The me of 15 years ago and the me of today would probably not be friends.
I used to be a highly negative person. For those of you who have met me in person this is probably a pretty big shock. My reputation today is that I can stay calm and polite in even the most stressful situations. My staff has in the past pulled me aside after a particularly rough situation and asks me how I didn’t blow up. Here is the answer. Today I’m going to talk about negative attitudes, where they come from, what happens when you are negative, and how I stopped being negative.
In 2010 I chose to put together a system to reprogram my brain’s default to be positive instead of negative. I gave it a duration of 3 years. A test. If my forced attitude change didn’t work to show improvement in my life by 2013 I’d drop it and try something else.
I am a huge fan of looking at myself as a social experiment.
I automatically assume I am a stupid asshole that needs to be observed and directed by my own self. This is how I’ve permanently broken behavioral patterns that weren’t serving me. I simply refused to become attached to myself and these patterns in the first place.
Not only did it work – it’s the main reason I’ve been so successful.
First let’s talk about what creates a negative perspective so that we can understand how to undo it.
Our perspective gets defined when we are young. Trauma and lack of support from parents, family, and/or school are some of the common things that can create a negative perspective. If we are set up to fail over and over again we expect to fail. If we keep experiencing trauma after trauma, we expect more trauma.
For example, if you wanted to be a musician and your parents simply told you that you may as well not try because it’s impossible and stupid they have set up a negative expectation. Maybe it won’t work, but starting a pattern of giving up before you start is incredibly damaging to a person’s life and ability to succeed and innovate. This can easily become the lens with which you view the world if you don’t take action to override it. These comments and experiences slowly filter through every aspect of your life until you expect everything to not work, give up before you try, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy that repeats over and over again.
The result is that the fictional parents in this example may have felt they were protecting their kid but instead prevented them from entering into a thought pattern that would have led to good behaviors that equal success – whether they literally become a musician, a corporate manager, or both. Our interests are varied pathways to many ideas and experiences. The worst thing we can do is shut down an interest in another person.
How to Fix it:
The good news and the bad news is that the world generally responds to what you think and what you believe. The solution is simple but also probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do: You have to change “fuck this” to “Hell yeah!”.
My internal voice used to be a doppelganger for the TV version of Tara from True Blood:
This is maybe funny on TV but it’s not cool in real life. This is definitely not the type of behavior that gets anyone to advance in life. It only attracts more negativity to you and then the cycle returns and then you maybe die alone and no one cares.
There were some years where my brain would act like this but my mouth would speak in a more kind way. It was jarring. It was like my body knew what to do but my brain didn’t want to let go of the lens that trauma had created for me. I call it my nightbird because when I name a sonofabitch that means I can take control of it and own it.
I forced my nightbird to shut up with one simple step: Every time my brain would default to a negative statement – even if that was justified – I’d think of a positive statement related to the same situation immediately. Eventually my nightbird let go and defaulted to the positive programming.
If someone was driving stupid in front of me instead of saying “fn slow asshole!” I’d say, “This person may have been having a bad day. I’m glad they are able to go out and get their errands done.”
If someone pushed through me in a store instead of thinking that they should f off, I changed it to “that wasn’t personal – they are probably in a rush. I love their hair color!”
Even if someone is highly aggressive toward me I try to understand the pain they must have that is generating it and meet it with kindness and a kind thought.
This seems like some hallmark card bullshit but it’s actually just as difficult to change as it is important to change. If you want your life to be positive you have to act positive first. There are no exceptions to this. No one wants to set up their picnic blanket next to the biggest pile of dogshit. The only way I’ve found that works is to make it a practice to:
1. Don’t judge yourself. Understand where you are and what you need to change. Judging yourself leads to depression and weakens your ability to fix the issue.
2. When you emote something negative – IMMEDIATELY emote a positive in the same way. Make it a game. Cancel out your negatives with positive.
3. After enough repetition, this will become your true nature and you will have opened up the door to success and a better life. It works. I am your proof.
You are not where you are. You are how far you’ve come. Keep going and keep it Real.
Oni Harstein is an New Jersey-based entrepreneur that is obsessed with Marketing, Art, and Technology. Please direct all business inquiries or technology review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.
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