Imagine a situation where you can’t find your keys. You start to look for them frantically, knowing you have to go out soon, and all you can think is, ‘I can’t find my keys. I can’t find my keys.’ As you keep repeating that phrase over and over to yourself, your stress level increases as does your frustration.
What happens, however, if that negative phrase was changed to one more neutral or even positive? ‘I’m going to find my keys. My keys are somewhere and I will find them.’
Do you think changing the phrasing of the statement will make a difference to your likelihood of finding your keys? Is it possible that a negative statement leads to a negative mindset which in turn leads to the inability to see what is in front of you? If you keep repeating ‘I can’t’ does that actually translate to you not being able to? On the other hand, will being positive really open your eyes in such a manner that it will allow you to find what you’re looking for?
This was one of the concepts we discussed on the yoga retreat I went to earlier this month.
While the physical location of your keys will not differ, I do think that the way we form statements in our minds has an impact on how we perceive things.
It was in fact the day after having this discussion – at the yoga retreat – that I couldn’t find my car keys. Feeling a bit panicked I thought to myself, ‘OMG, where could they be?’ I felt myself getting worked up as I opened and closed drawers and searched in pockets. That’s when I stepped back, took a deep breath, and told myself, ‘I’m sure I’ll find my keys.’ Immediately my demeanor changed. The rising panic I felt subsided and I calmly went about searching, finally finding the keys as I knew I would. The thing is, I don’t doubt I would have found my keys even in my first state of mind. How long it would have taken, I don’t know. What I do know is that the physical manifestations of the two thoughts were different. The first thought was accompanied by a mild sense of anxiety, panic, annoyance, and frustration while the second thought was accompanied by a sense of calm and determination. My eye sight did not change between the two thoughts, but my perspective did.
Ever since we had this discussion, I’ve been trying to employ this new perspective. While I do try to be positive and optimistic in general, I’ve also found that it is very easy to let negative, critical, or even defeatist thoughts filter in on a daily basis. Even the smallest sentiments – Ugh, Monday – can have an impact. Even if you can’t get excited about the start of another week and change that statement to ‘Yay, Monday!’ and sincerely mean it, you can think about something you are looking forward to. Whether it’s seeing a friend later that day, looking forward to listening to some of your favorite music on your commute to work, or anything! Anything that gives you a bit of pep in your step makes a difference. I feel like as soon as I think something positive, it pushes a negative thought away. As I was writing this post, I recalled the image of Rubin’s face/vase (pictured above). I always find it fascinating how both images exist, but you can’t seem them at the same time. I love that this is also called a play in positive/negative space as that is why it came to mind when when I was thinking about positive/negative thoughts. If you focus on one, then that’s what you’ll see. It doesn’t mean that the negatives aren’t there; it’s just that you’re not allowing that negativity to overshadow the images that like in your positive space.
I have been trying to get into the habit of always thinking about the positives before letting hesitations filter in. It has helped me so much. Now, instead of first (and only) seeing obstacles or potential setbacks, I think of all the possible positive outcomes. As soon as I think – I can’t/I don’t want to – or I have some sort of doubt, I pause and rephrase it in a more positive/optimistic light. I have been amazed at how such a simple tactic can totally change my perspective.
Give it a go – and let me know what you think!