiling, laughing, and seeing the humorous side of life can just make life more enjoyable.
We laugh a lot at our house. We laugh at ourselves, we laugh at each other, and we sometimes laugh for seemingly no reason at all — or at least we forgot what it was that we were first laughing about. 🙂
We say dorky things. We act like goofballs. We have inside jokes. We use silly voices and accents just because. We sing opera… even though we can’t sing opera. 😉
I’m always on the lookout for a funny story to share with Jesse and the kids. And we also love to watch comedy clips or funny movies as a family.
When you start feeling discouraged by a negative situation, try distracting yourself with humor instead of worry and stress. Not only will it likely lift your spirits, it might keep you from going down a rabbit hole of discouraging thoughts.
Day 4 Project
- If you’re brave, join me in the No Negativity Commitment. Maybe start with just committing to stick with it for a day or a few days and then see if you can extend it? If you’re planning to join me, leave a comment letting me know you’re in!
- Pay attention to how many negative thoughts you think over the next 24 hours. As much as is possible, look for ways to replace those negative things — either with gratitude, or laughter, or serving others, or something else that re-focuses your brain on something positive and upbeat.
Resources to Check Out:
- A Complaint-Free World (I’ve not read this one yet, but I just got it recently because it came highly recommended by a friend!) and/or One Thousand Gifts.
- Read my article on How Choosing Gratitude is Changing My Life.
- Want to motivate yourself to focus on the blessings? Get a copy of my Choose Gratitude Blessings Journal.
- Need a laugh today? Some of our favorite clips on YouTube are from Tim Hawkins. Have any favorite good, clean, family-friendly funny clips to share? Leave a link to them in the comments. I’d love to check them out!
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