It’s hot out there.
Of course it is. It’s summer. In Florida.
I just got in from a hot fast walk. I don’t usually walk that fast unless I’m trying to outrun a feeling I don’t know how to deal with, or need to shake an answer out of myself.
This time it was both.
What happened? I was feeling pretty good this morning, but then…
I started feeling agitated, upset and (sorry, no other way to phrase this) pissed off. I felt dissatisfaction seep through me and threaten to steal my otherwise productive day. I realized I’d tripped somewhere and fallen into a negative spiral.
Negative spirals are caused when you narrow your mind – usually in response to fear, unworthiness or anger and then you tell yourself stories which take you further and further down into what I call “the rabbit hole”.
How did I get here? It had been a most creative and productive morning.
So what triggered this?
While taking a breather from work on my new E-Course –The Practice of Positive Leadership – I decided to go on Facebook to see what was happening.
I saw colleagues at an important conference that I had chosen not to attend (for very substantial and important reasons.) I saw friends lunching at beachside restaurants and having drinks with colorful umbrellas (I hadn’t been invited.) I saw my grandkids playing at the beach (on the other side of the continent.) I saw friends having good times all over the country (having real summer vacations.) And me, I was stuck here working. Oh woe is me.
“Oh woe is me” can quickly spiral down to convince you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, thin enough, popular enough or rich enough. It takes your attention and focuses it on all that is wrong, bad and dangerous. Uh-oh.
A downward negative spiral throws you into the kind of rumination that turns on your panic button and turns off your immune system along with the creative part of your brain.
My regular practices of positivity usually keep me out of “the rabbit hole” but the “upward comparison” I’d allowed myself to be part of during my Facebook journey brought up all the demons of the deep in my psyche.
Yikes! I can’t have that. How can I be teaching people to outsmart their happiness set-points, when I’d just allowed mine fall into a hole? I need all my creativity and intuition accessible to me. I’m writing a program that will change people’s lives and the lives of those in their communities. I only want to bring my “A” game.
And so I walked. Fast fast fast, until the endorphins kicked in and I could feel the intensity of the emotion begin to subside. As it did I faced the truth about how I got here. Comparing myself to others instead of staying connected to my own truth and my own purpose is a surefire prescription for misery and unhappiness.
As I slowed my pace I began to notice the beautiful brightness of the day, the brilliance of the flowers, and a tiny little green sprout coming up through a crack in the sidewalk.
I stopped for a minute, or maybe more, and let all of my attention rest on that small courageous plant, thinking of what I had just recently written about the Heliotropic Effect – the tendency of all living systems to grow or turn toward something that is life-giving.
I put my hand on my heart, took several deep breaths, looked back up to the brilliance of the day and thought to myself – look for the kind, the true and the beautiful. Feel gratitude deeply. Trust. Smile.
When you savor and deepen your positive emotions, when you share them with others, when you feel connected, your positivity “spirals up” and in its upward movement fills you with the beginnings of hope, optimism, enthusiasm, passion and joy.
When positivity grows it fills you. Energy builds on itself and there is uplift. Upward spirals lift and elevate you creating positive experiences for you and anyone in your vicinity.
By using the power of your attention – and your intention – you, like I, can loosen the force and the grip of the negative spiral, flip it over and turn it into an upward spiral.
If there was ever a helpful leadership skill, it’s this one.
It turns out the whole human system works better when it’s under the influence of positive emotions and the biochemicals and physiological states that result.
One of my teachers, Barbara Fredrickson, coined the term “Broaden and Build Response” to describe what happens as the body and brain are experiencing positivity. She says that “positivity opens us.” It broadens our mindsets and even widens our field of vision.
The next time you start telling the kind of story that’s going to land you in the rabbit hole of negativity, remember, people rarely go into a negative spiral without their imagination fueling the trip.
Be mindful of the instructions you are giving your brain. Watch your story.
Positive leaders pay attention.
Enjoy the day,