by Lucy Freedman
I am practicing the skill of shifting from negative
to positive. After decades of learning models and participating
in learning groups that offered the secrets of shifting from negative
to positive, I am still a beginner. My inquiry: what gets me to
WANT to shift from anger and fear to joy and learning? What choice
do I have and what gets me to make it? I think I should be doing
better at this after all these years of learning, and yet it is
a continuing inquiry.
I believe we share the knowledge that life on the positive side
is much more worth living than life in struggle. Today started
off wonderfully. The sun was out, I had a great walk to the redwood
grove near my house, I had time to myself and time to get some
overdue tasks done. I felt grateful to live in a beautiful setting,
to have wonderful work, to have loving friends and enjoyable adventures
traveling in the world. Life was good.
Then my friend called and canceled plans to go to the movies.
My email system wouldn't send messages and I had to re-send some
at least ten times. A business associate complained that he didn't
feel sufficiently included in a recent meeting that I led. And
I started down the negative path.
In my moment of reflection, I realize my feelings are hurt. I
wonder if I should change my friends or my job. I can think of
no alternatives on the email situation: I am a disgruntled user;
all solutions seem to generate more hassle rather than less. How
can I resume my positive frame of mind about these situations?
I use some of the things I know: it helps to stop blaming factors
outside my control. It really does help to start thinking about
what I do want. And sure enough, it helps to acknowledge and express
my feelings about the friend canceling plans, the business associate's
complaint, and the email not working. Accepting the feelings allows
me to let them go more easily.
Perhaps I need to give up on the hope (or expectation) that someday
I will not have these moments on the downhill slope. Stop the
self-criticism for sliding downhill.
This transition must take place many times for
each of us in the course of a week. Someone said that our daily
work is to transform grief into joy. I believe it is so.
At work, we can help each other either take things more to the
negative, or shift to the positive. This is a choice each team
member has to make. In Peter Kline's Ten Steps to A Learning Organization,
Step One is to assess the current situation, to look at it as
honestly and objectively as possible. Step Two is to put a positive
spin on everything from then on - - not to ignore or discount,
but to frame it positively. Of course, central to Syntax is the
positive spin: what you do want rather than what you don't want
-- aim, not blame. "Putting a positive spin" on things,
or "shifting from blame to aim," are verb phrases: they
are things we can do.
Shifting our language this way allows us to influence our reality
and our mood, and opens new possibilities for satisfying results.
So even while I express negative feelings, I want to frame them
within a desired outcome. Making this shift is often a challenge
because of the strong pull of "authentic" negative feelings.
"Ain't it awful?" is a socially reinforced pastime.
Little by little, though, by speaking about what I do want, I
seem to get more of what I want. Others say it's true for them
too, and reminding each other helps. As Peter Kline pointed out,
putting a positive spin on things helps the negative to be addressed
more effectively. I know I believe in this; making it real may
be the biggest challenge, no matter what the issue. How positive
can I feel about the frustrating email situation? That's a personal
Today I heard a wonderful speaker talk about being on the spiritual
path. She suggested that we be aware of what we respond to in
life, either because of strong attraction or because of strong
repulsion. Either one is a clue about what we are here to do.
Our strongest responses help us recognize what we care about the
most. When I feel that I'm doing what I'm here to do, I am motivated
to put a positive spin on things. Even on the "negative"
feelings. Whether I find a higher spiritual purpose, or just want
to be part of an effective, creative organization, having a reason
to shift to the positive is helpful. Evidence that people work
better in a positive frame makes this shift practical.
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