In preparation for a short speaking engagement this week, I was given the opportunity to reflect over the past 20 years of my personal history, during which many thoughts and experiences came to mind. The process itself was very therapeutic as I allowed my mind to sift through positive events, as well as others that I considered, at the time, to be negative.
As I tracked through them, an observation became very clear to me… even after 20 years, I seemed to recall those “negative” events with a higher level of detail and clarity, as if they made a much deeper and more significant impression than the positive ones. In addition, the emotion that accompanied those memories came to the surface much more readily than those associated with the positive experience in my life.
Hardship stays with us; hardship also shapes us. How we allow it to shape us is not a set matter.
We all know people who’s default mode-of-operation is negative. I would bet that if you dug deep enough you’d be able to track their negativity, very much like a connect-the-dots exercise, to a significant negative event that changed their belief system (and their mental filters) in a way that now has their focus tuned to noticing FIRST the negative experiences of their day, week, month, year, … life.
The warning here: this is a learned pattern of behavior that requires NO EFFORT to adopt and assimilate into our lives. Folks “stuck on negative” have literally become passive participants in their journey, allowing the negative factors to fold them up like a lawn chair, reinforcing further the easy belief that the universe is most definitely out to get them.
What we believe shapes everything:
As my children were growing, there was an expression I would use often when I began to see signs of them folding under the weight of a specific hardship. Crude as it may have been, I framed it in a way that they would understand and which would have impact. That expression served as a reminder that dad was tuned-in and aware of what they were going through (so they didn’t feel alone in the experience) and it was also meant to remind them that they had a choice in how the experience was going to shape them.
To embrace anything requires a choice. It is active, NOT passive. Choosing to embrace-the-suck in our lives quite literally moves us off that negative footing which, by default, accompanies hardship and infuses us with hope rooted in the belief that there is value to be learned and growth to be experience in the presence of pain. It snaps us out of that passive mode and leads us from the path of defeat, getting us back in the game as an active participant in the outcomes we desire for our lives. It gets us looking for the growth opportunities in every hardship, making us increasingly resilient in the next go-around.
People who become successful in life learn to embrace-the-suck, resist its negative effects, and take one more step toward their full-potential.