Mindset is a huge topic since it impacts everything you do. And, it’s fascinating stuff. I was hugely fortunate to grow up with a father who was bent on teaching his kids, and later his grandkids, about his life philosophy of PMA, or Positive Mental Attitude.
Growing up it sometimes frustrated me – you know the way you think you know everything as a kid, and the older you get, the more you realize how open to question so many things really are? Well, I was sure it was made up stuff. Platitudes. Bordering on phony. It sometimes seemed shallow to me. Sure – it’s easy to be positive and upbeat when everything is going well, but what about when it isn’t? Did the concept have any teeth?
My dad proved to me over and over again that he really practiced what he preached, he was a genuinely happy person who had plenty of challenges, but really did always look on the sunny side of life. The concept definitely had teeth, big sharp pointy ones! In later years, I saw him use his positive mental attitude to overcome business adversity and deal with cancer, which he overcame completely.
What he said at the time of the cancer diagnosis was: you know, I’ve lived a great life, I’m getting great medical care, and if they can help me they will, and if they can’t I’ll do everything I can do to enjoy what I’ve got right now. He never complained and he really loved people and enjoyed life. I’ll write more about him in another article – he’s a pretty interesting topic all on his own. But the early life lessons have a way of catching up with you when you need them.
I had some bad news yesterday, when I found out my dearly beloved 7 year old standard poodle may be experiencing liver failure. I’m pretty unglued about it and I too believe in the power of positive thinking. When I was talking to myself yesterday, trying to adjust my thinking, another thing my dad used to say came to mind: if you can do something about it, why worry? If you can’t do anything about it, why worry? Sounds cliche, but you know, worrying really doesn’t help any situation.
For some people worry is a habit. Did you ever think about the expression – let’s worry about that later? Or, let’s worry about that tomorrow. Why? Why plan to worry? Why worry at all. How about: let’s solve that tomorrow? Or, let’s sleep on it and see what best solution turns up?
I don’t want to play out every bad scene in my head, even as my mind starts to go there, I pull back. How about playing out all the great (or even better) possibilities instead? My friend Lisa emailed me today about her dog being in this same state once and getting the same treatment my dog is getting and her dog was, as she said “right as rain” after the treatment. With any luck, I’ll have the same happy story to tell about Taz.
Meantime, what fascinates me about it all is the choice. You can choose what to think about. And the mind is incredibly powerful, it affects so many things, that choice – your outlook, the quality of your life, your health. Again, not to be trite about it, because saying it is one thing, mastering it another.
I remember back to one of the first in-depth personal development courses I took almost 20 years ago. It was a 30 day audio series, with exercises and ‘homework’ – it was a bit hard to get underway, procrastination seemed easier than just doing it, but once I did, I ate it up with a spoon. I LOVED it. It did change my life, because it set me on a life-long quest to improve the quality of my life. So much of that has to do with mastering your mind and your thoughts.
There’s a great story I heard in a seminar I attended a few years back. A woman was recounting how she went to the grocery store on her way home from work. She was tired and the store was crowded as it often is at that hour. Crowded with other tired, busy people in a hurry. She was waiting to pay for her groceries and the the cashier was rude and impatient with the person in the line in front of her. She rang up a few prices incorrectly and when it was brought to her attention, she was pretty snappish about it.
When Mary’s turn came, same rude treatment – the cashier rung up some purchases incorrectly and was not pleasant when Mary brought it to her attention. The ‘bag boy’ helped her out to the car with her groceries, and just by way of making conversation Mary said to him – “boy that checker was rude – maybe she should have a job where she doesn’t come in contact with the public”.
“Oh”, the bag boy said, “her little boy was hit by a car on his bicycle yesterday, – he’s in the hospital, she has no health insurance, and she can’t afford to take the day off to be with him. She’s worried sick, she’s actually a really nice person.”
It changed Mary’s attitude totally. Suddenly she was overwhelmed with compassion for the cashier. She went from feeling annoyed to feeling flooded by emotion – thoughts of her own kids, sad that life is so hard for some people, wondering what she could do to help.
The interesting teaching though, that came out of this experience was how her whole frame of mind shifted immediately upon understanding the situation. She felt differently in every way. Just because she was thinking differently about what had just happened. A little information changed everything. And, most often in situations dealing with other people we don’t know the whole story. Even when we think we do.
So, she reasoned, thinking differently made her feel differently, changed the whole situation entirely. What if you did that more often? What if, when you get annoyed at someone, or frustrated or impatient, you knew the back story? Sometimes it wouldn’t matter, some people you just don’t want to be around or know.
But, it’s not about them, it’s about you. What are you experiencing? How do you feel? How would you rather feel? Is it a choice? If so, how do you get there? These are all really interesting questions. I used to get really angry at people that annoyed me – I could start a whole long story in my head and get pretty worked up about it. Now, when I don’t like someone, or I think they’re acting like a jerk, I think about how unhappy they must be to behave like that, I’m grateful I’m not like that, or don’t have to be around them or live with them – I wish them well and move on. In doing so, the quality of my life improves, because after all, our lives are a collection of moments strung together – so the quality of all those moments is really the sum of our lives, and I’m aiming for the best quality I can get, as often as I can get it. It’s a mental game, and it’s work, but I love that it gets better over time. And easier.
I think that building a business is largely a mental game. In fact, I’ve been in business for myself for 23 years and probably the most important piece of wisdom I’ve gained is: your success will be directly proportionate to your ability to handle adversity. I’ve seen two people in the same situations, dealing with the same difficulties (I’ve even been one of them occasionally) and they handle it completely differently.
Some people really dig their teeth into a problem, almost like it’s something delicious to them, they talk about it, they make it worse, they want everyone to know how bad it is. They need all kinds of people to help them solve it. Someone else facing the same circumstances says – OK, how can I solve this? They tackle it, get it done and move on, it isn’t a big deal simply because they decided it wasn’t.
There’s that quote that often gets attributed to Henry Ford: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. Sort of like that. If you want it to be a huge big deal, it can be. If you see it as a small obstacle, that’s what it is and so what?
One thing to think about when you find yourself getting angry or frustrated or even feeling insecure or not good enough is what would it look like or sound like if you thought the exact opposite? It may seem stupid at first, but it’s good perspective on what would change if you thought about something another way. And, if it puts things in perspective and makes you start to realize you’ve got a choice, it can only be a good thing. As we like to say around here: would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?
I’ll leave you with that to contemplate.