Chris was musing on the up-and-coming Positive Thinking Day and what that means to him.
For me, it’s a reminder of how having a positive mindset is so powerful. It’s about looking at the glass half full as opposed to half empty. I’m a massive believer that the brain is a great problem-solving tool, but it’s not a place to live constantly.
There’s a moment at which we realise that not every problem needs solving. Having a Positive Thinking Day for me is a reminder to stop and think that I don’t need to solve all the problems. I don’t need to look at the glass half empty all the time. There’s an opportunity to look at it half full.
My positive thinking starts with gratitude. Whenever I realise I’m in a negative mindset, I think about all the things I’m grateful for and I start to build a stack of them. I always start as small as possible… For example, starting small, I’ve taken three breaths while writing this and I’m grateful to be alive. I then build from there.
My positive thinking also encompasses positive self-talk. Not just talking to myself, but saying it out loud, so the subconscious brain can hear it as well. Being aware of the words that I say can be truly important for me. Whenever I’m in a positive mindset, it’s because I’ve started the day strong.
With my sports background, it made me constantly aware of what I needed in order to perform at my best and when I came into business, it was all about go, go, go. There was minimal prep work, whereas in sport it’s all about exploring how you will show up for the session before you turn up to the session. I remember when I was aged 12, chatting with a coach about rest and recovery. You work as hard at rest and recovery as you do at the physical stuff, such as swimming up and down the pool or hitting the gym. When we’re resting and recovering, we need to be mindful of the difference between rest and recovery and escapism. Don’t try to escape the life you’ve created. Imagine you built a career, that you didn’t feel the need to escape from on holiday. Instead, you were setting out on an adventure. I believe it’s not a play on words, it’s a subtle change in mindset. Knowing what you need in order to perform is part of a positive mindset.
To try and overcome negative thoughts, the first thing I do is air the thoughts and bring them out in the open. Have people that you trust around you that you can chat to, who don’t judge you, for a little bit of a gripe. Someone who’s prepared to give you a bit of a reality check. It’s OK to have negative thoughts. In fact, it’s perfectly natural, but once you’ve acknowledged them and they’re out in the open don’t dwell on them; don’t take yourself too seriously.
People often say to me, “Chris, you’re so positive all the time”. I disagree. I’m optimistic. The only constant in life is change. That’s what optimism is. It’s understanding that whatever you’re going through at this moment will change and morph. When you have an optimistic mindset you think, ‘I’ll just wake up tomorrow and have another go. I’ll deal with whatever comes my way’. It’s a massive step forward to think differently and shrug off the stuff that just doesn’t serve you anymore. Not taking yourself too seriously, is a crucial part of climbing out of a negative mindset and into a positive one.
Whatever I’m thinking I always pass through three filters: Is it helpful? Is it truthful? Is it useful? If not, then I dismiss it.
To summarise my top tips for creating and maintaining positive thinking:
• build a life, not a living. Ask yourself, ‘Am I going to work because I’m trying to make a living or am I excited to build a life?’ Don’t go to work for money. I go to work for choices and grow those choices and options
• spend time in silence. Just breathe in. It’s a reminder to the body that you’re safe and all is OK. When we’re busy working, I feel we don’t breathe properly. I sometimes catch myself breathing shallow and scrunching up my neck and shoulders. Then I just stop, pause, and enjoy that moment instead of thinking about the future and becoming overwhelmed by all the things I need to do
• be optimistic. I don’t think it’s doable or helpful to be positive all the time, but I do believe it’s doable, helpful and useful to be optimistic. We live in a world of change and contrast. When we fight against this natural order, that’s when we have problems. But when we go with the flow, we grow
• self-care. Listen intently to your body. We have a deep instinct that helps us look after ourselves. But I also believe we become arrogant – we know better and feel we should push on through. There’s a time and a place for that. But knowing the difference is vital
• be your own coach. What do you need in order to perform and feel at your best? On a daily basis when I wake up I ask myself, ‘How am I feeling today? Did I sleep well? What’s on my mind? Where does my attention go?’ Because that’s where my energy will flow to. I take the answers and grow from them for the rest of the day. When I’m at the end of a day, I often reflect and consider if I could have been a little gentler with myself. Did I need to be that exhausted? What’s happened to really drain my batteries? As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, do better”
What’s your thoughts on positive thinking?