Positivity Glasses: Your Most Important Accessory

Guess what? I made some mistakes this week. I made some decisions that weren’t the smartest, did some things I probably shouldn’t have, and forgot to do other tasks I probably ought to have taken care of. And I’m sure that you have made mistakes this week too.

A decade ago, before my breakdown, those mistakes would have been a HUGE problem for me. I would have spent days beating myself up for each supposed screw-up. I would have thought things like, Todd, you’re such a moron! How could you have made a mistake like that?

To say the least, thoughts like that—especially when they happen frequently—aren’t exactly good for you. They lower your self-worth, and they rob you of your peace of mind and happiness. Even worse, they can doom you to future failure, because when you think less of yourself, you are much less effective. (Remember, our thoughts heavily influence our reality!) Also, studies show that enough negative thinking can actually cause you to get ill more often. And the really sad thing is, most of us do 100 things right for every one thing we do wrong…but we focus only on that one wrong thing.

If you have read my book, you might remember me talking about negativity and positivity glasses. (There is even a picture of a pair of glasses on the front cover of my book!) It seems to me that many people wear what I call “negativity glasses.” It’s like they have prescriptions covering their eyes that allow them to see only the negative things in their lives; for example, all that they could have done better and all of the things they feel they really messed up and handled poorly.

If you think you’re looking at life through negativity glasses, please try to throw them out and put on positivity glasses instead. Be easier on yourself and focus more on those 100 things you’ve done right. For example, give yourself a mental high-five for answering all of the emails in your inbox. Allow yourself to bask in the compliment your boss just paid you. Really savor the smiles on your family’s faces when eating the gourmet dinner you just cooked for them. These things will help you to realize that you have a lot of good, useful, and valuable things to offer the world.

In my own quest for happiness, I have found it very helpful to remember how I would help the people I love if they had made the mistake I just did. For example, I ask myself, What would I say to my wife if she had made this same mistake? The answer is always simple: I would tell her how much I love her and how great she is, and I’d also help her to feel better about herself by reminding her of her many more past success stories. I definitely wouldn’t want her to feel any more heartache or sadness about it or to miss out on all the blessings life has to offer because she couldn’t let it go.

It’s not always easy, but you must try to extend this same love, kindness, and forgiveness to yourself too. Remember: We are all human, and thus fallible, and so all of us will make mistakes. The fact is, if you focus on the one mistake you make and tell yourself how awful you are while ignoring the thousands of things you do right, you are literally setting your life up so you can’t win and can only be miserable and unhappy. What a shame it is that so many of us live this way in America. Please make 2012 the year you change if you are one of these many.

Say No to (Needless) Stress

“Stress is a killer.” Yes, we all say it, but how many of us really believe it? If you’re like most Americans, you probably just accept stress as an inevitable part of life. Stress, the thinking goes, is the price we pay for our jobs, houses, cars, and relatively comfortable lives. To some extent, that’s true. After all, no success, job, or family has ever been—or ever will be—stress-free. And you certainly can’t control big-time stressors like the economy or a parent’s degenerative illness.

That being said, it’s also true that most of us are paying a much higher “stress price” than we have to, and this lifestyle is incredibly unhealthy. Stress prevents you from enjoying your current blessings, and it can also trigger long-term effects including high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Now, you may think I’m crazy when I say that it’s in your power to reduce the amount of stress in your life, but it’s true! (And it’s also imperative that you do so for the sake of your health, happiness, and future.) In this post, I’d like to share two stress-reducing strategies that have worked for me.

Strategy number one is as simple as changing the way you think about something that’s causing you anxiety. For example, when I was first starting out as a leader in my family’s company, I was literally making myself sick over several types of emergencies that I had to deal with: store managers quitting without giving notice, store break-ins, and employees stealing from our company. Thanks to the Tony Robbins tapes I’ve blogged about before, though, I learned that I could reframe how I thought about these problems. Instead of treating them as five-alarm, code-blue emergencies I shouldn’t have to deal with, I chose to see them as part of my job description.

That change of perspective made a huge difference in how I reacted to and managed these situations, and the same can be true for you. By retraining yourself to act differently in difficult situations, you can drastically improve your quality of life. Whenever you don’t have the power to change a stressful situation, try to view it as a challenge instead of as a hardship. Come up with a game plan for how you’d like to react and visualize yourself doing so until this more positive behavior becomes second nature.

Another way to reduce the amount of overall stress in your life is to identify the two or three things that cause you the most grief on a consistent basis and do something about them. Actually, I’ve found that these “problem spots” are often deceptively small. We don’t realize how big of a difference the so-called little things can make in our overall contentment levels, so we allow them to continue being thorns in our sides.

In my book, I use the example of a clean house when I talk about taking control of your everyday stressors, because I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to (and if not, something of similar magnitude probably bugs you). Let’s say that whenever your house isn’t vacuumed, swept, and put away, you feel stressed, so you spend a large chunk of your after-work hours straightening and scrubbing. It doesn’t end there, though, because you now feel bad about not spending the time with your family, and that type of guilt eats at you for days. Here are the stress-reducing suggestions I give in my book to help you break free of this hypothetical cycle:

  1. Hire a housekeeper. It may not be as expensive as you think. In fact, you could pay the housekeeper with the “guilt money” you’ve been spending on buying “stuff” for your children to make up for the time you don’t spend with them.
  2. Get family members to share the load. Why is all the housekeeping your job, anyway? You may need to have a frank discussion with your spouse and kids about dividing up the chores so you’ll all have more time to spend together.
  3. Rethink your need for super-cleanliness. Which is more important: getting the floor mopped three times a week or spending the time relaxing with your spouse or reading to your child? You may well decide you can overlook a little dirt!

Obviously, this is just one example among thousands of things that might cause you to feel stress rather than serenity. (And yes, it’s true that you’ll never be able to make your life totally stress-free.) But hopefully you can see that with a little thought and motivation, you can make changes that will drastically impact your happiness, and by extension, that of the people you care about.