We humans move frictionless throughout our lives– economical of our energy as we enrich others, right?
Not exactly. It would be great if we would only spread goodness and light to others, but too often we waste limited energy collecting and disseminating grievances.
In a recent British study of more than 2,000 individuals, psychologists found that the average Brit spends 1 hour and 19 minutes each day: (1) angry, (2) in a foul mood, and/or (3) complaining. Over a lifetime, that equates to 3½ years! And according to researchers, Americans are equally foul-mooded as our kin across the pond.
This negativity costs us. Another study found that fatigue enters along with negative thoughts. I call this emotional insomnia, a state of perpetual exhaustion from dwelling on the negative. Do you know someone who gets so worked up by normal events that she can’t get meaningful rest, regardless of how long she sleeps? Or someone who is ready to snap, his spirits stuck in a cynical swamp?
Back to the study: what causes such foul moods? The study mentioned problems with work, money, and family; but ironically, none of these factors made the top 10 most negative list.
So the top 10 list must contain BIGGER issues like global warming, global economic doom, or the threat of global thermonuclear war, right?
Nope. Think smaller. MUCH SMALLER. What researchers found that accounted for nearly 3½ wasted years were things like—
- Receiving poor customer service…
- Having a neighbor’s dog make a “deposit” in our yards…
- Watching inappropriate public displays of affection…
Laugh if you will (I did!), but that’s what the study found to be true. Even though we all possess a finite amount of energy, we often squander ours away worrying about whose dog did what in our yards! Instead of wasting years railing against stupid stuff, why not cultivate peace, happiness, and joy?
If small things upset us, it stands to reason (and research backs it up) that small things can also make us happy. We have the ability to master our energy. That means we have a choice! The question is, how do we get started in mastering our energy, or that of others, when it’s already stuck in the dumps? And how do we stay positive, regardless of impolite dogs and cashiers, or massive changes within our organizations?
Over the next week, I want you to practice this one principle. If you follow these steps, you will not only reduce your emotional fatigue, but you will also build your resilience. Here it is: PRIME YOUR POSITIVITY PUMP!
1. PRIME YOUR POSITIVE THOUGHTS. You can’t keep your eyes open while you sneeze. Also true but less well known is this: you can’t complain while expressing gratitude. So start your day by consciously thinking about happy things. Spend a few minutes (like while showering) meditating on what brings you joy. Think about some of the positive moments you anticipate for the day, which can be as small as savoring your morning coffee or queuing up your favorite song for your commute.
2. PRIME YOUR EYES TO SEE POSITIVE THINGS. Make a list of what brings you happiness. Post your list along with pictures. It might sound cheesy, but what holds your attention determines your actions. I have four pictures of my wife and children at my desk. Why? They “remind” me of the positives. Throughout each day, I look at those people for strength and joy. No problem seems so permanent when I’m surrounded with the things and people I love.
3. PRIME YOUR MOUTH TO EXPRESS POSITIVE WORDS. How do we break the cycle of complaining? If you stop complaining, you will create a vacuum. That vacuum is best filled with joy! Go back to your list, and try this: whenever you see or experience something on your list, pause. Acknowledge it. Then give it a real or metaphorical WHOO WHOO! My son literally screams when our football team scores a touchdown. And my 8-year-old daughter shrieks when she sees—or even smells—a horse! Get your mouth in gear to say, “I really love that….”
Look for opportunities to help others master their energy too by encouraging them to express their joy. Use phrases like, “That must make you very excited,” when you know someone just experienced a win. People love to show off those things that bring them joy, so set them up to do that. No mother in the history of mothers has ever refused to show off a picture of her kids, saying,
“You don’t want to see my kids. Even I find them rather unattractive….”
Finally, when you’re tempted to say something like DON’T GET ME STARTED, take that as a cue to—um, not get started. Then, think about something good, look for it until you find it, and shout out that you’re investing your energy instead of wasting it.