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managers POSITIVE THINKING Find out how to be positive, create optimism, and live a confident and fulfilled life with these practical, easy-to-follow techniques with the aid of simple checklists • Explore different options for action with flow charts, diagrams, and useful examples Discover more at www.dk.com POSITIVE THINKING • • Think positively both in personal and professional situations Assess your thinking patterns and change negative perceptions managers ALSO AVAILABLE Essential Manager’s Manual Managing for Excellence Successful Manager’s Handbook m ana g e r s Jacket image Front: FLPA/Minden Pictures (br). TITLES IN THE SERIES Achieving Excellence • Balancing Work & Life Coaching Successfully • Communicate Clearly Dealing with People • How to Delegate Dealing with Difficult People • Do It Now! Effective Public Relations • Improving Your Memory • Influencing People Interviewing Skills • Learning to Lead Making Decisions • Making Presentations Manage Your Time • Managing Budgets Managing Change • Managing Meetings Managing Teams • Managing Your Boss Marketing Effectively • Maximizing Performance Motivating People • Negotiating Skills Performance Reviews • Project Management Putting Customers First • Reducing Stress Selling Successfully • Strategic Thinking Thinking Creatively • Understanding Accounts Writing Skills • Writing Your Resumé ESSENTIAL ESSENTIAL ESSENTIAL ESSENTIAL m ana g e r s POSITIVE THINKING IMAGES AFFIRMATION SUCCESS BELIEFS • GOALS PATTERNS CONFIDENCE SELF-ESTEEM SUPPORT HEALTH • HELP STRESS EMOTIONS ALTERNATIVES • OPTIMISM Printed in China ESSENTIAL managers L earn how to be positive, create optimism, and develop the feelgood factor so you can overcome negativity and fulfil your potential. Positive Thinking shows you how to evaluate your positivity and then transform your approach to living through rethinking negative beliefs, optimizing self-esteem, and creating an environment, routine, and lifestyle that constantly enhance your mood. Focus points help y; ou apply new mental and emotional strategies for affirmative thinking so you can live a confident and fulfilled life. SUSAN QUILLIAM is a renowned expert on personal effectiveness, specializing in mental strategy, non-verbal communication, and relationships. She has 26 years' experience in consultancy and training with organizations in the public and private sectors. Susan writes several advice columns for magazines and websites in the United States and Great Britain, and contributes regularly to radio, television, and the press. This is her eighteenth book; previous titles have been published in 31 countries and 22 languages. www.dk.com ISBN: 978-0-7566-3418-6 US_JKT_POSI_THINK_Final.indd 1 S U S A N Q U I L L I A M $7.00 USA $8.95 Canada 5/9/07 3:50:50 pm E S S E N T I A L M A N A G E R S Positive Thinking Susan Quilliam Contents LONDON, NEW YORK, MUNICH, MELBOURNE & DELHI Editor Elizabeth Watson Designer Vicky Read Production Editor Ben Marcus Production Controller Anna Wilson US Editors Margaret Parrish and Christine Heilman Executive Managing Editor Adèle Hayward Art Director Peter Luff Publisher Stephanie Jackson 4 Understanding Positive Thinking Produced for Dorling Kindersley by Designer Dawn Terrey Editor Sue Gordon Managing Editor Mic Cady 6 Grasping the Key Concepts 8 Recognizing the Signs First American Edition, 2003 This American Edition, 2008 Published in the United States by DK Publishing 375 Hudson Street New York, New York 10014 08 09 10 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ED616—January 2008 Analyzing 10 Your Approach How Positive 12 Are You? Copyright © 2003 Dorling Kindersley Limited. All rights reserved Text copyright © 2003 Susan Quilliam Learning to Be Positive Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in orintroduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. Published in Great Britain by Dorling Kindersley Liimited. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. 14 Challenging Your Thoughts 18 Altering Your Mental Images ISBN: 978-0-7566-3418-6 DK books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk for sales promotions, premiums, fund-raising, or educational use. For details, contact: DK Publishing Special Markets, 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014 or SpecialSales@dk.com. Reproduced by Colourscan, Singapore Printed and bound in China by Wing King Tong Discover more at www.dk.com 2 Introduction 20 Using Constructive Language 22 Rethinking Your Beliefs 26 Establishing Self-Esteem 28 Maintaining Positive Behavior Living a Positive Life Creating a Positive 46 Environment Building Health 48 for Positivity Forming Good 52 Relationships Fulfilling Your Potential Loving 56 with Heart Working 60 with Energy 30 Working with Emotions 32 Managing Your Feelings 36 Creating Optimism 38 Developing the Feel-Good Factor 40 Building Confidence 42 Setting Goals 70 Index 44 Uncovering Meaning in Life 72 Acknowledgments Coping 62 Day to Day Managing 64 Life Events Aging with 66 Attitude How Positive 68 Are You Now? 3 Introduction I n today's challenging world it is vital to have energy, enthusiasm, and optimism in all areas of your life. Positive Thinking shows you how to transform your approach to living, so you can feel good about yourself, create worthwhile relationships, and perform successfully. Having helped you identify areas of negativity in your life, the book shows you how to rethink negative beliefs, optimize selfesteem, and learn new mental and emotional strategies for affirmative, effective thinking. Self-assessment exercises enable you to evaluate your positivity. The book then helps you apply these fundamental lessons to your life—in the workplace, in love, for health, at play, and in friendship. A solid foundation of positivity will help you get the best from life. 5 Understanding Positive Thinking Understanding Positive Thinking Thinking positively helps you get the best out of life. The first step in making your life more positive is to become aware of your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Grasping the Key Concepts T o understand positive thinking, begin with an overview of its benefits and how it works. At work or play, with friends or family, positive people are happier and more successful than those with a negative approach. Put simply, positivity works. FOCUS POINT ● Positive people achieve more, stay healthier, and have better relationships than negative thinkers. WHAT IS POSITIVE THINKING? Positive thinking is about more than the thoughts that you have. It is an entire approach to life. It means focusing on the positives in any situation, rather than the negatives. It means thinking well of yourself rather than constantly putting yourself down. It means thinking well of others, and dealing with them positively. It means expecting the best from the world, and trusting it will provide. Living with positivity Positive thinkers look back on the past with satisfaction rather than regret, and into the future with optimism and hope. 6 Grasping the Key Concepts CREATING A POSITIVE WORLD To start thinking positively, it is important to realize that the way you experience something is determined by what you think about it. It may appear that events are intrinsically happy or sad, but in fact it is your responses that make them feel good or bad, pleasurable or painful. If you face the world with pessimism, cynicism, and self-criticism, you will experience life as negative; if you respond with optimism, excitement, and confidence, you will create a cycle of positivity that builds your energy and inspires others. Amy reacts calmly, so Tim apologizes, and the relationship is strengthened Amy thinks positively and reminds herself that it was an accident Tim reacts defensively, and the friendship is damaged Responding to events Tim has broken Amy’s vase. By reacting in a positive way, Amy can prevent an argument and preserve the friendship. Fact File Studies made in 1953, 1984, 1990, 1993, and 2002 suggest that positive thinkers are more likely than negative people to stay healthy into middle age and to have successful careers. They are half as likely to quit their jobs, 30 times more likely to be happy—and on average add 7.5 years to their life span. Amy responds angrily and accuses Tim of being clumsy APPRECIATING POSITIVITY Positive thinking means keeping sufficiently balanced in your awareness of problems to stay motivated, able to take action, and feel good about what you are doing. This does not mean you should ignore difficulties or be relentlessly optimistic. Ideally you should register problems— perhaps a bad day at work or an argument with your partner—and then, instead of getting locked in paralyzing loops of bad feeling, move quickly to take action to solve those difficulties. 7 Understanding Positive Thinking Recognizing the Signs Y our mental approach to life is a combination of your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Identifying and distinguishing these three elements is the first crucial step that you must take if you are to shift your outlook from negative to positive. BECOMING AWARE OF YOUR FEELINGS The most basic indicators of your positivity or negativity are your emotions. The more aware you are of emotional signals, the more you will be able to move your feelings from negative to positive. Recognize the physical sensations that accompany your emotions. For example, you may feel anxious butterflies in your stomach or excited tingles down your spine. Register the different responses that you have to your emotions—perhaps losing your temper when you feel irritated, or being more generous than usual when contented. Believing in yourself The positive belief, “I can be good at sports” prompts the thought, “I can win,” and this motivates and energizes you into effective action. Your success generates positive expectations, reinforcing your self-belief and boosting your abilities. 8 FOCUS POINT ● Recognize that thoughts apply to specific situations, while beliefs are universal, rooted in experiences. Recognizing the Signs Thinking negatively Thinking positively You see yourself as unlovable You see that people value you You think you always fail You do the best you can You feel helpless You know you can take control Choosing positivity There are always two ways of thinking about anything in life—negatively or positively. The choice is yours. lies behind “us What and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. ” Ralph Waldo Emerson IDENTIFYING YOUR THOUGHTS When events trigger your emotions, there is always an accompanying thought. You may experience this as an inner image, a sound, or a “self-talk” phrase, such as, “I am scared about this interview…”, “He is angry with me…”, “I bet the train is canceled again.” A thought may be about what happens in the present, a memory of the past, or a prediction of the future. The core strategy of positive thinking is to adapt these thoughts, emphasizing the positive and defusing the negative. Switch your thoughts and you automatically alter your emotions and redirect your actions. UNDERSTANDING BELIEFS At the bedrock of your thinking are beliefs, deep-rooted ideas that are the result of your experiences. These are not necessarily religious beliefs, but life attitudes—convictions that color your worldview. Whereas thoughts are relative, beliefs tend to feel completely true, undeniable, and absolute. A negative belief can undermine your joy in life, but—because beliefs are fundamental to your thinking—if you analyze a negative belief and turn it into a positive belief, your whole approach to life becomes confident. At a Glance You need to distinguish your •feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. A positive thought • creates a positive feeling, and motivates positive action. Your feelings, thoughts, and •beliefs can be shifted from negative to positive. • A positive belief influences your whole approach to life. 9 Understanding Positive Thinking Analyzing Your Approach T racking your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs helps you feel in control. It lets you understand why you are having negative thoughts. If you keep a record of your emotions, you can use it to gauge how successfully you are changing your attitude. FOCUS POINT ● Monitor your progress in a daily diary—this will make you think and act more positively. CATCHING THE THOUGHT Keeps eyes The most fundamental elements to track are closed to help your thoughts. If you find yourself feeling concentration negative, take a few moments to relax, then register what comes into your head, and gather information about the way your mind is working. Take a mental snapshot of your thoughts.What pictures are you visualizing? What sounds are you hearing? What words are you saying to yourself? What memories of the past or fantasies of the Pinpointing your thoughts future come to mind? Express your thought in Capturing a negative thought is the first step one short sentence, such as “I will never get in changing it. Concentrate exclusively on what is going on in your mind. this right” or “I am really annoyed with him.” Useful Exercises Find early photographs to help you remember your childhood and the beliefs that you gained then. List three important people in your life. Ask what beliefs, negative and positive, they have passed on to you. To focus your mind on an angry or anxious thought, ask yourself, “What is it that I am angry/worried about?” 10 AUDITING YOUR BELIEFS To identify the beliefs that underlie your thoughts, learn to notice which negative thoughts crop up again and again. When you have a clear sense of that pattern, ask yourself, “What does this thought mean about me?” Answer with the words, “It means….” Then keep asking what your answer means about you, until you reach an absolute statement, such as, “I am weak,” “People are untrustworthy,” or “The world is a nasty place.” Such definitive statements are your core beliefs about yourself and the world; identifying them enables you to challenge them. Analyzing Your Approach KEEPING A DAILY THOUGHT DIARY Self-Talk To understand how your thoughts affect your moods, create a “thought diary” in which you keep a written account of your approach to life. In a notebook, write down each thought, with the circumstances that gave rise to it. Next, think about the effect that the thought had on you and write this down too. Look back over this diary at the end of each day, to analyze whether your thoughts and feelings triggered helpful or unhelpful actions. If you reread the diary once a week, you can use the entries to trace your thought patterns, gauge how successfully you are making improvements, and spot where you need to make an extra effort. Quantifying your moods A daily diary allows you to take an in-depth look at your moods. Record each situation as it occurs, and your response to it—with a score to indicate how strong the emotion was—and note what the effects were. Diary entry begins with what happened to trigger a mood Emotion aroused is identified As you start to become aware of the thoughts you are having, let yourself also become aware of the patterns they follow. If you notice a recurring thought, run through these questions and let them focus your mind on what that thought means. “ ” What does thinking this “thought say about me? ” am I afraid of…angry “What about…sad about…? ” What does this thought mean “about what other people feel? ” What was happening just before I began to feel this way? Positive or negative reaction is recorded Situation Thought Emotion Emotion Score Reaction Result 11:15 am boss criticized report I will never satisfy him anger, hopelessness 6 snapped at colleague had bad day 6:30 pm met Sam I have some great friends happiness 9 relaxed and enjoyed myself slept well Positive or negative thought is noted down Strength of emotion is scored out of 10 Overall result completes entry 11 Understanding Positive Thinking How Positive Are You? J ust how positive are you in your life? Respond to the following statements by marking the answers that are closest to your experience. Be as honest as you can: if your answer is “Never,” mark Option 1; if it is “Always,” mark Option 4; and so on. Add your scores together, and refer to the analysis to estimate your current positivity. Options 1 Never 2 Occasionally 3 Frequently 4 Always How Do You Respond? 1 1 I find it hard 2 3 4 1 10 I suffer from to be positive. painful memories. 2 I feel life is out 11 I find it difficult to to get me. 3 When bad things happen, I go under. accept compliments. 12 I believe I am not much good. 4 I can think myself 13 I get overwhelmed into feeling bad. by bad feelings. 5 I always imagine the worst. 6 I find myself talking negatively. 7 I feel I am not worth it. 8 Other people fail to meet my expectations. 9 I think the world is a dangerous place. 12 14 I often feel very angry. 15 I cannot get what I want in life. 16 I get anxious about things. 17 People say I am pessimistic. 18 It is difficult to enjoy myself. 2 3 4 How Positive Are You? 1 1 2 3 4 2 3 4 26 I feel I am not in 19 I am lacking in control of my life. confidence. 27 My love life is 20 I have no motivation unsatisfactory. to do things. 28 I do not find 21 My life lacks purpose my job fulfilling. and meaning. 29 I do not think 22 My surroundings I achieve much. feel uncomfortable. 30 A bad day can 23 I frequently really throw me. feel unwell. 31 I lurch from crisis 24 I am unsupported to crisis. by others. 32 I am not happy 25 My lifestyle is being the age I am. constantly stressful. Analysis When you have added up your scores, look at the analysis below to establish how positive you are at present.Then make a note of the areas where you are most and least positive. As you read through the book, work particularly on your weak areas. 32–64 You have an extremely positive attitude. Build on that and your life will be even happier and more effective. My weakest areas are: 65–95 You are generally positive about life. But you could do even better if, with this book, you improved your approach. My strongest areas are: 96–128 Your positivity levels are alarmingly low. Use this book to develop useful mental strategies and find support to become more positive. 13 Learning to Be Positive Learning to Be Positive To improve your approach to life, you must ensure every aspect of your behavior is positive. Examine and, if necessary, change your thoughts, your beliefs, and your view of yourself. Challenging Your Thoughts T he key to real success in positive thinking is to find as many ways as possible in which to challenge the validity of your negative thoughts, and then to replace those thoughts with others that are more positive and more realistic. RETHINKING YOUR THOUGHTS To turn negative thoughts into positive ones, you have to realize that they are distortions of reality. Nothing is ever all bad; it is only your defensive thinking that makes it seem so. So get into the habit of analyzing your thoughts to see where you have misinterpreted things and therefore where your negativities are misplaced. Rebalancing thoughts likes this creates a shift of emotion and starts you thinking differently long-term—and so has a deeprooted effect on your approach to life. 14 Acknowledging negativity Look at your thought diary, and you may see that in the past you have distorted a thought negatively. Learn to look for a more balanced response. Challenging Your Thoughts CHECKING THE FACTS As soon as you become aware of a negative thought, challenge its validity. It may be that your observations were wrong, or you misunderstood what really happened. So question events. Check information with an objective source. For example, was your colleague correct to predict layoffs, or was she dramatizing? A problem you thought you saw may turn out to be nonexistent. Father asks son about a rumor he has heard Son has evidence that proves the rumor is false Shifting misplaced negativity Look at your thought diary and rethink one of your negative thoughts positively. Note the new, positive emotion, score its strength, and compare this score with that of the old, negative emotion. Diary entry is chosen for the rethinking exercise Situation 11:15 am boss criticized report REVIEWING YOUR TRACK RECORD Score given to strength of original emotion is noted Thought Confirming your judgment This man has heard a disturbing rumor about his son’s behavior. Realizing that his negative thoughts may be unfounded, he checks out the facts with his son. You can probably remember a time when you expected the worst, only to find things turned out for the best. Being aware of this will help you challenge any negative thoughts you are having now and will remind you of a tendency to think negatively. Acknowledge that your judgment has been wrong before, and you will more easily accept that you might be wrong this time, as well. Emotion I’ll never anger, satisfy him hopelessness Original, pessimistic response is registered Score Rethink 6 he’s usually pleased with my work New, positive reaction is written into diary New Emotion Score New, positive emotion is identified more hopeful 8 Strength of new emotion scores higher than old emotion 15 Learning to Be Positive BEING REALISTIC It is natural to want to be perfect, but aiming for perfection inevitably leads to negative feelings simply because—in work, play, friendship, or love—perfection just is not possible most of the time. So challenge your perfectionist thoughts. Be realistic in what you expect of yourself, of other people, of the world. Do not stop aiming high, achieving well, or expecting the best of others, but stop feeling bad when things do fall short of perfection in some way. Doing the best you can It is important not to feel you have failed if, for example, you do not get that hole in one. Be content with setting yourself a target you can achieve—and enjoy the game. FOCUS POINTS ● Avoid projecting your problems into the future: in the end all things pass. ● Recognize when you are distorting thoughts. Step back and think of a more balanced response instead. KEEPING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE Even when a situation is truly bad, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed by negativity. To do this, you need to stop focusing on problem areas and concentrate on the good ones. So bring to the front of your mind elements that turned out well. Focus on the positives rather than generalizing the negatives. Check for signs that you are exaggerating the difficulties, and remember that just because one element of your life goes wrong, it does not mean everything will. Things to Do Things to Avoid ✓ Do be your own advocate; spring to ✗ Avoid black-and-white thinking; if something is bad, do not think everything is bad, all the time, forever. ✓ Do make allowances for error; it is fine to be tired, inattentive, or out of kilter occasionally. ✗ Avoid discounting the positive; if you do something good, register it and do not push it aside. ✓ Do be sure to look at the big picture, rather than focusing on one tiny detail that may be negative. ✗ Avoid instant judgments; take time to think things through before you decide that they are negative. the defense when you mentally beat yourself up. 16 Challenging Your Thoughts Finding a Balanced Response Thought Distortion Sample Trigger Negative Thought More Balanced Thought Interpreting things as bad Your boss is not interested in you. “She is not pleased with me.” “She is under a lot of pressure.” Imagining problems Your partner frowns. “What have I done wrong?” “I wonder why he is frowning.” Making generalizations A friend forgets your birthday. “No one likes me.” “I got lots of other cards.” Imagining the worst will happen The sales figures are down. “We are going to go bust!” “How can we get more sales?” Exaggerating negatives You scrape the car on the gatepost. “The whole world is against me!” “Oops, scraped the car!” Feels disappointed with grade LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE The Chinese word for “problem” also means “opportunity.” The lesson here is to challenge negative thoughts by looking for the opportunity that lies within a problem. Maybe you learned a lesson, gained motivation, avoided a problem? Train yourself to look for a silver lining, even in small difficulties. Negative thinker Seeing positively When you are given feedback, or exam results, for example, focus on the successful element rather than the negative aspect. Knows he did his best—whatever his grade Positive thinker 17 Learning to Be Positive Altering Your Mental Images T houghts can be experienced as mental representations: internal pictures, sounds, and words. By exploring, shifting, and developing these, you can affect the way you think and feel about both yourself and your life. MAKING POSITIVE PICTURES To feel more positive in the short term, try changing the content of your mental images. Change by adding: see your scary boss with polka-dot boxers over his pants. Take away: in a stressful and hectic office, picture your desk on a sunny, deserted beach. See behind a facade: hear your worst enemy confessing how insecure he or she is. Put up a barrier: think of yourself surrounded by a bubble that protects you from problems. The things you envisage in your mind’s eye will not automatically happen, but changing your inner view of reality will make you feel better and more able to achieve a good outcome. FOCUS POINT ● Understand that you cannot change reality, but you can change your perception of it—and so achieve positive results. ● Remember that when using visualization you can control what you see. Useful Exercises To improve your mood, try altering the style in which you experience internal images. If someone is angry, picture their face softfocused. It may make you feel less threatened. If you find your inner voice is slow and lethargic, talk to yourself quickly to raise your energy. Practice using visualization to allow previously unrecognized thoughts to emerge. 18 Changing the scene When you are feeling rushed in a busy supermarket, imagine it empty of people and carts—you will feel calmer. Altering Your Mental Images TAPPING YOUR UNCONSCIOUS Visualization involves allowing your mental images to extend into a kind of internal movie. This technique is useful if you want to make a decision, envisage a goal, or take the first step toward achieving a goal. Playing out a situation in your mind can raise your creativity, change your emotional state, help you focus, or reduce tension. Create a clear image of what you want to explore, Stays in control then run the movie, noticing what happens and of images how you feel. If what you are seeing starts to feel negative, let the images go and slowly return to the present: speed your breathing up, stretch, and open your eyes. . Using visualization With finals looming, Sara wants to feel calm and in control. She plays out positive scenes, and by the end she is feeling relaxed and energized. Sara imagines herself studying regularly and effectively Sits comfortably and relaxes Making Internal Images Positive Style Questions to Ask Positivity Technique Size How big are the images you see? Enlarge positive images, diminish negative images. Distance How far away is the image? Move positives closer, move negatives farther away. Focus Is the image sharp or soft? Soften the focus to relax yourself, sharpen the focus to motivate. Colour Are you seeing in color or black-and-white? Try adding, softening, and brightening color to increase energy and enthusiasm. Viewpoint Are you in the scene or an observer? Imagine yourself inside positive scenes, but standing outside negative ones. Movement Are objects moving or still? Speed up images to energize, slow them down to calm yourself. 19 Learning to Be Positive Using Constructive Language Y our language not only reflects your behavior but also influences it. Therefore, to succeed in living a positive life, you must choose and use positive words and phrases. So examine and, if necessary, change the words you use. CHOOSING THE RIGHT WORDS Be aware of the words and phrases you naturally use. If necessary, ask others to tell you what expressions you use. Then identify those that you use when you are being self-critical, pessimistic, or problem-focused. For each, generate a positive alternative. Then, when you hear yourself using a pessimistic phrase, stop in midsentence and switch to the more optimistic one. In time you will spot when you are talking negatively, and automatically correct what you are saying. Speaking Negatively Says “I can’t…” 20 Self-Talk If you have a work problem, such as a promotion you feel nervous about, try wording statements on the following lines and repeating them to yourself regularly. as a reflection “ofI willhowtakepeoplethis value me. ” I can master the new skills “and responsibilities involved. ” I can enlist the help of my “team, and at the same time take care of my own needs. ” Rephrasing your language Learn to recognize when you are using negative, powerless words or phrases, and get into the habit of replacing them with more positive, powerful ones. Speaking Positively Says “I won’t…” Says “If only I had…” Says “Next time I will…” Says “What can I do?” Says “I will do my best” Using Constructive Language AVOIDING “SHOULD” You probably use phrases such as “I should…,” “I should not…,” “I must…,” “I ought to…” when you want to do something different from what you are doing. But by using these words you imply that your current course of action is mistaken or quite simply bad—and that is likely to make you feel demotivated, anxious, or resentful. Analyze why you find it hard to change. You may find good reasons for your current behavior and decide to go on as before. But if you want to change, try using phrases such as “I would get further if I…,” “I intend to…,” I want to…” Grandfather’s affirmation about spending time with family becomes self-fulfilling FOCUS POINTS ● To help you maintain your positive language, ask friends to challenge you whenever you start talking negatively. ● Make a list of positive words and use them, one per day, until they are part of your normal vocabulary. Kindness in words creates “confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. ” Lao Tzu USING AFFIRMATIONS Affirmations are phrases that encapsulate the good side of life: “I am happy” or “People love me.” Affirmations imprint positive beliefs on your subconscious, and by doing so can help you achieve a goal. To create an affirmation, first decide what your aim is. Express that briefly, so that you remember it easily. Word it in the present tense, so that your unconscious realizes that you want action now. Then repeat your affirmation, with energy, at regular intervals, until it takes effect. Aiming for the best in life Identify your goal, such as spending more time with your family. Express this affirmation in a few words, repeat it, keep it in the front of your mind, and you are likely to make it happen. 21 Learning to Be Positive Rethinking Your Beliefs B eliefs are firm convictions resulting from your experiences in life. The best leave you feeling positive about yourself, other people, and the world; the worst leave you feeling powerless. Identify helpful beliefs, and learn to change those are not. BUILDING POSITIVE BELIEFS Strengthen your useful and supportive beliefs by noticing whatever confirms them. For example, your belief is, “People really value me”: over the next week or so note down every time someone does or says something to support this. Notice when people ask for your opinion. Accept when people compliment you. Remember times when someone tells you you are important. Ignore any feelings you have about being unvalued—these are simply feelings. Look at the actual evidence. Nothing is a waste “of time if you use the experience wisely. ” Rodin FOCUS POINTS ● Ask yourself what you are afraid of, then check if your fear is well-founded. ● Opt for experiences that challenge your fears. Take a course and master something that scares you. COLLECTING THE PROOF Accepting positive feedback When you talk to your friends, notice how they enjoy your company and value your opinions. Registering others’ positivity about you will raise your self-belief. 22 If you struggle to convince yourself about a belief such as “People value me,” get a friend or partner to tell you the ways in which they admire you. Or in a work appraisal, ask your manager to list the ways you are valued. Talk to others about whether they feel valued. It is likely you will find they feel as insecure as you do, however confident they seem, and you will realize you are not alone. Rethinking Your Beliefs SETTING UP EXPERIMENTS Test your core beliefs. For example, to prove “People value me,” you might ask ten friends to do you a favor. Your fear may be that they will all turn you down, but most likely, the news will be better than you think. If six friends respond well, you will have proved that a majority of people do value you, and you can take on that positive belief. (If all ten do say no, consider making changes with the help of a counselor.) At a Glance • Noticing when people show respect for your opinion will boost your self-belief. • Asking other people’s opinions helps you consolidate positive beliefs about yourself. • Rethinking core beliefs has a positive effect on behavior. Changing Core Beliefs Negative beliefs Positive beliefs I am a loser— I do not bother trying What I am like I am a winner— I keep trying People hate me—I stay shy and retiring What people think about me People value me—I present myself confidently Everyone is self-centered— I act selfishly What others are like People do care—I notice and return kindness My childhood made me unhappy— I resist success What the past means My childhood helped me grow— I feel proud Things always go wrong—I hold back from acting What the future holds I can make things right—I act with energy The world is out to get me—I am always defensive What the world is like The world’s a safe place—I open up easily 23 Learning to Be Positive EVALUATING YOUR ATTITUDES Your core beliefs have developed out of the life lessons you have learned. With the passage of time, those beliefs may no longer be useful. To check out whether you should retain a belief or jettison it, ask what benefits and limitations it brings to your life. A negative core belief harms more than it helps: “People do not value me” may protect you from disappointment in life, but it also makes you wary and suspicious. So change it. A positive belief helps, so hang on to it: “People value me” leaves you feeling self-assured. Welcomes baby but fears wife will love him less FOCUS POINTS ● Keep hold of positive beliefs, which make you feel confident in yourself and your relationships. ● Let go of negative beliefs, which undermine your self-esteem and hold you back from success. BANISHING FEAR If your belief centers around something you fear, face that fear in your mind. If, for example, your core belief is that people do not like you, your “worst fantasy” might be that everyone is talking about you behind your back. Play out that fantasy in your mind. How would you defend yourself? Run it to the end, and notice that scary though it is, you survive. Once the terror is gone, the belief is likely to change to a more useful one. Facing up to your fears Challenge a negative belief—for example, that the arrival of a new baby will isolate you from your wife— by facing the fear that it engenders, and trusting in a positive belief, such as “She will love me just as much.” Things to Do ✓ Do learn that even negative core beliefs formed decades ago can be changed. ✓ Do replace powerless statements, such as “I must agree with everyone,” with an affirmation like “I know when and how to disagree effectively.” ✓ Do notice areas in your life where you fulfill your positive affirmations. 24 Things to Avoid ✗ Avoid downplaying your achievements. Negative beliefs can mean you mentally diminish your success. ✗ Avoid misinterpreting other people’s actions.Your negative core belief may make you take things the wrong way. ✗ Avoid comparison.There will always be people better or worse than you. Rethinking Your Beliefs RESTRUCTURING MEMORIES A negative core belief is usually created by a key event in your life. The good news is that if you rethink this event, you may realize that there are positive beliefs to be gained from it. For example, a belief that “People think I am weak” may have first taken hold when you were bullied at school. But if you recall that in fact you stood up to the bullies, you might conclude, “I am brave.” And if you can see that the bullies envied your academic success, you might also realize, “I am intelligent.” Looking back Many negative beliefs begin in the school playground. Maybe you thought everyone was laughing at you—from an adult viewpoint you may now realize that this was a misinterpretation. Case Study NAME: Sam ISSUE: Age OBJECTIVE: To value experience Sam is in his early 40s, and has just been passed over for promotion in his job. He thought about changing jobs, but realized that he had a core belief that “Once you’re over 40, you’re over the hill.” He decided to think about ways in which he knew he was not over the hill. He did some research, and gathered several examples of successful businesspeople who had made it big after the age of 40. He talked to a headhunter and two human resources managers to get their opinions. Sam learned that although there were some jobs for which he was too old, there were many others where age was not a barrier and experience was a positive benefit. He realized that his attitudes were limiting him and changed his core belief to, “Now that I’m 40, I’m able to do different, sometimes better, things.” He is currently preparing for—and looking forward to—a change of career. 25 Learning to Be Positive Establishing Self-Esteem P eople who have high self-esteem are natural positive thinkers. And having a positive outlook means having high selfesteem. It follows that if you use positive thinking techniques to enhance your core beliefs, your self-esteem will soar. Assessing Your Self-Esteem Level How high is your self-esteem? Check any of the following statements that you think describe you correctly. happy •withI amwhonotI truly am. I find it difficult to accept •being told I have done well. If something wrong, I •tend to think I goes am to blame. find it difficult to ask •forI what I want in life. Analysis The more checks there are, the lower your selfesteem. It is easier to adopt positive thinking strategies if you feel good about yourself. Turning your back on criticism Disassociate yourself from criticism and accept the appreciation of others without embarrassment or excuses. Compliments friend and is appreciated 26 FOCUS POINT ● Remember, you do not have to believe in negative judgments that you have experienced in the past. RETHINKING THE MESSAGES The more positive the judgments others make about you, the better you feel about yourself; the more negative their judgments, the worse you feel. The most crucial step in feeling good about yourself is realizing that no one can make you feel bad unless you let them. So distance yourself from those who criticize you. Instead, take on board other people’s gratitude and praise. Turns to friends who give praise, ignoring those who criticize Establishing Self-Esteem SETTING YOUR OWN TARGETS Acknowledge when things go wrong Consider how to tackle the problem Take action to fix the problem If you largely succeed in what you expect of yourself, your self-esteem will be solid. So aim only as high as you can realistically reach, rather than thinking you ought to be perfect. In the same way, do not aim so low that you underachieve. When you do succeed, congratulate yourself. Avoid comparing yourself against others; everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Set your own expectations and judge your achievement by your improvement. Begin to create improvement Confirm own ability to fix problems Feel good about yourself Take further action Being your own best friend Treat yourself as you would treat a good friend. So congratulate yourself on any successes—however small they may be—and invite friends or colleagues to share your celebrations. BEING KIND TO YOURSELF Create further improvements Riding high on self-esteem Self-esteem can trigger a spiral of good or bad feeling, according to how high or low it is. If it is low, the slightest problem will trigger negativity. With high self-esteem, you can cope with any difficulties that arise: acknowledge the problem, and your confidence will set you on the right path. If you were supporting someone who had low self-esteem, you would not criticize them and put them down. Yet you may give yourself a hard time in just that way. Be fair to yourself, and offer yourself the same kindness as you would instinctively offer a friend. Moment to moment, during the day, point out what you are doing right. Yes, be realistic about your limitations, but forgive yourself for any failures. Encourage yourself to learn lessons from your own mistakes. 27 Learning to Be Positive Maintaining Positive Behaviour T o integrate positive-thinking strategies fully into your life, you must learn to apply them in all circumstances, at all times. Only when they are second nature will you really reap the benefits. Starts the day by mentally listing the things that are going well at work STAYING ON TRACK Under stress you may find your positivity starts to slip. If this happens, distract yourself by concentrating on what is happening around you. Repeat an affirmation, smile to create a feel-good physiology, or give yourself a break by being determinedly negative for a whole ten minutes. And if you find yourself being gloomy in order to get sympathy, find other, more cheerful ways of getting attention. FOCUS POINT ● Aim to increase the high spots of your life and decrease the low. This will help you to focus on the positivity in what you do. ● Practice the positivethinking strategies until you are using them easily and without effort. 28 Focusing on the positive Pick a time of day—perhaps first thing in the morning or after work—where for just a few minutes you sit quietly and focus on the good things in your life. Make a habit of doing this daily to maintain a positive attitude. KEEPING UP THE PRACTICE The more positive you are, the more positive you learn to be. Expand the positive-thinking opportunities in your life. During the day, pick a task, an interaction, or a journey where you focus on thinking and being positive. Catch yourself every time you slip into negativity and consciously replace that with a positive thought. Once you start to succeed, designate areas of your life as negative-free zones, where you only feel, think, and act positively. Start with the most stress-free areas of your life and gradually expand your positivity throughout all areas of your life. Maintaining Positive Behaviour USING “AS IF” APPROACHES If you meet a major challenge to your positivity, try acting “as if” everything is fine. Act as if you like yourself, or as if you accept others; act as if your future is bright, or as if your past is resolved. Picture yourself as successful, beautiful, effective, loving—and whatever you say or do, make it the words or action of the person you want to be. This approach may feel false at first, but you will learn valuable lessons about what it means to be positive, and with practice will grow into the role. Self-Talk If you find yourself becoming negative and feel frustrated with harmful thinking patterns, use these instant self-talk boosters to raise your mood and keep yourself on track. I am improving day-to-day, “even if I still have negative thoughts sometimes. ” I am making a conscious “effort to do more of what I enjoy and less of what I do not enjoy. ” My negative thought is “a reminder that I need to be kinder to myself. ” Useful Exercises Each day, note something you have done, rate it one to 10 according to how you enjoyed it, and give reasons. Each week choose at least three positive things to do for yourself. Each month, allow yourself one day of total indulgence, doing only things you enjoy. PLANNING A POSITIVE DAY A good way to get into the habit of thinking positively all day and every day is to make a day plan. Write down at least ten possibilities for specific times of day, from waking in the morning to falling asleep at night. They might be: 7 AM— shower, dress, repeat positive affirmations; 7:45 AM—really enjoy breakfast; 9 AM—write positive affirmation and place on desk; 11 AM— take relaxation break or go for quiet walk; 12:30 PM—read something enjoyable over lunch; 6 PM—spend evening with positive people; 7:30 PM—enjoy good meal; 11:45 PM—repeat a final positive affirmation before falling asleep. Indulging yourself Your day plan should include entries for the evening—perhaps taking a long bubble bath or listening to relaxing music. Relaxes with fragrant bath oil 29 Fulfilling Your Potential Fulfilling Your Potential To be truly effective in life, apply positive-thinking strategies not only to day-to-day thoughts, actions, and emotions, but also at a deeper level, to firmly ingrained character traits. Working with Emotions E motions are the first signals generated by your body and mind when there is something in your life to which you need to pay attention. Catch negative emotions quickly, at the source, and use the energy they generate to motivate you to act. FOCUS POINT ● Take control of your emotions—you will then be able to look at a problem rationally. ACKNOWLEDGING EMOTIONS Turning emotions around You can learn to channel the emotional energy expended in anger, for example, into love—and so strengthen your relationship. 30 You might think the best way to be positive is to ignore painful emotions. But this is not so. Your emotions make their presence felt for a reason. They are indicative of an increase in your body’s energy levels, triggered to deal with a threat— your partner’s anger, your sense of failure, your boss’ disapproval. Unless you acknowledge them, your emotions will intensify to the point where you are forced to pay attention. When you feel a negative emotion, stop and register it momentarily, then explore why you are feeling it. Appreciate that it is giving you energy to cope. Working with Emotions Things to Do Things to Avoid ✓ Do distract your attention from “inside” emotions to the world “outside” by focusing on things around you. ✗ Avoid bottling up negative emotions. If you feel furious, go and play a ball game to let your anger out. ✓ Do work off emotionally induced adrenalin by getting physical exercise. ✗ Avoid thinking you are not permitted to feel down occasionally. ✓ Do talk through your feelings with someone who is able to listen carefully. ✗ Avoid wallowing in an emotion. Instead, take action to solve the problem. CALMING YOURSELF Once you have acknowledged your emotions, use calming techniques to lift yourself into a state where you can start to think clearly. First calm yourself physically by sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and taking three deep, slow breaths from your stomach. Then calm yourself mentally, by concentrating, for example, on saying the words of your favorite song or counting back from 100. Once you are calm, you will find it easier to focus your mind and so be better able to cope with whatever problem you have. At a Glance emotions must •beNegative explored, not ignored. The energy you put into an •emotion can be diverted into coping with the cause of it. yourself allows •youCalming to focus your mind on dealing with your problem. You can take control of •your emotions, rather than letting them control you. Takes mind off problem and thinks calm thoughts Finds a quiet place to sit comfortably Taking control A 20-minute break from an emotional situation allows your physiology to return to normal. RELEASING WHAT YOU FEEL When a painful emotion is strong or lingering, defuse it by actively experiencing it. Mentally describe your feelings to yourself. Or find a quiet place, then actively shout or cry out. Go further: deliberately exaggerate the feeling, and be as negative as you can for a while. As you start to feel better, note how long you have been expressing your emotion, then—strange as this advice may seem—continue expressing it for at least as long again. Learn that emotions do fade once you really express them, and that you, rather than the emotions, are in control. 31 Fulfilling Your Potential Managing Your Feelings S ome emotions are more challenging than others, and can deeply affect your self-esteem and your relationships. Develop ways to manage them actively day-to-day, and do not hold back from getting expert help if they begin to overwhelm you. PUTTING GUILT IN PERSPECTIVE Guilt is criticism directed inward because you feel you have acted wrongly. It can be useful. If you feel guilt before making one particular decision or action, stop and rethink; if you feel guilt after the event, consider making amends. But if you feel guilty about everything, or cannot let go of self-blame about the past, there is something very wrong. So try imagining the guilt-inducing event as if it had happened to someone else; with this more objective perspective, consider to what extent you were responsible and whether you really need to feel guilty. Useful Exercises To help anger die away, breathe slowly and deeply. If you are angry with someone, use imagination to see them as a fictional character, whose actions do not hurt you. As part of mastering the art of assertiveness, practice summarizing a point you would like to make in no more than five words. 32 He had too much to drink I lost my temper Mom made it worse Defusing guilt You may feel last night’s argument was all your fault. But a cold, hard look may show that responsibility is more evenly divided and you need not take all the blame. HANDLING ANGER Anger is criticism turned outward because you feel others have acted wrongly. If someone actively threatens you, anger is useful because it gears you up to defend yourself. But if you are angry only because someone does not meet your expectations, then it just makes you and other people unhappy. Instead, adapt your expectations to be more realistic. Understand why the other person cannot meet your standards. Ask them to change what they are doing. Try walking away, returning when you are calmer. If none of these ideas work, just let your anger go, and move on. Managing Your Feelings UNDERSTANDING ASSERTIVENESS At a Glance When you are in conflict with someone, you need something from them, or they are denying your rights, it may seem as if the only way out of the situation is to back down or to fight for your rights. But there is a third way. An assertive approach means being adult about your needs and your wants, neither giving up nor being oppressive. It means knowing you have the right to ask for what you need and to be heard. It also suggests ways of achieving that. Assertiveness is not a one-way ticket. You need to be prepared to listen to the other person, recognize their point of view, and negotiate a win–win solution. Demands and attacks who else is involved •willSeeing help you let go of guilt. You may be able to dissipate •anger just by taking a break. Assertiveness means valuing • others’ needs, as well as yours. • An assertive statement is succinct and avoids blame. Keeps eye contact, and is respectful but direct Avoids eye contact, and hesitates Aggressive Looking assertive Make sure that your body language reflects your assertive—rather than aggressive or passively guilty—approach. FOCUS POINT ● If you have made a mistake, acknowledge your error, and apologize to the person you have offended. Passive Assertive ACTING ASSERTIVELY Think through what you need to say, then make a simple, short statement of what happened, your feelings, and your preferred solution: “When you took credit for my idea, I felt belittled and angry. I would like you to tell the boss it was me who did the work.” Choose a quiet time and place to raise the issue. Neither attack nor apologize. If the other person argues or gets upset, repeat your statement calmly. This will make it easier for them to take it on board and start negotiating a solution. 33 Fulfilling Your Potential COPING WITH ANXIETY Anxiety alerts you to a difficulty that you think you need to solve. Some worry is natural in everyone’s life, so do not expect to be entirely free of tension all the time. However, particularly when you are under stress, you may find your anxiety level never drops. To avoid this, learn to make a clear distinction between what you can solve and what you cannot solve, what is your responsibility and what is not. Learn that there are some things that simply are not your problem. But when something is your problem you must take action immediately to shift the downward spiral of anxiety to the positive. Relieving Anxiety Recognize feeling of anxiety Tell yourself to relax Breathe slowly and deeply Relax your whole body Feel calmer Does not allow suspicion to undermine self-worth Is careful to express loving feelings Become more rational Feel even calmer Begin to feel in control AVOIDING JEALOUSY Building up security If you have suspicions about your partner, recognize the feeling, but do not allow anxiety to preoccupy you. Express loving, positive feelings, and have faith in yourself and your relationship. 34 A feeling of jealousy may alert you to a genuine threat to your relationship. But such feelings can get out of control, so you feel jealous without reason. If you find yourself inappropriately suspicious, the answer is not to keep a closer watch on your partner; it is to build your self-belief. That way, you believe that you are worth your partner's love, and start to feel secure. And, if the worst does happen, and your relationship fails, your self-belief will allow you to recover and move on. Managing Your Feelings LIVING THROUGH YOUR GRIEF All loss—for example, bereavement, relationship breakup, or layoff—creates in your mind and body a natural but painful mourning process. So get practical support, particularly when shock first sets in. After that, express your emotions, even unhappy ones; you will recover more quickly if you allow yourself to feel the grief. As time passes, be sure to find someone to whom you can talk about your feelings. In the longer term, honor the memory of what you have lost—a relative, a friend, or even a job you have enjoyed—laying to rest the bad times and remembering the good. Talking through your loss Share your loss and allow yourself to grieve, rather than suffering in silence. Only when you have come through the cycle of grieving can you begin to feel positive again. Helps friend to work through grief Talks to a person who has experienced a similar loss The Six-Stage Cycle of Grieving Stage Reactions What Will Help Shock Shakiness, loss of control. Practical support. Denial Cutting off from emotions. Time and patience. Grief Sadness, tears. Ability to cry Anger Bitterness and self-blame Acceptance of anger as useful. Depression Hopelessness and helplessness. Medication, counseling. Resolution Acceptance, moving on. Support in reengaging with life. 35 Fulfilling Your Potential Creating Optimism O ne of the fundamentals of positive thinking is its emphasis on being positive about the future. Take on this life approach fully and you are an optimist— someone who faces the future resourcefully, rather than feeling hopeless and helpless. THINKING OPTIMISTICALLY Optimists develop their life approach like this: they take credit for the good things that happen in their lives, but put the bad things down to circumstance, coincidence, or mistake. Hence they feel in charge and empowered. Pessimists take the blame for the bad but think the good is down to sheer chance, which leaves them feeling inadequate and powerless. To be an optimist, recognize the contribution you have made to a positive event, and congratulate yourself. Staying on top Optimists feel in control of their lives and do not feel overwhelmed by the demands of others—even those put on a busy mother by her young family. TAKING ACTION Making a start If you have a large task to undertake— for example, decorating—take it one step at a time. That way you feel in control. 36 Optimists feel empowered even when faced with problem situations. The key to feeling optimistic about a problem is simply to take action. If you act, you will feel more hopeful because you are creating the chance that things will improve. So the minute you feel yourself beginning to slip into pessimism, do something—almost anything—to tackle whatever the problem is that is triggering your mood. Take one step and you will feel more hopeful. If that does not work, then be flexible: do something different. Your action does not need to solve things instantly. It just needs to remind you that you have taken charge and are on your way to making things better. Creating Optimism Assessing Your Optimism Level How optimistic are you? Put a check beside any of the following statements that you feel describe you accurately: things usually •turnI feeloutthat for the best. keep going •in Ithealways face of obstacles. When the going gets •tough, I get going. I don’t give up hope. • I’m the kind of person •who manages to keep things in perspective. mind asking for •helpI don’t if I find a task difficult. The more boxes you check, the more optimistic you are. Unchecked boxes indicate a need to take action so you face the world more optimistically. GATHERING RESOURCES Optimism means feeling powerful, feeling you have the personal resources to achieve what you want to achieve. So in any problem situation, do an audit of what resources you have—your own talents and knowledge, sources of specialized expertise, friends, and family. Then identify what else you need in order to cope. Think of ways to fill those resource gaps—and set about doing so. Identifies needs Brainstorms ways to solve problems Lists external resources Notes personal skills Seeks help where needed Counting your assets Instead of feeling defeatist when confronted with a problem to be solved, optimists take charge; they figure out where they need help, and then they go out and find it. CONFRONTING PESSIMISM If you tend to be pessimistic, remember that the outcome of any one issue usually falls midway between the most pessimistic and most optimistic predictions. So when you have a problem, make a worst-case and a best-case prediction. When predicting the worst, you might ask, “How likely is it that this will happen?” or, “How can I reduce that likelihood?” When predicting the best, you may ask, “How likely is it that this will happen?” or, “How can I maximize that likelihood?” Be realistic; what will probably happen is something between best and worst. FOCUS POINTS Notice how optimists achieve more at work, are healthier, and suffer less depression than others. ● ● When predicting the outcome of a situation, ask how you can best achieve a good result, and what resources you need. 37 Fulfilling Your Potential Developing the Feel-Good Factor T o develop a really positive approach to life, do things that make you feel good. This not only makes you focus on living a contented life, it also builds your self-worth. Award yourself fun times, and give yourself the message that you deserve happiness. LEARNING TO FEEL GOOD Develop the habit of focusing minute-to-minute on something that you enjoy. Notice that particular sensation of physical relaxation that accompanies feel-good moments. Experience the pleasure in all five senses: what you see, hear, feel, taste, smell. Enhance your enjoyment by combining sensations—for example, playing music when reading a good book. Closes eyes, tunes out distractions, releases neck and shoulders, and enjoys the feel-good sensations Case Study NAME: Tania ISSUE: Lack of motivation OBJECTIVE: To regain energy Tania lives a busy life, with a full-time job as well as a lively five-year-old and a toddler to look after. She complains to her doctor of constant tiredness. He reassures her that she is perfectly healthy, but she still feels something is wrong. She cannot seem to summon the enthusiasm to do anything. Tania negotiates with her husband and her mother to watch the children one evening each week so she can attend a dance class. She also starts a program of daily “treats” for herself—taking a stroll, writing an email to her sister, watching a video. She starts off feeling a little guilty, but she perseveres. Within a month Tania is feeling more positive and energetic. Enjoying the moment Treat yourself to a relaxing neck massage once in a while—and determine to indulge yourself more often. 38 Developing the Feelgood Factor Having a good laugh Laughter is good medicine: when you smile, your brainwave activity alters to parallel that of a happy person. So even during a busy day, take the time to talk to a friend and share a joke. GETTING LAUGHTER IN YOUR LIFE Tells amusing story, and makes friend laugh Look for activities that produce the best physical experience of enjoyment: smiles and laughter. Smiling and laughing increases the body’s positive endorphins and reduces stress hormones. Some believe it can heal, too. So smile at everyone you meet, tell jokes, read amusing books, tune in to TV comedies, and mix with people who have a good sense of humor. Relaxes as she laughs INDULGING YOURSELF FOCUS POINTS Be energetic in seeking out good experiences. If the sun comes out, go for a walk; if that work project appeals, volunteer for it. Seize the day; indulge yourself. Realize that much of your time is occupied with things you have not chosen or do not enjoy. By actively indulging yourself, you redress the balance toward enjoyment, daily life begins to seem more fun, and you feel positive in many different areas of your life. ● Make time to play games and have fun. Buy your favorite childhood board game and play it with friends. ● Spend time with children when you can. They smile 400 times every day, compared to a typical adult’s 15 times. Adjusting the balance Deliberately increase the amount of feel-good time in your life—particularly “me” time, where you can focus solely on yourself. Do an action-wheel to see how much of your 168 hours per week you allow for feel-good activities. Key: Hours per week Work and housework 2 Commuting Sleeping and eating 10 47 20 9 90 67 50 22 19 “Me” time Partner, friends, family Low feelgood factor High feel-good factor 39 Fulfilling Your Potential Building Confidence A pply positive thinking to performance and you gain confidence, whether you are playing a tennis match or facing an interview. Positive thought patterns lie at the heart of confidence; when you think positively, you optimize your performance. ERASING FAILURE Confident people all share one simple mental strategy. They concentrate on success but allow memories of failure to fade. By all means note where you went wrong, but do not dwell on your mistakes, or become depressed by them. Simply register them, and concentrate on what would have been a better way to act. Then erase the negative emotional charge by telling yourself that failure is in the past and you are now a confident person who performs more effectively. Congratulating yourself After a performance such as giving a presentation, congratulate yourself on the areas where you did well. 40 At a Glance Confident people remember •successes and forget failure. Learn to put aside your disappointments and focus on your achievements. Before speaking publicly, •build confidence by rehearsing until you can imagine yourself performing successfully. body language •willConfident always give you an extra physiological boost. To build long-term •confidence, balance your learning experiences between those where you are bound to succeed and those where you need to stretch yourself. CONCENTRATING ON YOUR SUCCESS After a big event—or a practice session—go back and note what you did correctly, and allow yourself to feel good about that. Even if the best parts are only a small portion of what happened, mentally replay them, seeing yourself succeed, and then “stepping into” your success so that you actively feel what you did to achieve it. Go further than marking minor details; mark big victories with memorable celebrations, with souvenirs of your triumphs, or in an achievement diary. Summarize that feeling of success in affirmations that you repeat to yourself regularly, particularly when you need a confidence boost. Building Confidence EXTENDING YOUR CONFIDENCE RANGE FOCUS POINT Develop an image of yourself as someone who succeeds, even if that means you have to overcome challenges. Constantly stretch yourself; aim within your achievable range so that you can succeed, but also regularly do a little bit more than is comfortable. That way, you are always building your sense of inner competence and achievement. Keep extending the range of things you attempt in life; broadening your experience helps you develop the confidence that you can cope with anything. Anxious expression ● Make your victories memorable by sharing them with friends.This will set you on the path to further succcesses. Looking confident Inner confidence results in a relaxed and focused physiological state. It also works the other way around: if body language is confident, the mind will follow suit. Open expression Lack of eye contact Rigid posture Relaxed posture Nervous gesture Insecure body language Things to Do ✓ Do identify the most confident person you know. Ask them about how they remember successes and forget failures. ✓ Do look back over your achievement diary regularly, to remind yourself of how well you have done. ✓ Do practice confident body language, so that when you feel nervous, you can step into a confident mood. Full eye contact Level shoulders Confident body language Things to Avoid ✗ Avoid people who sap your confidence by diminishing your successes. ✗ Avoid unconfident thoughts; replace them with confidence-boosting affirmations, and repeat until you feel more relaxed. ✗ Avoid nervous paralysis when you need to be confident.Take a deep breath and stretch to release tension. 41 Fulfilling Your Potential Setting Goals O nce you set a goal in life, the brain responds with a burst of activity that is experienced as happiness. When the goal is achieved, another burst of activity makes you happy again. To maintain a positive attitude, keep setting—and achieving—your goals. SETTING THE GOAL Whatever you are aiming for—a new job, a better level of fitness, or just a well-cooked meal—you need an achievable goal. Check first that you are clear about what you are aiming for; that it is something you really want; and that the time, energy, and resources required are worth the effort. Check also that when you reach your goal, what you gain will outweigh what you might lose. Your goal also needs to reflect your deeper values; if you do not believe in the worth of what you are doing, you will lack the energy to succeed. Setting Goals Set appropriate goal Decide on incentives Work out steps along the way Take the first step 42 Being motivated Having a goal, such as cooking a delicious meal for a friend, motivates you to excel, and this gives satisfaction. DEFINING THE STEPS Before starting any task, break it down into its different stages. This will allow you to see the next step clearly and so have energy available for it, rather than viewing the task as a huge and endless effort. If you have performed the task before, review what each step entails so that you know you are fully resourced to do it. If you have never done it before, talk to someone who has already succeeded. Then get going, whether you feel like it or not. You may think that effective people feel motivated to start things. But typically they do not; they start, and let their motivation build from the success of having begun. Setting Goals Overcoming Demotivation Demotivating Factor Motivating Thought Action Fear of failure—you stop, rather than risk failing. Failure is not the end of the world. Make plans in case you do not succeed. Comparison—you feel others would do better Even successful people run into difficulties. Regard others as mentors, not as competitors. Reluctance—you never wanted to do it I have the right to choose whether to do this. Say no, or say yes and follow through. Perfectionism—you have to do things excellently My standards are impossibly high. Lower standards and work up to success. Lack of rewards—you never treat yourself Without rewards, my body and mind will rebel. Reward yourself for even the smallest success. Lack of appreciation— no one says “well done” People may not realize I need a pat on the back. Actively ask others for positive feedback. MAINTAINING A MOTIVATED ATTITUDE Treats herself to flowers Rewarding yourself Keep motivated by setting yourself one small target at a time, and reward yourself each time you succeed. To keep your energy high, focus on incentives rather than penalties. You need to remind yourself of what you will lose if you fail, but it is more important to look forward to the rewards of success. And if those rewards do not yet feel very real and compelling, boost them until they are irresistible. Then, once you have embarked on a task, congratulate yourself for each small step you achieve—treat yourself to a new book, a new CD, a box of chocolates. The lower your level of motivation, the shorter the gaps between rewards should be. If the task is one you will repeat, keep a progress log. That way you can motivate yourself next time by looking back on your previous success. 43 Fulfilling Your Potential Uncovering Meaning in Life T he stronger a person’s sense of purpose and meaning in life, the happier and more positive they will be. So make a determined effort to find meaning in what you are doing, and cultivate beliefs and experiences that reflect that meaning. FOCUS POINT ● Seek out inspiring experiences that tell you that the world is bigger than you are. FINDING A FAITH “ Dreams are necessary to life. ” Anaïs Nin Having a philosophy of life Knowing you have a purpose in life makes you more content from day to day, as well as more able to face problems and crises with equanimity. To have a happy life, you need a sense of an underlying point to your existence and of a moral code by which to live. This does not mean you have to have a religious or spiritual faith. It means you will feel more secure in yourself if you can sense a plan or a guiding force in life, and more at peace with the world if you have a workable set of principles. Take a few minutes each day to think about the values you wish to guide you, and try to cultivate beliefs and experiences that reflect them. Lacking a purpose Does not have a clear vision 44 Living with a purpose Has a mission in life Feels insecure and lacks confidence Is at peace with the world Has no guiding principles Meditates daily on life Uncovering Meaning in Life ACKNOWLEDGING YOUR MISSION To live with a sense of purpose, you need to discover and keep in mind an ultimate mission in the world. If you do not yet have a mission, imagine yourself at the end of a long and happy life, where you have achieved what you were born to achieve. Spot the theme that runs through your achievements—perhaps “loving,” “being a good parent,” “improving the world.” This theme is your mission. Then track what you imagine having done during your life in order to achieve a complete life. These are the practical actions you will need to take in order to fulfill your mission. Fact File The concept of “flow activity" was developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at the University of Chicago. His work culminated in a book published in 1991. He identified the emotional state that you enter when you focus on an activity wholeheartedly, entirely forgetting yourself and the here and now.To be truly content you need a regular dose of “flow”—at least three hours each week spent in non-work activities that stimulate and interest you. Living life to the fullest Your mission in life might be to build a strong relationship with your children. Imagine yourself in years to come, looking back on your life, and see what you could do now to achieve your goal. GAINING A SENSE OF FLOW Look over your life and ask yourself whether you are partaking regularly in a variety of activities that absorb you so deeply that you forget all your problems and concerns. Make sure you have a range of different work tasks and hobbies to engage and excite you. Actively seek out things to do that are creative and challenging, that calm the mind and create a contented mood—“flow activities”. A study carried out in 2000 by the British mental health charity MIND suggests the following flow activities, listed in order of effectiveness: listening to music, gardening, writing, painting and drawing, drama, writing and reading poetry, crafts, walking, needlework or knitting, dancing. 45 Living a Positive Life Living a Positive Life You get most from positive thinking if you apply it regularly and consistently across your life. So create an environment, a routine, and a lifestyle that constantly enhance your mood. Creating a Positive Environment P ositivity is generated from inside you, but what happens outside matters, too. Environmental factors can influence the way you feel. By creating a space where you can be relaxed, comfortable, and focused, you can improve your outlook. CONSTRUCTING A RETREAT It is vital for your well-being to have a place, however tiny, to which you can retreat that is created entirely to your taste. At home, your oasis of calm could be a corner of a room, a converted attic, or a backyard bench. At work, it might be at your desk. Even if you have to share living or work space with others, make sure there is some aspect of it that makes you feel happy. If possible, choose your own furniture, pictures, and colors. 46 Making “me time” It is good to withdraw from your hectic world regularly. Set aside some time to read or to meditate on a calming topic. Creating a Positive Environment PROVIDING COMFORT When you create your perfect space, indulge all your senses. Do not feel you “should” plan your decor according to fashion; instead, choose only what seems beautiful to you. Introduce plenty of natural light. At home, have a comfortable sofa or big cushions; at work, put flowers on your desk. Use scents to energize or relax you. You may want to play music to raise your mood, or you may prefer the background sound of water or wind chimes. To do nothing is sometimes “a good remedy. ” Hippocrates COLOR THEORY When choosing the decor of your room, remember that color affects mood. Build positivity by combining mood-lifting shades (avoid black, brown, and gray): • Blue: calms, settles • Yellow: invigorates, warms • Green: soothes, harmonizes • Red: stimulates, arouses • Purple: energizes, inspires • Orange: welcomes, warms • White: enhances natural light FINDING A MENTAL RETREAT However supportive your environment, it is good to withdraw from it regularly, and retreat inside your head. Set aside a few minutes every day when you unplug the phone and relax. Still your mind, perhaps by concentrating on your breathing, or by focusing on a lit candle or a flower. Then you may choose to say a positive affirmation to yourself, or think through some significant topic. As your “me time” ends, take a few moments to recover, and return to the world. Creating a mood Select colors according to the atmosphere you want to create, whether it be gentle and tranquil, or stimulating and inspiring. Improving Your Environment Problem Effect Action to Take High noise factor Can distract, irritate, and frustrate. Soundproof with rugs and curtains, or use headphones. Low oxygen levels Can create lethargy and low mood. Open windows, install plants and a humidifier. Lack of organization Can confuse and make you feel out of control. Buy storage systems and throw away clutter. 47 Living a Positive Life Building Health for Positivity I t is widely accepted that there is a link between physical health and mental well-being. To maintain a positive way of living, you need to support your mental approach with the right diet, exercise, and stress-reduction program. Shops regularly for fresh foods Buys plenty of fruit and vegetables EATING FOR POSITIVITY You are what you eat. And there is increasing evidence that poor diet can send your body into a downward spiral of negative emotions. If you eat foods that make your blood-sugar level soar, that produce an adrenalin rush, or that trigger food intolerance, you are likely to spend your days on a roller coaster of emotion. Choose a diet that avoids refined carbohydrates and refined sugars, and where possible eat unprocessed foods with no additives in order to avoid bad reactions to artificial colorings and flavorings. FOCUS POINTS If you need to lose weight, follow a balanced diet and exercise more, rather than eating less. ● ● Avoid eating too many of the key foods that may trigger intolerance, such as wheat and milk products. 48 Enjoying the good life A varied and well-balanced diet plays a significant role in maintaining balanced emotions. CHOOSING THE BEST DIET Your brain naturally produces certain neurotransmitters one of whose functions is to help you feel good. In particular, serotonin keeps you calm, focused, and optimistic, while dopamine and norepinephrine keep you alert and active. Choose a diet that is designed to support their long-term production: for serotonin, eat foods rich in unrefined carbohydrates, such as cereals, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables; for dopamine and norepinephrine, eat foods rich in amino acids, such as chicken, fish, beef, nuts, and pulses. Building Health for Positivity Foods with a Feel-Good Factor Nutrient Source B vitamins Lean meat, fish, wholegrains, nuts, orange juice, low-fat dairy food, yeast extract, and pulses Calcium Milk, cheese, canned fish, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds Folic acid Green vegetables, wheat germ, oranges, cheese, nuts, eggs, and liver Iron Wheat bran, liver, spinach, and dried fruit Magnesium Nuts, fish, leafy green vegetables, and wheat germ Omega 3 fats Oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout) and vegetable oils (grapeseed, soy, sunflower) Selenium Brazil nuts, shellfish, liver, fish, and wholegrains Eating well Low mood has been linked with deficiencies of some vitamins and minerals. Follow a diet that includes oily fish such as salmon, lean meat, green vegetables, and pulses. ESTABLISHING A GOOD REGIMEN There is sense in the old adage: breakfast like a king, dine like a pauper. Eating breakfast gives you a feelgood start to the day by kick-starting your body with much-needed fuel after its overnight starvation. Conversely, eating a light meal in the evening means your body does not have to cope with the strain of digesting food, and you will fall asleep more easily. Between meals, avoid “comfort” foods and drinks such as chocolate and caffeine. While they may give you an instant lift, their feel-good effect may suddenly dip, leaving you feeling even more down than before. Regular low-sugar snacks will keep your energy level— and your mood—high. 49 Living a Positive Life GETTING EXERCISE If you want to lift your mood, keep moving. Exercise builds health—and a healthy body is conducive to a happy mind. Exercise helps counteract stress, and increases the production of feel-good brain chemicals. Create an exercise regimen that you enjoy and can maintain— 20 minutes three times a week is a good basic minimum. It should leave you feeling relaxed and good about yourself. Releasing Tension Take a deep breath and let it out Yawn to relax yourself and get more oxygen into the bloodstream Exercising for a healthy mind Choose a form of exercise that you like—and do not overdo it. If you are competitive, play team games. If you like company, find a gym buddy. If you love the outdoors, go running. SLEEPING SOUNDLY Consciously slow down what you are doing Think of the positive side of what is happening Repeat a relaxing affirmation, such as "I am calm" 50 If you are not sleeping properly, you will have difficulty in thinking positively; lack of sleep creates mental confusion, stress, and depression. Experiment to find the right amount of sleep for you. If you have difficulty in sleeping, this is most likely to be due to stress during your day, or a lack of preparation for sleep. Avoid evening activities that leave you overstimulated, such as watching scary movies or listening to loud music. Instead, set up a relaxed pre-bed routine, doing the same things, at the same time. Stick to the same waking and sleeping hours, if possible. Building Health for Positivity BALANCING STRESS LEVELS Assessing Your Stress Levels How stressed do you feel in your life? Check any of the following statements that describe you accurately: find it hard to switch •offI when I go to bed. I often upset or angry •about whatgethappens to me. I suffer from stress-related •sickness, such as headaches. not get much joy •outI doof work or play. coping •withI feellifeI atamthenotmoment. Analysis The higher the number of checks, the more stressed you are.Take action to reduce the stress in your life so that you are better able to cope with it. You will find it difficult to be positive when you are under stress, not only because your body and mind are on the alert, looking for problems, but also because you are likely to feel fragile. Be aware of stress—at work, in relationships, or from family matters—and take immediate action to reduce it. Say no to unrealistic demands. Try to sort out the problems in your life. Take time—a daily half-hour, a weekly half-day—to do off-task things and unwind. Be aware when stress comes from being underused or bored, and make sure you are stretching yourself just the right amount in your life. Get support: talk through problems with someone who can listen and support you. Lies comfortably, with plenty of head support Tenses each part of body in turn, then relaxes Relaxing effectively Relaxing for 15 minutes a day can have a cumulative effect on reducing stress in your life and so make you feel more positive. Make relaxation exercises part of your daily routine. Useful Exercises a field “thatTakehas rest: rested gives a bountiful crop. ” Ovid Work out a plan for regular exercise.Write it in your planner or stick it on your bulletin board. In bed, write down anything bothering you, so your mind knows it need not worry overnight. Before you go to sleep, repeat a calming affirmation, such as, "I will sleep until morning." 51 Living a Positive Life Forming Good Relationships P ositive thinking means being positive with other people as well as with yourself. Dealing well with others creates good relationships, and the more good relationships you have in your life, the more emotionally resilient you are likely to be. FOCUS POINT ● Remember that the more connected you feel to other people, the more meaningful your life seems. GIVING PRAISE All successful relationships are based on mutual respect. So open up and tell others if they impress you. They will appreciate it more if you give them details about what you like and if you express your feelings as well as just your thoughts. Beware of qualification—do not praise a good performance, only to compare it with an earlier failure. And remember that regular, “drip-fed” compliments is much better than a downpour followed by a drought. Building confidence Giving your children encouragement and praise will focus their attention on success and build confidence for the future. Things to Do ✓ Do make a habit of showing praise and appreciation regularly. ✓ ✓ 52 Things to Avoid ✗ Do offer praise “sandwiches”—two pieces of positive feedback enclosing a suggestion or request for improvement. Avoid praising all the time. People may think they have gotten something wrong if the praise suddenly stops. ✗ Do follow through on your words of praise with positive body language—a smile, nod, or touch where appropriate. Avoid praising things for courtesy’s sake; such false compliments devalue genuine praise. ✗ Avoid praising success only.This gives the message that effort is worthless. Forming Good Relationships Keeps eye contact Feels valued Leans forward to show interest Using positive body language Approving body language is the most direct way that you can tell someone you feel positive about them and get them to feel good about themselves and respond well to you. COPING WITH CRITICISM If someone criticizes you, stay calm. Let your critic say their piece so that they feel they are being heard. But take on board only what feels right; offset any hurt by recalling times when you have done well. If you sense the criticism is correct, particularly if you have had similar feedback from others, ask your critic to coach you in improving. This will not only mean you are supported to learn; it will also get him or her on your side, building a relationship out of a potentially tense interaction. ADOPTING A NOBLAME ATTITUDE Even if you feel bad about what someone does, avoid heavy criticism. Work off any critical emotion by writing your feelings out in a letter that you never send or by imagining a conversation. If you still feel you need to give the person feedback, begin by pointing out what they have done right, to help them feel confident. Then, specify what you need them to do, in positives rather than negatives. Lastly, look for improvement in behavior and reinforce it by praising as soon as you can. FINDING REASON TO FORGIVE When something has gone wrong and you cannot immediately find forgiveness—for yourself or another person—look back carefully at what has happened, and you may see the situation in a different light. Perhaps there were valid reasons why you or the other person did what they did, or maybe it was a difficult time or situation. It could be that what happened actually caused no harm, or that it is outweighed by good things you or the other person have done. Perhaps that was the only or best choice of action under the circumstances at the time. A token of forgiveness If you find you can forgive the other person, you might like to show it with a small gift. 53 Living a Positive Life CHOOSING THE RIGHT PEOPLE Actively avoid negative people, who drain your energy, bore you, always see the worst side of life, or bring you down. If possible, simply stop seeing them; go through your address book and remove their names. If you have to spend time with them, reduce the amount of contact and spend your freed-up time with people who leave you feeling good about yourself and the world. Expand your range of supportive friends; if you meet someone who seems content with themselves and their life, actively suggest you spend time together. Shares successes with peers Has fun with friends Is motivated by role models Gets help from supporters Seeks inspiration from mentors Self-Talk If, despite your efforts, you find yourself continuing to mix with overdemanding or unhelpful people, you are probably suffering from a belief that you deserve no better. Use affirmations such as those given below to rethink this belief as a more positive one. Repeat them to yourself regularly. to be surrounded “I deserve with people who value and respect me. ” fine for me to “takeIt isfrom as well as give to people. ”people I “mixThewith,morethepositive more able I will be to pass that positivity on. ” Enjoying good company Make sure you surround yourself with different types of positive people—people who, in one way or another, boost rather than drain your energy. FOCUS POINTS Build a network of mentors for guidance on a variety of life skills. ● ● If you feel a problem is sliding out of control, consider seeking help from a counselor. 54 NETWORKING To get positive people around you, actively network. Friends and supporters do not appear by magic, and you may have to meet many people before you bond with someone. Regularly go to networking events, professional and personal. Remember that others may be shy, and will be grateful if you make the first move. Exchange contact details. The next day, call or e-mail, saying how good it was to meet; then, a few weeks later, follow up with a date and time to meet again. Forming Good Relationships KEEPING IN TOUCH Showing you care Sending postcards while you are on holiday is a quick and easy way of keeping in touch with friends. Actively nurture established and new relationships by making contact on a regular basis. Write postcards to friends and family when you are on holiday, send cards for religious festivals, and remember birthdays and wedding anniversaries with cards or flowers. Write reminders into your diary so that too much time does not lapse between meetings. If you are pushed for time, create group events – parties, picnics, theatre trips – to which you can invite a number of your friends at one time. ENROLLING HELP Most people are very happy to help if asked; it makes them feel needed and therefore valued. But they will give support much more readily if it is part of a regular, reciprocal arrangement. So make a list of people in your life whose skills and talents you really value. This will be your support system. The next time you meet one of those people, ask for help in some small way, offering a similar favour in return. Maintain this give-andtake, so that if you ever need more substantial help, it will be much easier to ask. can discover “moreYouabout a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. ” Plato Mixing with kindred spirits Good relationships are about mutual support. A party is the ideal opportunity to cultivate friendships with those who share a positive outlook on life and will be there for you when you need help. 55 Living a Positive Life Loving with Heart I f you want to be loved, be positive. Positive people are fun to be with, confident in their own abilities, able to give and take. The end result of their positive outlook is that they find, develop, and maintain relationships easily. BEING PROUD OF YOURSELF To gain love, begin with a strong, positive image of yourself. The more you believe you are attractive, the more others will believe it, too. Remember that while appearance is important, most people do not need a partner who is perfectly goodlooking or has a stunning figure; confidence and personality are very much more compelling. Be proud of your appearance and character—and above all, believe you deserve love. Touches lightly to show willingness to become more intimate Nods and smiles to show approval Stands close Displaying interest By showing you feel positive about a potential partner nonverbally as well as verbally, you signal your attraction at both the conscious and the unconscious level. 56 ✐ FOCUS POINTS ● Get into the habit of accepting compliments with grace and gratitude. ● Talk openly and easily about your talents, rather than hiding them. best way to “cheerTheyourself up is to try to cheer someone else up. ” Mark Twain WELCOMING A POTENTIAL PARTNER Being genuinely positive about other people is immensely seductive. If you like someone, let it show. Pose questions, then listen carefully to the answers. Make it clear you are interested. Talk—without taking over the conversation—about your own thoughts and feelings, to show you trust the other person. Once you have established that there is some rapport, do not hold back. Instead, be up-front about wanting to meet again. Loving with Heart Holding on to joy Putting aside regular time for having some fun together is one of the keys to a successful relationship. Aim to have five positive interactions for each negative one. MAKING LOVE WORK Once your relationship is under way, be optimistic. Particularly if past relationships have gone wrong, you may be wary and guarded, constantly looking for problems. However, this approach is guaranteed to lay the foundations for a tense, sad partnership. Instead, think the best of your partner; not only will you bring out the best in them, you will also help them to feel good about themselves. And be optimistic about your love relationship; you will then create the energy needed to make it a happy one. Put the emphasis on enjoyment, having fun together, and making each other feel good. Assessing Your Relationship Negative interaction Key questions Positive interaction You never bother to ask how the day went Do you keep lines of communication open? You show an interest in each other’s day You ignore the situation or express criticism Do you support your partner when he or she has problems? You show sympathy even if you feel critical You have no one-to-one time, no shared interests Do you regularly take time for yourselves as a couple? You put aside one evening a week, one day a month 57 Living a Positive Life OVERCOMING DIFFERENCES You and your partner have different outlooks and different personalities. That is refreshing when you first meet, but sometimes you grow to resent these differences. Instead, put energy into understanding why your partner thinks and feels as they do. Ask them to explain their point of view. Explore how their attitudes have been formed, and appreciate their views, even if you cannot agree. Your partner will then feel more able to understand you and your outlook. Think the best of your partner and you will bring out the best in him or her. FOCUS POINTS If your relationship is giving more pain than pleasure, seek counseling. ● ● If your relationship comes to an end, move on without regret. At a Glance the energy to love •yourHaving partner is only possible if you love yourself. Being positive about your •partner will bring out the best in them. In a partnership, loving is a •better strategy than winning. A successful couple is one • where partners capitalize on their differences. RESOLVING DISAGREEMENTS Most couples disagree with each other sometimes, however content they are; the happiest couples are those that learn to manage those disagreements and find win–win solutions wherever possible. The key is to maintain a good mood; stay calm yourself, and help your partner to stay calm, too, by reassuring him or her that you still care. Negotiate to resolve the conflict. Find places where your needs overlap, and reach a compromise. Resolving conflict Managing disagreement is a question of give-andtake. Experiment with solutions to meet both your needs. Make sure both of you are happy with the agreement you reach, to ensure you carry it through. 58 Loving with Heart SOOTHING BAD FEELINGS When simple disagreement turns to active conflict, both you and your partner may feel angry. In fact, you are both afraid—that the other will disappoint, reject, control, or walk away. Understand this, and you will feel less threatened, less defensive, and more open. When things become heated, rather than nagging or shouting, say what it is that you are afraid will happen. Rather than blaming or attacking, ask what it is that frightens your partner. Expressing fears helps you to sympathize, rather than attack. Dealing with conflict A positive approach to conflict between a couple involves communication, cooperation, and shared decision-making. He fails to ask her point of view. She does not share her fear that they cannot afford the car Couple disagrees about spending money on a new car Things to Do Partners come to a decision that suits them both, and the relationship is enriched Partners listen to each other; she researches costs, he looks for alternative cars He buys a car anyway. She feels angry, he feels guilty, and the relationship becomes strained Things to Avoid ✓ Do celebrate—even the most defensive ✗ Avoid sniping or nagging—neither of these gets results and both increase antagonism between you. ✓ Do offer physical contact—a hugged partner is a less-threatened partner. ✗ ✓ Do try to defuse tension—a smile or a joke can turn a looming argument into a friendly discussion. Avoid bringing up the past—focus any wrangles on what the problem is here and now. ✗ Avoid letting conflict drag on—find a solution, then kiss and make up. person feels calmed when told they are appreciated and valued. 59 Living a Positive Life Working with Energy M ost people spend a third of their adult lives at work. So it is vital to make sure that when you are working, you feel positive about what you do. In that way your career supports rather than undermines your positive approach to life. MOTIVATING YOURSELF AT WORK The essence of a happy job is to work with what is important to you, the things in life that really attract you. If you like people, work with them. If you love knowledge or ideas, or clothes, or words, find work that involves these. Be sure to chart your successes. Identify how you can do well, and then get regular feedback on how to do even better. And keep moving on. If you are stuck at your current level, learn how to do your current job even better than you already do it, so that you still experience improvement. Working with negativity Criticizes managers behind their back FOCUS POINTS ● Try not to bring work home with you. If necessary, offload your concerns in written form in a work journal. ● If you are stressed at work, ask why you need to work so hard—it may be your choice rather than your employer’s demand. Making the best of things The positive thinker who is unhappy at work takes action to improve things. If you feel negative about your job, try to become more rather than less involved. The more you actively contribute, the more control you will have. Working with positivity Suggests improvements to managers Complains about workload Creates a support system Allows difficult situations to worsen Takes on more of the work he enjoys 60 Working with Energy CREATING POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS Being pleasant to colleagues and clients creates a good working relationship, even when you are in competition or opposed. Speak well of others. Congratulate their successes, even when it means you lose out. Take responsibility for your errors rather than shifting the blame; never gloat over your victories if they mean defeat for others. Be a positive force: celebrate when things go well, and offer solutions and support when things go badly. Assessing Your Job Satisfaction How positive do you feel about your work? Check any statements that you think describe you accurately: typically look forward •to Iwork in the morning. I feel my job is •meaningful and fulfilling. I have as much •and enthusiasm forenergy work as I have ever had. I feel appreciated by •colleagues and clients. I only occasionally feel •angry or upset at work. I ignore job ads because •moving is not on my mind. Analysis The fewer the checks, the more unhappy you are. Look at these items again and plan how you can make work a positive experience. STAYING POSITIVE Interacting positively Colleagues and clients alike respond positively to an enthusiastic attitude. With her open and friendly manner, this manager is likely to motivate colleagues to perform well. Paid work is rarely fun all the time, but having a constructive attitude will help to keep the mood high. Come to work with a smile and keep smiling, even under pressure. Be enthusiastic rather than critical when you discuss your employers or your work. If you are unhappy, talk to the management assertively, to suggest improvements. 61 Living a Positive Life Coping Day to Day W hen one tiny problem makes you feel negative, you can all too easily find yourself creating more problems for yourself, and the day turns into a disaster. The answer is to act immediately to stop the downward spiral. Then you can begin to cope again. FEELING A SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT Sometimes when something small goes wrong it can trigger a snowball effect, where each problem leads to a bigger one. The solution is to take action to inject immediate positivity into the situation and avert a crisis. Do something that gives you a sense of success. Choose a small, specific task that you have done many times before and that you know you are not going to fail at. Choose something that has instant rewards, a visible result, or positive feedback. Do something that you have been avoiding, to give you even more of a sense of victory. So send that email, sew on that button, water that plant. The sense of achievement you feel when you have done it will turn the tide. Feeling good