Trading Cynicism for Positive Self-Talk

“Cynic” –that’s what my keychain used to say. And I was proud of it. People were motivated by self-interest, I was sure. And day after day, my life proved it.  Honestly, while I thought it prepared me for the tough and gritty life I was living at the time, it was debilitating and exhausting.

Moon over trees.© Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

Part of the problem was that my group of friends were cynical, too, and what we look at and live with, we become. It was almost by accident that I met someone who was deeply happy. My reaction? Suspicion. But that moment was the starting point of a better life. It was a hard climb on a dusty road. And one that I am grateful for every day.

Research shows that we need about a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative feedback to be productive. Here are some other statistics:

  • 65 percent of American workers say they received no recognition for their work in the last year.
  • 22 million workers are not interested in their work or actively dislike it.
  • Bad bosses increase the risk of stroke by 33 percent.
  • When you tell yourself something is “too hard” your stress levels increase, and you are more likely to fail, even if you have done the same thing before.
  • Increasing your positive attitude even a little starts to add years to your life–as much as 10 years.

Dusty road. © Quinn McDonald All rights reserved

So what does this mean? It means that you have to start with yourself, deliberately turning away from negative thoughts and critical self-talk and choosing positive self-talk. Then pass it on. How?

  • Stop the automatic snarky, mean thoughts when you see someone poorly dressed, fat, or with weird hair.
  • Hang around positive people. Negative people’s snark might be more fun, but when you aren’t with them, it’s aimed at you, just as you talk about the people who aren’t there. Break the cycle.
  • Talk about ideas, not other people. Try it for a day. You may be stunned to silence if you don’t allow yourself to talk about someone else’s clothing, actions, or choices. Talking about your ideas or creative projects allows them to grow.
  • Tell people what they are doing right. They are likely to do more of what they are appreciated for.
  • If people need a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative, do your share to keep your own positive comments five times higher than your negative ones.

Think this is all new-age, woo-woo stuff? Nope.

  • Seth Godin, the entrepreneur who writes about change (and has written 10 bestsellers) writes about the damage lizard brain causes.
  • Steven Pressfield (the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance) encourages people to cover the canvas, fix the details later. But start, and do as much as you can in one positive swoop.
  • Pressfield’s advice: “My writing philosophy is a kind of warrior code—internal rather than external—in which the enemy is identified as those forms of self-sabotage that I call “Resistance” with a capital R (in The War of Art). The technique for combating these foes can be described as ‘turning pro.'”

So put down the negative anchor and pick up the positive wings and try them on. They’ll fit just fine.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach. She believes in positive self-talk. It inspired her book, Raw Art Journaling.