Gratitude is accepting and appreciating positive emotions.
Our lives are made up of good times and not so good times. Life can be compared to a child’s toy, the yoyo. A yoyo goes up and comes back down again. Sometimes knots form in the string. In life, these “knots” are the obstacles we meet. They can be internal, such as health problems, or external, i.e. situations we find ourselves in and then have to cope with. Today the happiness mantra is making it hard for people to accept the normal ups and downs. Happiness is not the aim. Being able to adapt is what brings us serenity I believe!
A child usually instinctively knows what to do when his yoyo gets in a knot. But as adults, we don’t always know how to react when “life knots” appear. Should we carry on trying, or stop and ask for help?
The second attitude is often more beneficial. Imagine for a moment that you are driving along in your car. You are in a hurry because you are late. You come to a cross- road. There are pedestrians waiting to cross the road.
You could of course pretend you haven’t seen them and carry on driving. Or you could stop and let them past. To thank you for your conscientious driving, they will probably give you a little wave of thanks or a smile. If you choose this option, you are adopting a positive at- titude. This will give you energy to face and overcome any problems that arise later on in the day.
Life often grants us gifts. Some may be modest, like a smile, a kind word or a favor. But they can also be extraordinary. We should learn how to appreciate and enjoy them.
We all meet people who seem to be plagued by bad luck. In spite of health problems, financial worries or problems in their professional or private lives, some people somehow always manage to stay positive. Such people are an inspiration to everyone around them.
“How do they cope when one thing after another seems to go wrong? Life can’t be easy for them!”
They probably know how to take advantage of every last glimpse of sunshine peeping through the clouds. That is what helps them progress.
Letting go means accepting your limits, admitting that you can’t control everything and that you can’t always find the keys to all the locked doors on your own. It is also about recognising that somebody else’s point of view can shed new light on a problem you are facing. By letting go, you open up to other people and show willingness to accept their ideas and suggestions.
Here are a few sentences you might hear or say. It is easy to work out whether they refer to success (virtuous circle) or failure (vicious circle).
Here is another example.
You get up in a bad mood one day. You leave the house in such a rush that you bump into an old lady outside. She cries out after you, but you haven’t got time to apolo- gise. You need to catch your bus… quickly, here it comes! You push in front of other people to make sure you get to the stop in time. Everyone looks at you crossly and complains. Once you are sitting on the bus, you reflect on how aggressive everyone is being this morning!
Let us imagine how you could turn the situation around. You get up in a good mood. As you set off from home, you smile at an old lady who is having trouble walking by herself. You offer to help her cross the road. On the bus, you give up your seat to a young Mum struggling with a pushchair and a little boy hanging onto her arm… And we could go on and on. In the first case, you are in a vicious circle, and everything is going wrong. In contrast, the second situation is a virtuous circle.
I can manage. I can do it.
Even if I don’t manage, at least I’ll have tried. I’ll try my best.
I go out and meet other people. I have come a long way already. I feel good about things.
Trying is more important than succeeding.
I’ll never manage. I can’t do it.
I’m not even going to try.
I isolate myself, I go into hiding. I’m useless.
I’m too scared of failure. I’m giving up.
The list can go on forever. Which side are you on?
Are you a fighter (a “winner”) or a defeatist (a “loser”)?
Do you have your own helpful, i.e. virtuous sentences, and destructive, i.e. vicious sentences?
If you are naturally a negative, “destructive” person, think of someone you know who tends to be more positive and “constructive”. What would they write in place of your negative sentences? What can you learn from them? This is learning through imitation.
What a Strange Vocabulary!
People with PETs are energetic and enthusiastic. They have Positive Expected Thoughts, which help us see that doors will soon be opening for us. PETs get us moving in search of solutions.
When we have ANTs, or Anticipated Negative Thoughts, we get stuck in vicious circles. Our engine is at a standstill and we have no way of starting it again. We have got out of the car and are simply walking around in circles, without being able to do anything to get the car moving again.
Almost all of us experience times when nothing goes the way we want it to.
“My company is in a bad way. Lots of employees are going to get the sack… If I’m one of them, I’m sure I’ll never be able to find a new job… at my age… with the same salary! What on earth am I going to do? I’ll never be able to cope!”
Which path to take: ANTS or PETS?
TRANSFORMING AUTOMATIC NEGATIVE THOUGHTS INTO POSITIVE EXPECTED THOUGHTS
I while ago, a man called Henry, age 40, came to see me. He was looking for a job. He was very worried after receiving several negative replies to his applications. That very morning he had received a message from a company he had applied for an IT consultant position. He had already had one interview and knew he might be asked to attend others. The message was as follows:
“This is Mrs X, Human Resource Manager. Please could you call me back at this number at around 5pm? It’s important.”
Henry starts having negative thoughts. “She’s phoning to tell me I haven’t got the job…”
In actual fact, there were several positions vacant in the IT department, one of which was urgent. Mrs X wanted to know if Henry would be available to meet the head of department within the next few days.
Analysis of Henry’s reaction
The word “important” made Henry anxious. He was too worried to stand back and analyse what the message might mean. Instead of seeing the glass as half full, he was seeing it as half empty.
What we can deduct from this?
Henry cannot see beyond his own situation. He is oblivious to the fact that other factors might come into play (somebody leaving the department for instance).
He realises that he is always saying to himself, “What else could go wrong?” He thinks that anything he attempts to do will end in failure.
YES, I WANT TO CHANGE, BUT HOW?
ANTS are extremely powerful. They overwhelm us and we tend to accept them at face value. Whenever you experience an ANT, note down how it makes you feel. Try and understand why you are reacting in this way. Think of a past situation you had trouble dealing with. How did you manage to resolve it? If you play a little film of the event to yourself in your mind, you will soon find yourself thinking:
“Why on earth did I get so worked up about that interview? It wasn’t so bad after all!”
By working things through in your mind and with the help of people around you, you will be able to recharge your batteries and your ANTs will gradually turn into PETs