Being positive is a discipline

No matter how driven of a workaholic you are, if you aren’t taking active steps to become and remain positive, you’ll destroy your own chances for success.

As a recovering pessimist with scarcity thinking tendencies, I can attest that becoming positive is a discipline that takes hard work at the beginning but less maintenance once you get the hang of it.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not very disciplined. Unless it’s something intellect related, like finishing up my Master’s Thesis, it’s hard for me to stay focused on something unless it’s a short amount of focused energy. I think part of it is that I really like keeping a narrow focus on a short term project, like a one shot freelancing job. If I’m working on the same thing, day in and day out it stretches into monotony.

But if you manage to convince me that sticking with something long term will truly change my life for the better, then you’ve got a better chance of getting me to sign on. And “discipline” stops being a dirty word to me.

What caught my attention was when I heard a slick, alpha male NCAA basketball coach (for the sake of argument, we’ll call him Rick Pitino) argue that remaining positive helps in the midst of going through a change. And Pitino swears that if you get the practice drills down, and get in the habit of being disciplined, when the change comes up you’ll already be poised to get into the mindset of being positive.

That got my attention, since I know and you know that by creating my own business, I’m going to be faced with change—often rapid change—on a constant basis. Just as soon as I think that things are flowing along, staying the same things will be thrown into chaos.

So, taking Pitino’s advice to heart, I started looking into how to get into a more optimistic mindset, which is incredibly hard after a lifetime of being a two legged Eeyore.

The first thing I got myself to do was change the way I look at change. All of my life, I’ve looked at change as either a harbinger of doom or something to be suffered through and survived. Pitino says that change is not knowing what’s going to happen. That’s it. It’s totally neutral.

So my challenge was to start looking at change as an opportunity. Something that’s either valuable in of itself or that carries within it the opportunity for value to be built into my life. As I got more self esteem, I started to think of change as stimulating instead of apprehensive.

Change started to be like doing weight training at home. At first, I start out with three pound weights so my arms and shoulders can get used to them. And then I change things up by giving myself more weights, say five or six pounds since I’ve gotten stronger enough to take them. Sure, adding the weight tires me out, but I’ve managed to graduate from the lighter ones into something that helps me expand.

Eventually, I started to look at change as a graduation ceremony. If I faced a situation in which work dried up in one area, like working for the nonprofit organizations I’d cut my teeth on, that meant that I’d graduated to going somewhere else. And I stopped thinking of the change as something personally condemning me to failure.

That was it, no dunking drills required. Well, I guess Pitino requires his guys to dunk but by that time I’ve already changed to a different book.

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