As both a parent and a mentor, I am constantly reminded of the power of positive thinking. One of my StrengthsFinder 2.0 traits is Positivity. I once had a boss tell me that I was too positive, that I needed to tone it down because it was intimidating or upsetting to others. Can you imagine? Being told that one of your strengths was actually seen as a strike against you? I was floored. In fact, I am still surprised by the candor and conviction in which this feedback was given.
I ask you, can you be too positive? Is that possible? I am not asking ‘can you be too optimistic?’; instead, I want to know if you can be too positive. My 12-year old started with the negativity the minute she got in the car tonight. As I parsed through the sentences she was spewing at a phenomenal rate, I began to hear a pattern. “I hate this”, “I can’t stand that”, “It infuriates me when…”, Wow. After having a wonderfully positive day, my daughter was quickly taking me down a dark hole that I did not want to enter.
My friend Jennifer Powers (author of “Oh, Shift“) taught me that our reaction to what we hear, see or feel is what is important and the words we use are of utmost importance. She challenges us to “shift” our thoughts and reactions when we find ourselves going to negative space. Since I am ultimately a positive person, this message resonates strongly with me and I have tried to share that with my children.
Enter hormones of a 12-year old girl and the frustrations of middle school. Our discussion tonight and the message I tried to impress upon the 14 year old students I addressed today is that you can’t control the world. You can’t stop the school from teaching badminton in gym class any more than you can control the actions of others. You can certainly rise up in protest, but wouldn’t your efforts be better served on something that would change the world for the better? You control your reaction to every day life. I attempted to explain that opening ourselves up to new experiences is not a bad thing – and that she might learn some valuable lessons from the game of badminton. Such as power and speed is not always the right answer when attempting to hit a birdie. That using thoughtful movements and a certain dogged slowness may be more effective. She was so frustrated, I am not sure she heard the message.
With my frustration rising, I decided to hit on a different approach. I can’t control how she feels, any more than she can control how I feel about her negativity. Instead, I told her negative talk – use of ‘hate, can’t stand, infuriate’ or any other word I deem ‘not positive’ – is no longer tolerated in my presence. Angry words and feelings come easily to her. I explained the new rules. Each negative word that I hear, she owes me a dollar out of her bank account. Negative word, negative consequence. I didn’t make it too hard – it’s for 24 hours. She has to try to be positive and learn to spin things in a positive light.
I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish us luck! I have a feeling we’re going to need it!