How to have a positive outlook when things go wrong

By Kim Giles, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Jun 3rd, 2013 @ 6:15am



SALT LAKE CITY — Life is a complicated and messy endeavor. Life Coach Kim Giles is here to help you with simple, principle-based solutions to the challenges you face. Coach Kim will empower you to get along with others and become the best you.

Question:

I have just been called to be a welfare specialist in my LDS ward where we have more than 160 low-income housing apartments. I would like insights into how to coach those who need help in lifting their hopes and lives a little. How can I help them stay optimistic?

Answer:

I would love to share some tips on choosing a positive mindset, and hopefully you will have opportunities to share these principles with the people you serve. I would recommend you do a lot of listening first, though. People must know that you care, before they care about what you know.

Listening shows people that you value them as they are, where they are, and are not just trying to fix them. Then, I would ask if they are open to some advice. Permission questions show people that you honor and respect them. Then you might share the following principles and suggestions.

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Principle 1: You have the power to choose your attitude.

You may not have control over the events in your life, but you do get to choose how you will experience those events. It is the one choice no one can take from you. We learned this from Viktor Frankl, who spent time in Nazi concentration camps. They took everything he had, but they could not take away his power to choose his attitude, he said. Even though he was in the worst situation imaginable, he chose love over fear.

You have the power to choose love over fear, too.

Principle 2: When choosing your attitude, you have only two choices: fear, or trust and love (every other state falls under one of those). This makes the choice a simple one.

Here are some other suggestions for a positive attitude:
  • Watch the words you use for accuracy. Don’t over exaggerate or over generalize, using words like, “I’ll never be good enough. No one will ever love me.” These statements aren’t accurate. Accurate would be, “This person didn’t love me, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t.” Your words have power, so choose them carefully.
  • Don’t compare yourself with other people. You are a completely unique, one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul on a custom journey made just for you. There is no level where it serves you to compare. Make a hard-and-fast rule not to do it.
  • Choose to believe that things happen for a reason. Greet every experience (good or bad) with curiosity and gratitude, because it is going to serve your process of growth in some way.
  • Don’t take anything personally. Remember most bad behavior is based in the other person’s fear about himself. It is not about you.
  • Stop predicting the future and assuming the worst. Be optimistic and assume the future will be great. Trust you are safe no matter what happens. Choosing optimism won’t change what the universe has planned for you in the future, but your attitude will greatly impact the quality of today.
  • Choose optimistic friends. Spend time with positive people, not complainers.
  • Have more fun and laugh more.
  • Focus on gratitude and count your blessings daily.
  • Be the force for love in the room everywhere you go. You will feel fantastic and people will be drawn to you.

In every moment of your life, you can consciously choose a mindset of trust and love, or you can react unconsciously without thinking. If you do this, your subconscious mind will usually choose fear. I recommend consciousness.

Conscious choice requires you to wake up and become aware of what you are experiencing and how you are reacting to that experience. You have to get off autopilot and choose how you want to feel in this moment.

This will require practice and effort if you have been asleep most of your life. You may also have created some subconscious bad habits: things like taking things too personally, over-generalizing, catastrophizing or creating unnecessary drama to get attention. You will have to start catching these behaviors and consciously choosing something better.

The first step is choosing to see the process of life as a safe one.

Principle 3: Choosing to see life as a classroom, not a test, will take your fear of failure off the table. When you choose to trust the process of life and see it as your perfect process of growth, it will take the fear of loss off the table. Living from this place will create more peace and joy.

I recommend you make this your official policy: life is a classroom and my value isn’t on the line. Give yourself permission to be a work in progress, a person who doesn't have to be perfect. This mindset will change the way you feel about mistakes and misfortune.

Dr. Martin Seligman, in his book "Learned Optimism,"said the main difference between optimists and pessimists is that pessimists see failure and misfortune as permanent and personal, while optimists see misfortune as non-permanent and non-personal, meaning they don't let mistakes affect their value or define who they are.

You get to decide how you want to experience each situation in your life. I highly recommend seeing each experience as a lesson or a location on your journey, which has nothing to do with who you are.

Groucho Marx, of all people, said, "Each morning when I open my eyes, I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

I know that it is hard to stay positive when things go wrong, but the only other choice (fear and depression) will make you more miserable — so keep working at choosing trust and love, and it will get easier over time.

You can do this.


About the Author: Kimberly Giles

Kimberly Giles gives her advice in the "LIFEadvice" series every Monday on ksl.com. She is the president of Claritypoint Life Coaching and a sought-after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing self-esteem. Listen to her Self Esteem CPR Workshop at www.claritypointcoaching.com.

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