What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see these statements?
- The dog ran away.
- We didn’t get the Smith contract.
- Our star salesperson just gave notice.
- It may rain and keep us from teeing off at 4:00.
- Your daughter just wrecked the car.
Your initial reaction to each of this less-than-stellar-pieces-of-news is your default thoughts. As humans, it’s natural for us to have an emotional response to many of the things we hear throughout the day. There may be moments of displeasure, irritation, dread, fear and even panic. We also have emotional responses to the positive things we are told or read. Many people experience highs and lows each day in this regard. And yet, it takes considerable energy to swing from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could re-pattern our default thinking on the downside? Well, we can but there are a couple of requisites. First, we must truly desire to change our default thinking, for without a compelling reason we’ll fall back into the default mode in short order. Second, we must be willing to take the steps necessary to make this change.
For me, the desire to change my default thinking centered on my understanding of positive and negative energy flows. I’ve written many times about the fact that negative energy creates a blockage for creativity and our ability to solve problems. Also, negative energy just plain doesn’t feel good. It’s kind of like burning the roof of my mouth on a piece of hot food – the sensation isn’t very pleasant. I realized that metaphorically burning the roof of my mouth several times each day just didn’t make any sense.
This led me to accept that I needed to take actionable steps to effect change. What worked for me was to intentionally spend a day taking inventory of the various negative reactions that I held. I wrote them down for further analysis at the end of the day. I didn’t try to change any of my thoughts during that day – I simply tried to be as normal with my thought process as possible. Upon review, I was able to see thought patterns emerging and could then identify alternative reactions for the future when faced with similar challenges.
I’m at the point now where I may still have a fleeting burst of negativity when I encounter a situation that’s not favorable. But I quickly recognize it and replace it with a much more positive reaction. For example, suppose I learned that a particular investor I was counting on had decided not to invest in one of our deals. The initial quick reaction might be, “Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming. We’re now under the gun to find the money.” This might be accompanied by a surge of adrenaline. But literally within seconds, I’m able to shift my thinking to, “But it’s OK because I have three other investors who have said they want to be in our deals. I know I’ll get one of them to sign on.” And a feeling of calm occurs at that point.
Quickly shifting out of default thinking in negative situations puts us on the road to solving problems and avoiding the emotional lows that we may experience. There is no question that our lives are richer and fuller when we maintain positive thoughts.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.