“You can map out a fight plan or a life plan, but when the action starts, it may not go the way you planned, and you’re down to your reflexes – that means your [preparation:]. That’s where your roadwork shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning, well, you’re going to get found out now, under the bright lights.”
Today that quote is proving invaluable to me because today is proving to be a challenging day, and for no clear conscious reason as yet. I woke up in the middle of the night last night, not from a nightmare or any dream that I can remember but with an ominous feeling of what I can only describe as dread. I didn’t sleep much after that and lay there in bed with my heart racing until my alarm went off.
The day so far has been spent wrestling with my mind as the darkness that I lock away tries to overwhelm me and, I know that I will win this battle today.
Now why am I telling you this?
Well I know that there are many people out there who have had, and likely will have similar experiences to this, it’s a natural part of life. I am a highly positive person and I am also very well aware as a psychologist what is happening. My life has been full of unusual experiences, some fun and some terrifying and exhilarating. This mixture of positive and negative experiences are all part of who I am and sometimes the negative takes over and leads me towards a path I do not want to tread because it is dark, threatening and dangerous. This path is virtually impossible to brighten as it seems to absorb all light like a black hole encompassing anything and everything.
I am grateful that I have learned to side-step off that path early on and use what I have learned and keep myself focused on what I do want; how I do want to think, how I do want to feel and remain focused on those things no matter how exhausting that can be at times like this.
It’s extremely difficult to explain to someone that has never had this kind of experience because it’s not something you can see, or touch or hear, it is a purely kinaesthetic experience. This is purely thoughts and feelings that create the mental state and this intangible element is hard for some to grasp.
There has been a huge amount of research over the years into how our mindset; our thoughts, feelings, language and behaviour, and how that affects our physical health as well as our mental health, and a field of science called Epigenetics grew from it and has shown that our beliefs can affect us at the cellular level.
One of the best-researched books about our language and responses to both positive and negative events in life is Learned Optimism by Dr. Martin Seligman. In a 25-year research study, Seligman proved that our mindset, manifested in our language and behavior, is a predictor of our success. In other words, what you think and say (your words and language) is proven to manifest in your life.
I continue to be baffled by individuals who wonder why their life is a mess when their entire mindset is defeatist and pessimistic. They are blind to their own undoing.
Seligman proved that how we respond (think, say, do) to our circumstances, both successes and failures, directly correlates to our accomplishments in life. Someone might argue that it can’t be that simple, but from Seligman’s research, it is.
To push your thinking limits even further, Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, has confirmed that our thoughts can actually adjust our DNA, at minimum, how our DNA decides to respond to different stressors or events. Contrary to popular understanding, it is not your genes that predict your predisposition to your health condition, but rather your thoughts that act on your genes.
Your thought life is highly influencing your condition in your life, including, but not limited to, your health, relationships, career, and achievements. Understand that regardless of your background, Personal Style, personality, or environment, you can learn optimism, measure it, and teach it to yourself and others.
If we are going to live our lives on purpose with passion, it is going to take resilience and mental strength and those who give up easily are generally pessimistic in their mindset. They get caught in a cycle of hopelessness, and can’t see their way out of their troubles or challenges. However, optimistic individuals face identical roadblocks and they overcome them to realise their own success and victory.
There are three principles or factors that comprise the primary work for Dr. Seligman’s optimist and pessimistic framework.
- Permanent vs. Temporary
- Specific vs. Universal
- Personalisation (internal vs. external) Elements
1. Optimistic Mindset Item One: Permanent vs. Temporary
Failure makes everyone at least momentarily helpless. However, those who are optimistic bounce back almost instantly. Those who are highly pessimistic remain helpless for days or perhaps months, even after very minor setbacks.
2. Optimistic Mindset Item Two: Specific vs. Universal
The optimist believes that bad events have specific causes, while good events enhance everything they do; the pessimist believes that bad events have universal causes and that good events are caused by specific factors.
3. Optimistic Mindset Item Three: Personalisation: Internal vs. External
When bad things happen, we can blame ourselves (internal), or we can transfer fault to circumstances (external). People who blame themselves when they fail have low self-esteem as a consequence. They think they are worthless, talent-less, and unlovable. People who blame external events when bad events happen do not lose self-esteem when negative events occur. Overall they like themselves better than those who blame themselves. The optimistic style of explaining good events is the opposite of explaining negative events. It is internal, rather than external. People who believe that they cause good things to happen tend to like themselves better than people who believe that good things come from other people or circumstances.
The Importance of Hope
Whether we have hope depends on two dimensions of our explanatory style (the words and responses we use): pervasiveness and permanence. Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope – temporary causes limit helplessness in time, and specific causes limit helplessness to the original situation. On the other hand, permanent causes produce helplessness through all our endeavors. Finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune is the practice of despair. People who make permanent and universal explanations for their troubles tend to collapse under pressure, both for a long time and across situations. In Seligman’s work, no item is more important as your levels of hopelessness or hopefulness.
It’s important to remember the three principles of Dr. Seligmans’ optimistic and pessimistic mindsets; how they apply to your life, and why being conscious of them will help you avoid (and reverse) the cycle of despair and hopelessness. Living a life On Purpose, by definition, is a life full of HOPE. When life throws you a curve ball, where does your mind take you? Are you a glass half-empty or glass half-full kind of person? Your answer matters, To You.
“Each of us has two distinct choices to make about what we will do with our lives. The first choice we can make is to be less than we have the capacity to be. To earn less. To have less. To read less and think less. To try less and discipline ourselves less. These are the choices that lead to an empty life. These are the choices that, once made, lead to a life of constant apprehension instead of a life of wondrous anticipation. And the second choice? To do it all! To become all that we can possibly be. To read every book that we possibly can. To earn as much as we possibly can. To give and share as much as we possibly can. To strive and produce and accomplish as much as we possibly can.”
If this post helps just one person today then it has done it’s job and if you feel you want or need to talk in more detail then please get in touch.
Here’s to your mental strength and success.