While enjoying dinner at my favorite Italian neighborhood restaurant, I saw a local business owner I have known for years. I ask “How’s business?” His response was “Terrible”.
“Well it certainly is challenging,” I replied.
We chatted a bit about it. My attempt with each response was to end on a positive optimistic note. “Well, perhaps what will come out of it will be some new business models, new ways of relating to customers, some new understanding of how we are all connected…”
And back he would go to how bad it is. He can’t stop watching the news. He reads the two local newspapers, his home town newspaper (Detroit, no less) and spends the day going back and forth between CNN and MSNBC.
“I have to stay informed.”
“Informed, yes. Saturated, polluted, NO. Don’t you know that watching the news can lower your immune system? Watch it once a day, certainly, it is important to know what’s going on – but to do what you are doing is making yourself sick. You’re anxious and stressed.”
“Everybody is,” he replied.
“Not like you are,” I offered.” And so once again (I must do this ten times a week, am I weird?) I explained the “fight or flight response” and how fear shuts down the creative part of the brain and leaves up operating with our reptilian hardware – the primitive brain. It’s not like we are going to find our way out of this mess by terrorizing ourselves.
Of course everyone is scared. But those of us with the presence of mind to look the fear square in the face will have the insight to know how to combat the fear. The first step is to go to gratitude. Take your focus off of what you don’t have or can’t get and focus on what you do have and can give. Savor it – whatever it is. Get good at paying attention to what is good. Get even better at it by asking what is good about what is bad?
Optimists live 7 – 9 years longer than pessimists.
I have two granddaughters I’d like to see grow up, so I’m going to turn off the TV before I know every facet of the bad news. I’m going to get my body out to connect with nature more often. When I find myself in fear I am going to think a thought that makes me feel better until I do. I’m going to be sure I get at least 30 minutes exercise three times a week, or MORE (any less is like taking an depressive pill according to Tal Ben Shaher who teaches positive psychology and leadership at Harvard.
And I am going to listen carefully for places I can offer a positive point of view. It is realistic to think that even though we are presented with circumstances that appear negative they could, in some way, at some time prove to be positive in the overall direction of our now global village.
Everybody knows you get what you focus on. If we are all focusing on the bad stuff we’ll get it for sure. If we begin focusing on creative solutions perhaps we’ll see some new possibilities emerge.