Years ago, when I first became a writer I befriended a gentleman, James Dunne, who worked for Ferrari. I was writing a novel set in Monte Carlo and wanted to know all I could about the Formula One and the cars, people, etc. I also attended the first NASCAR races in DFW and became friends with members of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s pit crew to get an inside perspective on car racing. It was a tremendous experience. The book is in a drawer, but the lessons were forever. I took away a maxim that has affected how I approach life and people, and today I will share with you guys.
Race car drivers not only have to go top speed (duh) but the largest part of winning is staying in the race. Drivers stay in the race if they can avoid colliding with other cars and keep from hitting the wall. Rocket science here, right? Bear with me. When race car drivers train, they are taught to keep their eyes where they want to go. Why? Because where the eyes go, the car follows. Thus, they are instructed that, to avoid hitting the wall, never look at the wall. Or more accurately, To avoid hitting the wall, focus on the finish line.
Race car drivers always keep their eyes on the straightaway and on the finish line. This was a life-changing lesson for me. Where the mind goes the man follows. Race car drivers aren’t foolish. They know the wall is there. Yet, they understand that staring at it is not going to do anything positive for getting them closer to the checkered flags.
In life, I do all I can to ignore the walls and keep my eyes on the prize. This has a lot to do with positive thinking, which beats being negative any day of the week. My thought life is vitally important to my attitude, and my attitude is the most vital component of how I treat myself and others. How do I avoid walls? I watch 2 things—my focus and my mouth.
Watching My Focus
For years I volunteered teaching children in a Christian after school program. We generally inherited most of the problem kids because no one else wanted them around. These kids hit and kicked and had no concept of self control. I noticed that when we corrected them or chastised them for a certain behavior, we soon could expect more of it…a LOT more. So we volunteers decided to change our approach with these little “scoundrels.”
Even though it made me want to pull out my hair, I began ignoring most of their acting out. Yet, when they settled down and were quiet, I offered heaping praise. When they played nicely with other kids, I made a big production of what great kiddos they were. It wasn’t long until most of these kids were happy, smiling, and well-behaved. They craved attention. All I did was lavish attention for better behavior.
The strange thing was that a few of them didn’t change. Some of the kids still acted up. They didn’t change, but I did. I could still care for them and enjoy them because I focused on the good they had to offer.
Other people always have “walls” and I make a deliberate act to ignore them. It doesn’t do me or other people any good to focus on weakness or where they fall short, because we all fall short. I find that if I focus on how someone is always late or disorganized or negative, pretty soon it colors how I treat that person. Yet, I notice that if I can look for the good, then eventually I get to the point where I don’t even see the bad. It isn’t that their “wall” isn’t there; it just isn’t my sole focus.
The same goes for how I treat myself. I know if I pay undue attention to my flaws, I soon can expect those flaws to get bigger, which leads to my next point…
Watching My Mouth
Did you know that the subconscious brain cannot tell the difference between truth and lie? Even if you give it wrong information, the subconscious brain will accept it as true. Psychiatrists call this conditioning. Christians say that, out of your mouth you speak life and death; choose life. Both schools imply we have a choice.
If I say, “Today is going to be so horrible.” Guess what? Often it is. Why? I spoke it and deemed it so. Thus, instead of noticing the good things that happen, my eyes will be fixed on “walls” all day long because I have instructed them to do so. I will look for every little thing that doesn’t go my way to affirm the belief I have stuck in my head… “Today is going to be horrible.”
“Oh I just know I am going to be late for that meeting.” Hmmm. Suddenly I cannot find my keys, my bag, my purse, my butt.
Another point. Did you know that the human brain also has this weird way of chopping off conditionals, and it only begins to listen at the first active verb? This is why negative goals can submarine our best efforts.
I say: Don’t forget your folder.
Brain hears: Forget your folder.
I say: Don’t overeat tonight at dinner.
Brain hears: Overeat at dinner.
I say: Under no certain circumstances will you bait to that woman at the board meeting.
Brain hears: Bait to that woman at the board meeting.
I say: Now make sure you don’t lose that business card.
Brain hears: Lose that business card.
If you tell a writer, “The pitch session isn’t the end of the world. Don’t panic.” I guarantee you she hears, “Pitch session. End of the world. Panic.”
How we talk to ourselves is critical. I have found that phrasing things in the positive makes a remarkable difference. When I come in the door, I say, “Now remember your keys are here.” When I am going to a restaurant that I know can make me eat until I pop, I say “I am going to only eat until I am full.” When I wake up in the morning I say, “I am going to have a great day.” When I am staring down the barrel of having to face a horrible, negative person, I tell myself, “I am going to be calm and maintain my peace.” Is this some kind of magic charm? No. But I do find this approach mitigates the negative. I might find that my temper flares at that person who feels the need to sabotage a committee meeting, but it isn’t as bad as if I had told myself, “If such-and-such says one word, I am going to give her what-for.”
This approach also works with others.
I find that when I tell my husband, “Remember to pick up your slacks from the cleaners” that my odds are better that he will come home with his cleaning.
When I tell my young nephews, “I just know you two are going to make me look good when everyone sees how well you behave.” Most of the time, they do.
One of my favorite quotes is from Dale Carnegie. He said, “The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?”
We have a choice with our attitude, and we have a choice what rules govern how we see others and ourselves. If the most skilled racecar drivers in the world know to focus on the goal line, and top athletes know to focus on winning, and successful entrepreneurs know to focus on possibility, and successful couples know to focus on love, then we can take a lesson from that. If we want what they have, adopting their habits and attitude is a darn good start.
What are some ways you guys stay positive? All of us have to deal with hurt, angry, spiteful people, so how do you remain calm? We all face trials and hardship. How do you guys keep focused on the goal? Be brave and share so we might grow.
Thanks for stopping by, and remember to read this blog again on Monday ;).
Until next time…
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