I had an encounter with a colleague this week that really stayed with me. We were in the first stage of our new appraisal process at work and were reviewing the student data collected through surveys. The data was pretty much perfect, except in one particular area a student had given the lowest score. The twenty other students had nominated the highest score as their preference. Throughout our discussion, the conversation was brought constantly back to that one score by my colleague. My colleague couldn’t let that one slide and it was a position I could really empathise with. No matter what type of feedback, the negative kind seems to be the one that sticks the most. The score counted for 5% of the total performance but because it was an area my colleague felt they did well, it might as well have counted for 95%. I spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on this after our appraisal conversation. Why does the negative seem to linger longer? I am an incredibly optimistic person. I will always see the glass half full. But like everyone of you, I wake up somedays poisoned by the negativity of my own thoughts. Our toughest opponent is always ourselves. The little voice inside your head that says “You can’t do it”, “They think you’re a fraud”, “You don’t know what you’re talking about”. This opponent is a huge factor when it comes to preventing people taking on new challenges and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone. So what do we do? How do we quiet this internal monologue?
Framing the day with a good start and a good end is a great way to begin. I have been a long time fan of the writing of Srinivas Rao and of his fantastic podcast, the Unmistakeable Creative. Srinivas uses positive questions to positively frame his day. Questions like ‘What will be great about today?’ or “How can I make today fantastic” or “What am I grateful for?” can help focus on the good that can come with a new day or the good in life in general. He also talks about having a good morning routine. You need to own your morning routine. I wrote last week about how this is my “me” time and I am absolutely religious about it. The things that give me morning energy, that bring me joy are exercise, music and headspace and my morning is built around them. I alternate between running and walking each morning. While I run, I love listening to music or podcasts. On the walking mornings, I spend the time thinking about the day ahead or the events of yesterday. I reflect and I work through positive and negative emotions and by the end of my walk I’m in a better headspace. Negativity is important as we aren’t meant to be up all the time. Finding the balance is key as growth can happen from both. Once I finish exercise I meditate for 10 minutes. This is a practice I have been doing every day since July and I can’t recommend it enough. I use Insight Timer to follow guided meditations and have built it up from 5 minutes over time. I still have days where my brain is on overdrive with thoughts but I am learning to sit and be with the breath. This pause helps me be still and be present. One of my favourite guided meditations says that when everything feels overwhelming, all you need to do is just breathe. If all else fails, just breathe. The morning routine helped save me from burnout. Now ask yourself, what are you doing to start your day right?
Once the day kicks into gear, how do you balance the positive/negative books in your head? It starts by understanding what gives you energy and how many of these elements are in your every day. In their book, Designing Your Life, authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans share a happiness hack to develop the life you desire. It starts with a Good Time Journal which is filled in regularly by the individual with the things in their day that make them feel ten feet tall. This in itself is not unique. Merely collating entries is not enough. Burnett and Evans have devised the AEIOU method of happiness analysis where each entry is dissected to discover the elements that made the event/interaction/etc… so meaningful.
A stands for Activities: What you were doing? What was your role? How was the activity set up?
E stands for Environment: Where were you? Describe the place and the feelings you felt
I stands for Interactions: Describe who and what you interacted with. Was it a familiar or unfamiliar interaction?
O stands for Objects: What objects were present and engaged with? Did you make any objects?
U stands for Users: Who else was present and how did they impact your positive and negative state?
Spending time analysing the great moments (no matter how big or small) in your day is an incredibly powerful exercise and Burnett and Evans write that the insights and patterns that appear are the items that you need to build into your day. If a walk after lunch gives you a boost for the afternoon, then find ways to build that into your day. Build the positives into your day.
Finishing a day with this practice helps to focus on the great in your day. As well as this, find time to wind down and look after yourself. Come to a gradual halt and set yourself up for a great brand new day.
Thanks for reading.