I get asked a bunch of questions about… you know… stuff. And in the early morning hours I enjoy responding (hopefully) thoughtfully and thoroughly. A couple members of my team suggested I start sharing my advice. Previous AMA’s are here. So, without further ado, please enjoy this installment of Ask MilEs Anything:
A reader asked me: “How do you navigate around negativity?”
Negativity is a plague. It spreads very, very, very, very, very quickly. It is also exhausting. Researchers at Michigan State University found that employees that have a negative attitude about work are more likely to be mentally fatigued, defensive, and disengaged.
Disengaged workers? I think we’ve talked about those before….
A man who’s no longer with us, Randy Pausch, was a professor at Carnegie Mellon who gave the traditional “Last Lecture” at his university. In case you haven’t heard of it, this is where every professor gives a lecture as if it were they were retiring and this is the last bit of knowledge they want to impart on their students.
Randy, however, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and this was his literal last lecture.
He published a book based on the talk. Inside that lecture he said there are two kinds of people in the world. There are Tiggers and there are Eeyores. Anyone who has ever seen Winnie the Pooh knows which one we should aspire to be.
Choose to be a Tigger.
This man was literally dying, and, to quote Henry David Thoreau, he sucked the marrow out of life. He found joy in everything.
And here’s the thing about being a Tigger, your attitude too can be contagious. And if you model the behavior you want to see in others, if you greet the day with a lightness of being, if you meet others with a joy in your heart…you can pass that on.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully everyone is blessed.” – Maya Angelou
And so, if you can find gratitude in your heart, then you can begin slowly to chip away at the hardened plaque around others hearts.
The problem is that you’re fighting a very hard battle. Social media is filled with negativity. It’s an echo chamber of negativity.
And yet, for every 10 stories about someone madder than heck about something. You’ll see this sweet story about a group of people rescuing a dog from a reservoir or a little boy saving his baby brother. Share those.
Be a lighthouse that shares lightness, joy, and gratitude. Model that behavior for others. Even if you don’t succeed in winning other people over to your side YOU will feel so much better.
As someone who struggles regularly with depression and anxiety, I find solace in three places:
1. Scripture. The word of God and realizing that there is a life after this one gives me joy. Reading Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, about the ways we can help others brings me hope.
2. Focusing on other people. The narcissistic suck of social media causes you to compare yourself to these idolized architected versions of other people and it’s very damaging and very dangerous. Focus instead on how you can help others. What can you do for someone else?
3. Personal relationships. Who are the circle of people around you? Maybe it’s not a very big circle, it doesn’t have to be, mine isn’t. My circle is my wife, my children, a couple of neighbors, my mom and my brother and my sister, and people that I work with. Who are your people? How can you help them? What are they going through? What is in their life right now that you can ask about and say “I’m here for you”? It’s amazing what effect those words can have on, not only that other person, but your own negativity and on your own belief in goodness, light, and joy.
So be a Tigger, not an Eeyore.
If a dying man can do it so can you. Because you know what? You’re dying too and when you recognize that to be the truth, you realize life is too short and too precious for negativity.
Oh, and if all that doesn’t work you should try a negativity jar. Every time you say something negative you put dollar in the jar. Then, you donate that money. At least then your negativity will be doing good for someone.
If you have a question you’d like to ask and don’t mind (a) replies in the wee, small hours of the morning, or (b) me sharing the answer with the rest of the class (removing any personal info, of course), please reach out to us. If you get our emails, just reply. If you’re reading this on our site or in your RSS feed, click me.