I tried really hard. Honest, I did.

I had read on one of my favorite blogs recently about the “power of positive thinking“. Chasing the rabbit a little further down the internet trail, I found a couple of “challenges” that involve trying to go a week or ten days and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Never one to turn down a good challenge, I gave it a try. I got through last week with flying colors. If one of the kids spilled something, no big deal. I cleaned it up (I usually have a hard time staying positive in times like that). If somebody did something to me that made me angry, I calmly tried to look at their motivations behind it. Most importantly, I muscled through those trying moments when I was tired and normally would have been cranky, hopefully redeeming those times for the good.

It got a little tougher when I went back on the road last weekend. My motivation was tested when I sat next to a real armchair hog on the flight to Memphis the other day. My positivity was further bent when two of my sports teams lost games they should have won. It was brought to the brink when I repeatedly had a hard time finding an internet connection. And it was finally broken yesterday morning when I logged onto Facebook and saw a bunch of snarky comments about the government (and a couple about my sports teams!).

So I made it for six days. Not too bad. And I learned a lot.

  1. Beware of Facebook. It can be a great community builder, but it can also tear down. For some reason, people really like to rant on there.
  2. I need a healthier relationship to sports. I am not a good sports fan. Or maybe I’m too good of a sports fan. If my team loses, I really take it hard.

I’ll probably post more about those two down the road a piece, but for now I want to focus on something else.

The power of negative thinking.

Despite “failing” at the challenge, I really learned a lot about myself and my thoughts through the process. I learned a lot about the motivation behind negative feelings. And I think I might have even gleaned an insight or two. While it’s not (in my opinion) a good idea to dwell on them, negative emotions can point us towards where we want to go.

  • Anger – It’s a matter of personal space. Anger happens when the way we view the world gets violated by someone else’s actions. I think that the armrest on the plane is there for two people to share. If a dude takes all of it and further encroaches on my personal space, I get a little angry. If I get angry at my kids for not cleaning up their room, it’s because I hold the belief that rooms should maintain a certain level of cleanliness. From now on, if I get angry at someone, I’m going to make an effort to see where my personal space is getting violated before I react one way or another.
  • Jealousy – Jealousy is kind of like anger, except it’s really not about the other person. It’s about me. If I get angry at someone, it’s because they’re not living up to a standard I have. If I get jealous at someone, it’s because something about their actions is pointing towards an insecurity I have. I used to get really mad at how simple some of the songs were on the radio. My wife replied and said, “You know what? You have no business talking about their songs until you write some of your own.” She was right. I was jealous of other songs because I hadn’t written any myself. And honestly, that’s what got me writing songs.
  • Fear – This is my favorite. Now, I’m not talking about being afraid of scary movies here. And I’m also not talking about phobias. I’m referring to the “stage fright” kind of fear. This usually happens when you’re doing something outside of your comfort zone, and can be a very positive thing depending on the situation. Carolyn See talks about making “sweaty palms phone calls”. You’re afraid of the bad that might come out of a situation so you don’t do it. But what about the good that might come out of it? Make the call. Join the class. Take the audition. Get out of your comfort zone and you will quickly find yourself in a really cool place. (On a side note, the best thing to do when you have stage fright is to practice. Be prepared!)
  • Obsession – Obsession is a word that is usually viewed as negative. But in the right context it can be a force for change. Shakespeare was obsessed with words. Churchill was obsessed with winning a war. King was obsessed with freedom. Find something you’re passionate about and foster a healthy obsession. Become “positively obsessed” with changing the world for the good.

Do you see any “power” in negative thinking? Have you ever had a negative emotion that helped you learn more about a situation (or yourself)? Do you think I’m crazy? Use the comments below to keep the discussion going!

NOTE: I know that there are people out there who really struggle with negative emotions. I am not trying to make light here at all. I’m just talking about people who run across these emotions every now and again through the course of life.