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10 ways to be a more positive person (for your business, for you life)

When we are aware of our weaknesses or negative tendencies, we open the opportunity to work on them. – Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living

“Hi how are you? Are you doing anything nice for the holidays?”

“Oh yes we’re going on holiday. But I just know I’m going to get sick before we go and the whole thing will be ruined!”

This is a conversation I overheard while in line at the grocery store. I thought: wow that lady has a lot of faith!

Did you know that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith? Doubt is an element of faith. To me, this means that doubt is faith. Faith that things won’t go well for you.

The power of positive thinking is found all throughout history and is a trait seen in the most powerful business and government leadership in the world today. Listen to any inspiring keynote speech or state of the union address and a prevailing theme will be positivity. Not dwelling on the negative, but pushing forward to the positive. Jesus himself was extremely positive, even right until his execution.

In my CHIC Magazine article “100%: How to Nail a Bridal Consultation Every Time” I wrote, “It’s very important at this point that, no matter how cheesy you think it is, you begin an inner dialogue and you carry it out throughout your meeting. I tell myself the things I need to hear to stay confident about the meeting. And I visualize it going amazingly. By the time I get there, I’m usually bouncy and beaming because the whole meeting has just gone amazingly in my head.”

This is exactly what I mean when I say “the power of positive thinking”. No matter who you are, where you live, what kind of childhood you had or what your disposition is, if you have air in your lungs, you are living in faith. Faith for bad or faith for good. Even if you’re in doubt, remember that’s faith.

If you want your photography, your life, your business to succeed and leave people feeling better than before they met you, then you absolutely MUST become positive. And if you’re already a positive person, become more positive.

It’s all fine and dandy for me to be able to sit here in my bubble where nothing goes wrong and tell you that you, too, can live a positive life. So let me tell you some of the things that try to get me down:

  • I live in England and my entire family lives in the USA. I have no mom here. No sister. No family of my own to lean on other than the family I’ve made with my husband.
  • I work for myself. It’s hard work and a lot of pressure.
  • My daughter is severely disabled with a life limiting disease.

I’m sure there’s more, but you get the picture. With any one of those things, I could dwell. I could play the victim. I could be all like “ooh poor me whaa whaa whaa.” But even with those things, there’s positivity to be found! Yes, even those. Let me show you:

  • I live in England and my family live in the USA. We get to go back to Florida whenever we can and always have a place to stay. Can you say cheap vacay? This also makes our little family unit much tighter than we may have otherwise become. And living in England also means all our healthcare is provided. Yayy!
  • I work for myself. I get to be flexible and spend more time with my family. I get to do things my way. I get to fail and no one tells me off for it (a very powerful way to learn about business).
  • My daughter is severely disabled. This is a very hard one to be positive about. Until Grace was born, I never contemplated life with disability. No one in my family is disabled. Dare I even say that before Grace, I ignored disability all together and thought ‘lucky me I don’t have to deal with that stuff’. Grace’s brothers will become amazing, caring, sensitive and devoted men and I owe that largely to Grace. Grace has taught us the power of the little things. How to value our voice and use it wisely. And how to fight for those we love.
Am I Negative?

Most people wouldn’t admit that they’re negative. I talk about the power of positivity a lot and some of the most negative people I’ve known claim to be positive. It’s a bit of a conundrum, though, because actually, that in itself is positive! Either that or it’s delusional. Here are some boxes to tick to help you find if you’re -unbeknownst to you- a negative person:

Your immediate response is the reasons why you can’t. Example: I call my doctor’s office looking for someone in particular and the first response is “ooh I don’t know if I’ll be able to find her” or “oh I don’t think we’ll be able to do that.So negative! When your customers/clients ask you a question you can’t answer, don’t lead with a “I don’t know if I’ll be able to help you” attitude. Say yes and then figure it out. Or say “sure, let me check!” I put this sort of person in the same category as a shop assistant who, rather than leading you to a product, just says “I don’t know.”

Your first thoughts of the day. Your first thoughts upon waking can be very telling about your character or disposition.

Are you easily offended? Having a “thin skin”?

Can’t take a compliment? Women are particularly good at throwing back a compliment. “You look great” can often be met with comments such as “oh I’ve had this dress for years. It’s so old.” “Oh but I’m tired” and so on. Negative people can’t take a compliment without throwing in a negative qualifying statement to soothe the discomfort of being complimented with glowing positivity.

There are many ways to identify a negative person, even if it’s you. This post from Psychology Today has a helpful list.

Becoming Positive

Ok. So. I hate reading posts like this that just tell you to do or be something without any practical applications for how you can get yourself on that path. Can you say useless? Before I give you some practical tips, a few truths worth mentioning:

It’s only natural to be negative. We humans are actually hard-wired for negativity. Did you know that? This post from Jeff Haden so excellently explains it for us: “Negative stimuli produce more neural (brain) activity than positive stimuli. Negative events are also quickly stored in your long-term memory while you need to actively think about positive events for twelve seconds or more in order for them to be transferred to your long-term memory.” There you have it – we’re genetically predisposed to negativity! And why wouldn’t we be? Fear, doubt…these things drive our quest for protection. They’re primal instincts. But let’s face it you’re not being chased by a saber tooth tiger, are you? Is your cave dwelling at risk? We need to evolve our emotions to match up with the current state of the world and the fact that we are actually not in that much danger at all.

Negativity and negative reactions are instinctive. They’re not usually conscious decisions. But because negativity can come so naturally, we tend to think it’s normal.

Almost all negativity has its roots in one of three deep-seated fears: the fear of being disrespected by others, the fear of not being loved by others, and the fear that bad things are going to happen. These fears feed off each other to fuel the belief that the world is a dangerous place and people are generally mean. –Psychology Today

In light of this, though, you need to know that you can change yourself, no matter how predisposed you are to negativity. You have the power to change no matter how old you are or how long you’ve been living negatively. But it’ll take work. Do it for the sake of your future and those around you. And if you have children, you have the unique honor of getting to program them for either positivity or negativity.

“Positive thinking is usually wasted on the brain.” <— that’s a quote from Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring the Brain. In this interview, he talks more about the idea that positive thinking doesn’t actually change our brain’s proclivity to focus on the negativity. He says, “…positive thinking by definition is conceptual and generally verbal. And most conceptual or verbal material doesn’t have a lot of impact on how we actually feel or function over the course of the day. I know a lot of people who have this kind of positive, look on the bright side yappity yap, but deep down they’re very frightened, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, or lonely. It hasn’t sunk in. Think of all the people who tell you why the world is a good place, but they’re still jerks.” He goes on to say, “We might be having one passing, normal, everyday positive experience after another: getting something done, look outside and flowers are blooming, children are laughing, chocolate tastes great, but these experiences are not transferring to storage or leading to any lasting value.” So what now? If just thinking about good stuff doesn’t do squat for our brains, what are we to do? He says the answer is activation and installation of these positive experiences into our brains, “How do people grow psychologically? The research on that shows that it’s a two-stage process of activation and installation.” And, although I haven’t read his book yet, I think that’s exactly what it’s about.

Ways to turn it around

These are 10 ways that I personally strive to be a more positive person:

  1. Repeat this mantra with me: “the only person I can control is myself.” We fall on the crutch of control to prevent others from hurting us. This negative world view that the world is a dangerous place and people are generally mean” causes us to want to control people and situations for our advantage. Let go. People will do what they do. Live positively with the understanding that you are the only person you can actually control (on a good day!)
  2. Pause. A few extra moments to gain some perspective before responding (even if you’re in person) won’t go amiss if the result is that you were able to respond positively. This is why sleeping on it works. Time and space from a situation gives you the opportunity to gain perspective which makes all the difference.
  3. Turn off negativity. Facebook has been great for pushing people’s negativity, not only into the universe, but directly into your home. Many of us (confession time!) wake up with our iPhones and catch up on the latest before our feet even hit the floor. I hide people from my newsfeed who are constantly putting out negativity. Moan, moan, moan. Those people are gone. You don’t have to unfriend them and they won’t even know you’ve hidden them. Just hover over the “following” button on their profile and deselect. On the flip-side, make sure that you follow some positive pages and blogs that can light up your day.
  4. Stop watching the news. ‘Nuff said.
  5. Smile more. Did you know that the physical act of smiling, even if it’s fake, can trick your brain into thinking that you’re happy?
  6. Lead conversations with do’s and not don’ts. For example, with children it’s helpful to, instead of telling them what you don’t want them to be doing, to tell them what you do want them to do. For example, saying “please walk” instead of “don’t run”. In the photography business world, this could take the form of sending you client a lovely list of things to wear to their session rather than leading with a list of things not to wear. Remind clients to “please do be on time” rather than language like “don’t be late.” This subtle positivity will prime your relationships to be more happy and productive and it always assumes the best. This post from the NYTimes says it so well: “There’s a trove of research suggesting that it’s best to tackle negative behaviors obliquely, by redirecting attention toward different, positive ones.”
  7. Start a positivity journal. Just a little journal by the side of your bed so you can end the day by writing the best thing that happened to you that day. This plays on the 12-second rule mentioned at the top of this post. It takes 12 seconds of dwelling on a positive for it to get slotted into your long term memory. So end the day this way!
  8. Another version of that idea is a game we call “bad thing, good thing”. At the dinner table every night, the Halfords take a turn to say one bad thing and one good thing that happened to them that day. It gets the bad thing off our chest and the good things to give us perspective.
  9. Say yes. Don’t answer questions with “I don’t know” or “ooh not sure I can do that.” I either say yes and figure it out or say “let me find an answer for you.” This goes a long way in business. Example: I get requests for newborn sessions, but I don’t do them. Rather than ignore the email (just plain rude!) or reply “sorry I don’t do them” I thank them for their inquiry and direct them to another photographer. In the case of newborns, I don’t know any locally so I direct them to the BANP website so they can do a search in their area. It only takes a moment, but you never know when they may come back to you because they remembered you as ‘the helpful one’.
  10. Breathe. Deep breathing activates the vagus nerve which sends messages to your brain that everything’s a-okay. We’re often encouraged to do this in the face of acute anxiety, stress, anger or negativity, but I incorporate deep breathing into my everyday life for an overall sense of wellbeing at all times. This means that when something potentially negative comes my way, I’m already in a better state of mind to deal with it. For the first few days, breathing deep takes conscious effort, but you will eventually turn that into a habit and do it subconsciously.
You can do it!

There’s overwhelming proof that people can change themselves but it takes work. Being happy and positive takes work. The happiest people I know are busy, full of gusto, loving life, grabbing it by the horns. The saddest, most negative people are pretty much sitting around and if they are busy, it’s more likely to be with little mundane things they do to busy themselves rather than actually working. So set yourself a challenge today to identify negativity and install some positive practices into your life. Your business, your family, yourself will thank you!

further reading

Why people remember negative events more than positive ones – NYTimes

How people change – NYTimes

5 ways your brain is tricking you into being miserable – cracked.com

How to build a happier brain

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