Stay Positive in a Negative World, Part 11

January 28, 2008

by Matt Michel

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put foundations under them.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Inspiration and genius--one and the same.”
Victor Hugo

You’re assaulted by negative information, making it tough for anyone to stay positive in this day and age. So how do you manage it? Some of these techniques may work for you, while others will not. Some might work for a while, but lose effectiveness over time or with repetition. That’s why there are over 50 tips.

45. Eat Well
Diet affects attitude.  Bernard Gesch, a senior researcher at Oxford University tested the impact of vitamin supplements on prison populations.  One group of prisoners was given supplements with vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.  A second group was given an identical looking supplement containing nothing.  No one at the prison knew who received the supplement and who received the placebo.

Gesch reported that the prisoners receiving the supplements saw a 35% reduction in “anti-social behavior” and a greater reduction in violent acts.  The behavior of the second group was unchanged.  In other words, the first group was less “grumpy.”

Here’s the key point.  The supplements were designed to do nothing more than ensure the prisoners met the British government’s standard diet for prisons.  The standard diet contains nutritious food, but the prisoners did not always choose to eat the nutritious food.

Based on the number of decaled service company vehicles I see outside fast food restaurants at lunch, I would guess that many service technicians fail to eat well.  As Gesch reported, a healthy diet makes one less grumpy.  It’s not good for sales or customer service when our front line service personnel are grumpy.

There’s a lot more research than Gesch’s.  Anthony Elementary School in Leavenworth, Kansas gave K through 5th graders daily vitamin-mineral supplements at 100% of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance, added a structured daily exercise program, provided the kids with nutrition education, and improved the nutrition in the school’s breakfast and lunch menus.  The results were even more dramatic than Gesch’s.

The year before the changes were made students were sent to the principal’s office for “out of control” behavior 438 times.  The year the diet changed, kids were sent to the principal’s office a mere 18 times all year.  That’s a 95% reduction.

The school had 13 school suspensions, compared to 52 the year before (down 80%).  Suspensions due to violent acts dropped from 34 to one (down 97%).  Teachers reported that it was easier to control their classrooms and were able to spend more time teaching.  Perhaps most remarkable, the school’s Math and English test scores improved from last out of ten schools to the district’s best in Math and second best in English.

Your diet affects your mood, your attitude, and your overall mental sharpness.  The more balanced your diet, the more balanced your mood. 

46. Forgive Yourself
We all screw up from time to time.  Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and unscrew up.  We can’t change the mistake.  All you can do is learn from it. 

You should learn from your mistakes.  As George Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The price of your mistakes is the tuition of experience.  Sometimes the tuition is minor.  Sometimes it’s not.  Regardless, the tuition is paid.  It’s not necessary to add on a guilt premium.

You screwed up.  You paid for it.  You learned from it.  You can’t change it.  Forgive yourself and move on.

47. Remember Where You Started
Football great, Barry Switzer said, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”  It’s not where you are that matters, but how far you’ve traveled, what you’ve overcome along the way, and where you’re heading.

It’s always tempting, maybe inevitable that we compare ourselves to others.  We stand on second base and look at the guy smiling smugly on third.  When we do, it’s important that we also remember where we started.  We may not be on third base, but considering where we started, we’ve done pretty darn well.  Plus, the guy born on third may not be going anywhere.  We already have and are.

Measuring our progress from time to time matters.  It reinforces our decisions to persevere and press on when times are tough.  In his classic book, “Think & Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill describes how he was given the opportunity by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to study America’s most successful people and share what he learned.  Hill reported that “more than 500 of the most successful men this country has ever known told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them.” 

Don’t worry about the guy with the silver spoon.  Worry about yourself.  When you face your next challenge, remember where you started and what you’ve overcome.  Success may only be one more step.

48.  Dismiss Critics
Ronald Reagan never lacked critics, yet never seemed very troubled by them.  Reagan biographer Dinesh D’Souza described a time while Reagan was serving as governor of California where a newspaper columnist was particularly harsh.  Reagan’s aides needed to review the column as part of their daily briefing, but were hesitant.  The critic was nasty.  How would the governor react?

Reagan’s response was to ask, “Yeah, what’s *his* problem?”

Reagan shrugged it off.  Sure in his own path and approach, he didn’t let the criticism bother him.  Instead, he turned it around.  He wondered what was wrong with the critic.

Once, someone got so upset by a column I wrote that they took out a full page ad in a trade magazine criticizing me and what I wrote.  At first, it bothered me.  I guess I’m no Reagan.  My view changed when industry consultant Charlie Greer, reacted more Reagan like. 

“I’m insulted,” said Charlie.  “That they’ve never wasted money on a full page ad attacking me.”

Charlie pointed out that I was being criticized for being on target.  I should be honored that someone felt threatened enough by something I wrote to spend thousands of dollars in an attempt to refute it.  In truth, they spent the money because they were worried.  They were worried what people who read the piece might think (I can see why they might worry in hindsight, though ironically, I wasn’t even thinking of them when I wrote the column).

Charlie was right.  They have the problem, not me.  I’ve thought about framing the original column and ad side-by-side as a reminder.  Take a detached view.  Thoughtfully consider what a critic has to say.  And if the critic’s the one with the problem, dismiss him.

49. Seek Inspiration
Positive people are inspired.  They’re inspired by a compelling vision.  They’re inspired by others.  They’re inspired to look forward and look upward.

Sometimes inspiration finds you.  Your subconscious mind synthesizes random bits of data below the surface.  One day, the compelling idea takes shape and takes hold.  You cannot help but pursue it. 

Sometimes inspiration comes in the form of a person.  You read about or meet someone who inspires you. 

Inspiration cannot be commanded.  It can be sought.  It can be sought in the stories you read, the television you watch, the speeches you hear, and the places you place yourself.  Seek better mental nutrition.  Choose with care what you feed your mind.

Feed your mind inspirational material and your subconscious will synthesize the input, leading to new ideas, a new focus, an attitude of gratefulness, and an overall forward vision.

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2006 Matt Michel

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