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Stop past events dictating your future

By 17th December 2023December 18th, 2023Blog, Sharing your big picture
Young Man looking over shoulder

In this blog Chris Carey, shares some observations that might stop past events in your life dictating your future.

In an earlier blog, ‘The critics choice’, I spoke of the potential power of positivity and discussed how, as intelligent human beings, we do not have to be slaves to the thoughts of our biggest critics, ourselves, and our ‘inner dialogue’.

But have you ever noticed how this usually hugely negative inner dialogue, or self-talk as it is sometimes known, is often triggered by past events, and seems to have direct access to our mouths?

No sooner have we had a negative and unhelpful thought, a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy of doom’, than our mouths open and something unhelpful pops out loud. Heck, now that negativity is in the public domain too where it has a chance to drag down those around us as well.

In his book Authentic Happiness, leading light of the positive psychology movement Martin Seligman puts forward that, in ‘bad’ situations, less positive people express their comments in permanent and universal terms, whereas positive people, Seligman suggests, see the exact same ‘bad’ situations in temporary and specific terms.

And yet with the speed and flexibility of a world-class gymnast, in a ‘good’ situation those of us who are less-than-positive can do a 180-degree turn. Such people see ‘good’ situations in temporary and specific terms. Meanwhile, positive people would tend to see the same ‘good’ situation in permanent and universal terms.

‘Bad’ situation examples

Less positive people see events in permanent and universal terms:* ‘Communication has totally broken down’* ‘The whole world is against me’Positive people see events in temporary and specific terms:* ‘You haven’t talked to me yet today’* ‘I’ve only had two negative comments from people’


‘Good’ situation examples

Less positive people see events in temporary and specific terms:* ‘My rival for the role must have been very tired on the day of the interview’* ‘I can do it, but only if certain things go my way.’Positive people see events in permanent and universal terms:* ‘I was clearly the best candidate for the role I was awarded’* ‘I can do it, I’m good at working all the angles.’

In a course we run on applying positive psychology in the workplace, we explore how this plays out in the lives of individual delegates. The wry smiles on participants’ faces speak volumes. We go on to discover together how each of us can most effectively take a positive view. We offer Taking a Positive View as an in-house workshop for individuals, teams and organisations.

The basic advice for taking a positive view is straightforward, even if embedding it in your daily interactions with yourself and others takes practice.

If you hear yourself having self-limiting thoughts, just notice you’re doing it and try to stop it, preferably before your mouth opens. As I’ve said many times, if you are able too, thank the negative thought for sharing – and tell it to ‘push off.’ If you don’t feel able to do this, I recommend you seek further support.

If these thoughts do come out loud, then try to correct them. Challenge yourself, do you actually have any concrete evidence to back that negative self-fulfilling prophecy up?

Of course, if something positive occurs to you and even comes out of your mouth, again notice it – these things do have a habit of becoming true – and gather real-world evidence to prove yourself right.

And if you can’t notice that you’re saying these things, positive or otherwise, those around you will certainly spot them, and they’ll either be encouraged and motivated by your positive mindset, or dragged down by your less positive beliefs. You might like to seek feedback from people whose opinions you trust and who are well placed to take a balanced view.

And what if you hear those around you making sweeping negative remarks?

Well, you’ve got a choice. You could join them and descend with them into a downward spiral of upset. Or you could politely challenge their thinking and help them get to a more positive interpretation, or at least a more balanced view.

And when you do manage to catch others around you making positive, uplifting comments, encourage them, add to their positivity and help them soar ever higher.

Between you, you might just change the world; your world, their world, even the whole world.