Ever had to follow a sibling into the bathtub, after they’ve gotten out but without the water being drained and refilled? Sinking down into the dirty water, as the floaties and the muck left behind stick to your skin – and what’s the film on top of the water anyway? No fun is it? And you not only don’t feel cleaner when you come out but sometimes you feel even dirtier.
Unfortunately, we do this with our own lives sometimes. We allow ourselves to sit in the muck of our old bathwater and expect things to change. You need to drain that sludge and fill it with fresh water.
“Your life today is the result of all your previous thinking and could not be other than it is,” say Tracy and Stein in Kiss That Frog: 12 Great Ways to Turn Negatives into Positives in Your Life and Work.
Just as a farmer will sow what he reaps, we will also reap the thoughts we have. Whatever situation we are in today is the result of our thoughts in the past (Tracy & Stein 58). Those thoughts influenced our actions and out attitudes about things. You may be saying, “but I didn’t choose the circumstances that occurred,” and you may be right. But, you can choose your response to those circumstances. Here’s a good example: remember when I asked how often being angry got you the outcome you desired AND still preserved the relationship? At some point a situation was set before you and you had the choice in how to respond – if you chose anger you probably did so as a result of a general thought pattern of negativity and unhappiness.
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are──or, as we are conditioned to see it,” Dr. Stephen Covey
But you can change your course. Its not to late. By the Law of Habit, whatever you repeat over and over eventually becomes a new habit (Tracy & Stein 58-59). There truly is power in affirmations. And anyone that says there it not, usually is someone that is a master at negative affirmations. It’s so ironical to hear someone tell me that they don’t believe in affirmations nor the ability of affirmations to change ones circumstances, then hear them repeat negative affirmations as they walk away. These folks are unhappy and angry because they tell themselves to be so, all day long.
Now, here’s where I’m going to disagree with Tracy and Stein a bit. They say you should state affirmations as if they are already achieved such as: “I weight X pounds,” or “I earn X dollars.” Unfortunately, when some of us say those things, we eat and spend like those are true statements. Pretty soon I weigh XXX and I owe a whole lot more X’s.” I think phrasing affirmations with a statement in the present tense, that is still personal to you, and in the positive sense, as Tracy and Stein promote (60), can still be achieved by some slight changes to the phrasing. Try an affirmation like: “I am healthy and I make healthy eating choices,” or “I am a good steward of my money and I manage it well.”
I think these phrases help you build a strategy and a set of habits that move you to your outcomes, rather than just saying that it’s already true – your scale, your bank and your subconscious can tell the different between BS and Being Real.
I do agree that visualization is a key technique in getting what you want. While I haven’t always written down goals with a plan for their achievement, I’ve often visualized, in great vividness, intensity, duration and frequency (Tracy & Stein 61). My elementary teachers just called it day dreaming, but the difference is that at some point I took action on these daydreams and realized that whatever you give action too builds momentum in that direction. And the wonderful part of momentum is that it follows Newtons First Law of Motion – An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. (That object at rest concept seems to happen every time I sit down in front of the TV.)
Tracy & Stein do provide a great way to prepare for an upcoming event. They use the example of someone giving a presentation the next morning. In my world, usually I will get a former student calling me the day before the biggest interview of their lives for a few last minute words of wisdom (is there an emoticon for WTF-really-you-waited-until-NOW?). But I digress. They call it the rapid preprogramming technique and follows four steps: verbalize, visualize, emotionalize and realize (Tracy and Stein 62).
1. Verbalize: think about what you want and create a command about how you want yourself to be in that moment (Tracy & Stein 62). Again, I avoid the “I am calm, positive, etc,” and go for something that I can control, which is “take a deep breath, think about my trigger words to get me going – my Newton push – let’s call it, smile and go.” However, for some people telling yourself how to behave does work – just experiment with both and decide what works best for you.
2. Visualize: create a clear picture of yourself behaving how you want to behave (Tracy & Stein 62).
3. Emotionalize: get the feeling you would have if you were experiencing the situation in the way you want it (Tracy & Stein 62). I will admit, in some cases I can create a stronger emotion, a happier emotion, by thinking about something I’ll be doing after the presentation or whatever it is.
4. Realize: turn the even to over to your subconscious mind. While I may answer the same interview question the same way, it’s never exactly the same way. Same goes for when I present – I hit my same key points, but I do them in slightly different ways. Hey, we all loved C-3PO, but no one wants to talk to a robot all day long – it gets annoying, I know, I’ve worked with plenty of them. So, don’t script out everything you’re going to say – it sounds too rehearsed and unnatural.
Finally, the best thing you can do is to prepare before the event is to do a mental rehearsal the night before, just before falling asleep and then again first thing in the morning. This is when your subconscious is most receptive to thoughts and ideas (Tracy & Stein 63).
Our negative thoughts create our “bath water.” They pollute it and leave behind a nasty residual film over the top of our attitude and emotional, mental and spiritual health. As long as we continue to bath in our negativity, it feeds on itself, causing us to be even more negative, which in turn pollutes the water more – the cycle goes on until you decide to empty the bath water and replace it with positive thoughts and positive action.
What are the thoughts you say to yourself all day long? Take a day and journal a few out – particularly the ones that occur when you’re experiencing feelings of frustration, anger, jealously or discontent. These are your affirmations – congratulations, you’ve identified some nasty frogs in your life. Now, write down (yes, actually write these down) what you can say to yourself during those same times that is positive. Keep it with you for a few weeks and when you find yourself in that situation, say your new phrase. If you screw up and say the old phrase, catch yourself, shake your head and laugh at yourself, then say your new phrase. This helps break the pattern and builds the new habit.
Tracy, Brian, and Christina Tracy. Stein. Kiss That Frog: 12 Great Ways to Turn Negatives into Positives in Your Life and Work. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2012. Printby