Why we all need more cheerleaders in our lives

A recent Maier team meeting ended with some HOT (honesty, openness, trust) sharing about how difficult it was some days to tune into the good stuff that we’d done when all the ‘white noise’ was focused on the things that hadn’t gone right. Why when 95% of the day has been a success do we end up fixated on 5% that hasn’t? Negativity bias certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, but it is one that may have grown out of balance during lockdown. So how can we remedy this?

Hardwired as humans

The first thing to note is that as humans we’re predisposed to lock into the negative – it’s part of our neurological survival system. By seeking out adverse elements our brain is identifying real and/or potential threats with a view to steer us away from any danger. Ancient wisdom it may be, but it still has a role to play in our modern lives – the trick is to shift position slightly. What was once all about our physical wellbeing is now more likely to impact our mental wellbeing . So, rule number one…

#1 Listen and take note

Don’t dismiss your concerns without giving them appropriate air time but don’t just think about what you’re feeling, ask yourself why  you’re feeling that way. Counteracting negative thinking with a ‘positive’ activity can also help. Once you register what’s happening – mentally  take yourself out of the negative zone by physically  doing something that forces you to fire-up a different part of your brain

Make it so

Expectancy theory states that what we choose to focus on will almost certainly happen – what we expect will inevitably ensue, good or bad. It therefore follows that if we continually expect to get it wrong or fail – we most likely will because that’s all we’re going to be looking out for (more bias – confirmation bias this time!). The obvious solution here might be to always expect to get it right – but realistically how easy is that to do. Instead try applying a bit of De Bono ‘white hat’ in the form of ‘truth statements’.

#2 Focus on the facts

What are we absolutely sure of, what do we know and what don’t we know – where’s the evidence? Ruminating only draws us deeper into a negative cycle, but by reframing the situation (and/or our feelings) in a more factual way we create some distance between us and the ‘problem’ – we make it less personal. Using only the facts and what we know to be true in our statements can help us to realise just how much assumption and conjecture is mixed up in there too

Rethink your diet

Being physically well is of course key to how resilient we feel, but when we say ‘rethink your diet’ in this instance we mean your mental intake. News feeds are predominantly negative (even in ‘normal times’) for the very reason that this is what’s more likely to grab our attention. We can’t avoid bad news but we can choose how much we absorb and the sources we get our information from. Digital rest days aren’t easy in lockdown but we can certainly be more cognisant about how much time we spend on social media and what we’re choosing to focus on.

#3 Ask yourself what’s serving you, and what isn’t

When we’re surrounded by negativity it becomes the measure we use to rate almost everything else. We should be putting more effort into valuing the good and appreciating what’s important – and what’s not. Instead of constantly berating ourselves when we feel we’ve fallen short, we also need to credit ourselves when we’ve achieved…no matter how small the success. It’s all about getting the balance right and letting go of what’s no longer serving us,

Building a team of ‘cheerleaders’ we can call on – people who we know will help us find the positive and boost our confidence is vital, but sometimes we need to be our own cheerleader and that takes practice. We’ll leave you this week with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt,

‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’

Something that’s very much within our agency and perhaps something we all need to be more conscious of.