There are moments when Life Sucks, when failure is the only option, or when it’s easier to blame your problems on everyone else… because it’s just too damn exhausting to take personal responsibility. I get, I’ve been there. Just last week, in fact.
BUT if you find yourself living in those spaces a lot, it’s time to look in the mirror, sweet pea. Look deep into your own eyes and notice that behind all that resentment and loss is a super hero—who looks just like you—with super powers to make different choices and bring you back to a more positive place.
Let’s begin with a quiz.
Score the following ten items in a way that serves you: either check off the ones that are Always True (and skip if not), or use a 1-5 scale where 5 is Always and 1 is Never.
___ I realize that every day I have the power to choose the mood I live in.
___ I choose my actions rather than blaming others for what I do; I am not a victim.
___ I typically view events through a positive lens.
___ I rarely dwell on past mistakes.
___ I know what happiness feels like, and I recognize and enjoy the time I’m in a happy mood.
___ I look for – and usually find – happiness and contentment in everyday tasks and events.
___ I focus on what I can control or influence rather than on what I cannot control.
___ When things go wrong I do not beat myself up.
___ I believe that I will find what I expect; therefore, I focus on expecting good and positive outcomes.
___ I do not accept television’s view of the world.
Interpretation: if you scored at or below 7/10 or 35/50, you may be living more of your life as a victim than is healthy for you.
Let’s explore what these life practices mean, and how you can make more powerful, positive choices!
You Always Have the (Super)Power to Choose
- I realize that every day I have the power to choose the mood I live in. Your moods and emotions may often be reactions to what others do, but once the immediate reactive impulse has passed, you have the power to step away, let that emotion move on, and choose something else. To nurture your capacity to choose differently, start with noticing which emotion(s) you most often “exercise.” Do you dwell on wrongs inflicted upon you? Your Anger reflex is strong: try to spend equal time noticing the good things in your life, so your Gratitude muscles can balance you. Do you worry? Anxiety can be balanced by nurturing your sense of Security/Safeness. Does Depression come on strong? Spend time each day focused on something you CAN do or have, and over time strengthen your Hopefulness muscles.
- I choose my actions rather than blaming others for what I do; I am not a victim. I used to frequently teach a class in team communication, and in one exercise the class would brainstorm tools to move from React to Respond in conversations. The three most common were: take a deep breath (because when you’re breathing IN, it’s impossible to talk!), walk away (take a moment), and silently recite The Serenity Prayer (pictured here) or a similar mantra.
- I typically view events through a positive lens. You do not need to register as an Optimist to practice this skill. As with other items on this list, it’s about creating balance for you. When faced with crisis or challenge, remember that for every debit there is a credit, somewhere. Take a moment to seek something good or positive about the situation, however small. If you do this consistently, you’ll notice it’s easier to see the upside to a downer or the silver lining in those dark clouds.
- I rarely dwell on past mistakes. Reviewing mistakes can be your most powerful learning tool. However, setting up camp and living in them, over and over and over, is not productive. Ask yourself two questions: “What can I learn from <this>?” and “What will I do differently next time?” Your history is real, but your life is in the future – focus forward.
- I know what happiness feels like, and I recognize and enjoy the time I’m in a happy mood. Remember, Happiness is only one emotion among hundreds, and every emotion is legitimate. You need Ambition, Fear, Sadness, Impatience, Perseverance, and so on to keep you safe and moving forward. Do you know how to find and visit Happiness when you need it, though? The trick with Happiness is that you are often so busy or so focused on The Next Thing that you miss the lovely little moments along the way. Enjoy that tart lemonade, the warm tea, and the smile of a friend, the sun peeking from beneath a rain cloud. Practice saying, “this is nice!”
- I look for – and usually find – happiness and contentment in everyday tasks and events. Happiness is not a bolt of lightning from the sky. It’s the tiny raindrops that barely get you wet and quickly evaporate. So you have to notice it when it happens. My favorite definition of Happiness is, “the quality or state of being joyous, glad, or contented.” You’re probably “there” more often than you realize. Sit back and say, “This is enough. I’m good. I like this!” Enjoy making the formulae in that spreadsheet sing; enjoy the simplicity of doing the laundry; notice how you can lose yourself in chopping carrots for dinner or mowing your lawn. It’s OK, really.
- I focus on what I can control or influence rather than on what I cannot control. My favorite mantra is “you can’t change other people; you can only change yourself.” Notice where you expend energy – is your focus “out there” on other people and events, or do you focus within your own circles of influence and control and work to change how YOU show up? Remember, you are 50% of every conversation, so when you change, the conversation changes even if the other(s) don’t.
- When things go wrong I do not beat myself up. The most common self-talk I encounter in my coaching clients – yes, including many senior leaders! – is self-deprecation, based on the master assessment of “I’m not good enough.” Practice balance here. Holding yourself to a high standard is worthwhile; noticing only your flaws is counter-productive. To help my clients get better at objective self-analysis, I offer this instruction: “let’s first start by noticing what you did well. Once we’ve covered the positive, we’ll move to what needs to improve.” By first acknowledging the pluses, the review of minuses always feels more constructive than destructive.
- I believe that I will find what I expect; therefore, I focus on expecting good and positive outcomes. Every day, terrible things happen in the world. AND. AND every day, wonderful things happen. Both optimists and pessimists are correct in their assessment of the future. Your experience of life depends on which of those perspectives you choose to give the most attention. Which brings us to the final tip:
- I do not accept television’s view of the world. “If it bleeds, it leads!” This has always been the way media chooses what to put in front of you. Whether you watch television, read hard copy journalism, or follow the world through Twitter screaming (I mean streaming…), you are blasted with disaster, rarely with reminders that you have a 99.997% chance of NOT being killed, robbed, or drowned. Because Fear sells. Don’t buy it. I include Reality TV here. There is almost nothing “real” about intentionally-created dramatic moments with people either dropped into impossibly-weird jungle sets or living in staged mansions with an army of invisible staff/servants to keep it clean. Again, TV is playing on your FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – with a goal of making you feel “less than” because you’re not as beautiful/smart/clever/strong, etc. Please don’t buy what TV sells. It is entertainment marketed to make money for sponsors. Not. Real.
When you practice living into these ten statements, you need never be a victim; instead you will live more fully into your potential as a Super Hero in your own life!
Remember, Leadership is not about a title: anyone can be a Leader who nurtures their own sense of balance and creates an environment in which others can feel safe to choose a balanced and healthy path to success.