Okay. There’s something I need to get off my chest. I am not a naturally grateful individual. My inner monologue is riddled with negative self-talk and a woe-is-me attitude. You know those people who say “I love a challenge!”?
I loathe a challenge. 😂 But life is full of them so it is my responsibility to roll up my sleeves and face those challenges. One way to do that is to accept that I am not a naturally positive person. That is okay. Few people are. The thing is, gratitude is not a gene. It’s a muscle. One that needs to be stretched, honed, and regularly used.
I have had the value of gratitude drilled into me for as long as I can remember, but for the longest time it just did not click for me. Sure, I understood it was important. I knew how to exercise it (in theory). I have had plenty of successful phases of gratefulness, but I was still not quite there. It didn’t drive or influence my life. Maybe some of these retrospective truths I have learned can help you get to that point sooner than I did.
First, I want to start with a story from the book of Matthew from the New Testament. Regardless of your religious beliefs, I believe there are worse things you can do than consider the example of Jesus of Galilee.
Jesus was once accompanied by a group of 4,000 hungry individuals. Out of concern for them, he asked his disciples how much food they had available. In total, they had seven loaves of bread and a few fishes. Naturally, their answer focused on what was lacking. 4,000 people, some bread, and only a few fishes was a problem
Unfazed, Jesus gathered the food, knelt down, and gave thanks for what they had. Miraculously, the crowd all ate. And when they were filled, they even had food left over! Notice how the miracle did not happen until after He gave thanks? Was it a miracle? Did this really happen? That is up to you to decide. The point of the story is that when we focus on what we have instead of what we don’t, our possibilities multiply.
Here are a few other truths to consider:
- Optimism is your weapon against impostor syndrome. As creatives, we have a tendency to put ourselves in these mind funks where we convince ourselves that we’re garbage because we make mistakes. While a little aspiration for perfectionism never hurt anyone, it can become debilitating if not kept under control. You will make mistakes. Period. Let them happen. Acknowledge them. Accept them. But you need to acknowledge your successes too. Even if you are only succeeding 1% of the time, cherish and praise that blessed bit. Because when you’re present in your achievements, however small they may be, you will feel energized by them to keep going.
- Creativity is aligned with positivity. Have you heard of that study that found plants grow faster when you speak positively to them? Living things flourish under positivity. We are no different. When you focus on the good things in your life, your brain feels less of a need to be in survival mode. This opens your mind to more creativity and productivity.
- It reduces stress. It isn’t news to anyone that stress gets in the way of a good day’s work. Scientists have found that focusing on feelings of contentment and satisfaction naturally counters stress, and leaves you feeling much more grounded and able to deal with whatever life throws at you. (See here.)
- You give yourself permission to grow. Not too long ago, I was having a rough day. My 2 month old was having trouble sleeping unless I was holding her and my two older daughters were at each other’s throats 90% of the day. To make matters worse, we had been receiving rejection after rejection on our queries for Dawn of Endings. By the end of the day, I was a mopey zoo lion.
I took a deep breath and acknowledged what was bothering me: my worries about the strength of our query package had prevented me from being fully present with my daughters. Then, I thought of the progress I had made in preparing our Instagram overhaul. Matti was doing really incredible work on designing our book trailer. I also thought about how incredibly awesome everything we achieved together has been thus far.
Matti and I put our heads together that evening and were able to talk out what was wrong with our query and what could make it better. Within an hour we had the working of a proposal that I felt excited about and confident in— something I couldn’t say about our original query. By acknowledging what I was lacking and shifting my focus to what I had achieved, my mind was able to relax and open to new possibilities.
- Come what may and love it. When you spend your time consumed by things that are out of your control, then you cannot focus on the work at hand. Allow the universe to take your actions and turn it into something, even if it isn’t what you intended. “The way [you] react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful [you] can be in life.” – Boyd K. Packer
Turning negative self-talk on its head
Like I said earlier, gratitude is a muscle, and it takes practice to get those happy feelings at center stage in our lives. When you catch yourself speaking or thinking negatively about yourself, your partner, your situation, etc., step on the brakes and try rewording the statement:
And before you go, here is a fun video to help you improve your mindset. Our personal favorite is #5.
What has helped you be more positive? Have you noticed a difference in your productivity when you are more grateful? Let us know in the comments!