I was talking to a friend at lunch today when she said "How do you do it?" My response was "How do I do what?" She said "You've had some awful stuff happen to you over the years, but you're still so cheerful. What gives?" This statement threw me off. I know that I haven't always been the most positive person out there, but this theme has been coming up a lot. My husband just last night was telling me how he admired by optimism. I've had clients and coworkers comment on my positive attitude. Yet, this hasn't always been the case. I've actually been a very pessimistic person in the past. So, I told my friend "Believe me there are times when I don't always feel positive and there are times I complain, but I've spent too much of my life focusing on the negativity. I don't know when the light switched for me, but time flies by so fast. I don't want to reach the end of my life and regret my life because I didn't appreciate it enough. What I know is that no matter how difficult life gets..... it works out.....it always does. You just miss the good when you're focusing on the bad. So, I choose to look at the good." I shared with my friend my 99% principal. After our 25 minute chat she felt better, and said maybe I need to look at life differently too. She said I like your 99% principal I just need to change the way that I view things.
You're probably thinking what's the 99% principal? First, let me tell you where it began. About three years ago I felt depressed. I wasn't sure where my life was going. I felt like a hypocrite I was counseling people to change the way they think to help themselves feel better, but I wasn't doing it myself. That year I went to a conference on "How Positive Psychology Changes Lives". What's funny is my supervisor suggested I go. With much hesitation I went but thought "Great another conference on being happy. This will be a waste of my time." They presented a lot of research on how people who thought positively lived longer and more satisfied lives. At the conference they talked about techniques that could help one reduce depression, anxiety, and live happier lives by doing one thing.... thinking more positively. One of the suggestions the speaker made was to try these techniques on ourselves before trying them on our clients. I took the challenge of doing a gratitude journal for a month. That month turned into a year. What happened to my perspective changed significantly!
What I noticed is that throughout my day I would experience many things (good, bad, and indifferent). When I focused on the bad things it would become 99% of my day. When I focused on the good things it would become 99% of my day. However, at the end of the day I did my gratitude journal whether I was having a good or bad day. On my "bad days" I was forced to look at the good, and believe me this was so HARD sometimes. What was amazing is that even on my worst days the good outweighed the bad. I realized that 99% of my day was good and 1% of my day was bad. The thing was I was focusing on was the 1% and not looking at the 99%. My 1% of negativity became 99% of my day. Throughout that year I knew I had the challenge of doing my gratitude journal nightly so I was forced to look for good things throughout my day. What I found was 99% of my day was generally good I just was moving too fast to appreciate it.
Another technique they touched on in my positive psychology conference was being mindful. Being mindful was a new concept for me. Again, I taught it to my clients, but I didn't ever implement it into my life. I started to apply the concept of mindfulness throughout my day. When I rode to work in the morning I started to look around and appreciate everything for what it was. I paid attention to the sun rising, the trees, flower, people driving, the birds, sun sets, and yes even the squirrels (it's really hard to appreciate those rodents). When I ate I tasted my food, when I exercised I listened to my body, when I spoke to my friends and family I listened to what they were saying, and when I touched something I felt it. I was no longer on auto pilot. Again, what I started to notice was a shift in myself. Thinking positively, paying attention, and enjoying life were all encompassing. I felt better, less bitter, and more confident.
After I practiced doing these things I started to teach it to my clients, co-workers, friends, and others who would listen to me. What I found was when people choose to adopt the principles of thinking positively it changed their life. Don't get me wrong there are days when I choose to view the negativity (bad habits never die right), but for the most part I choose to look for the silver lining and appreciate life for what it is. We cannot stop the bad things from happening in our life (loss, hurt, pain, grief, etc.), but we can choose the way we think and view those things in our life. There is beauty and good in our lives we just have to look for it. If you can't see it you can choose to change your view by moving your feet. As I have chosen to change my perspective it has opened me up to love and happiness. My favorite quote is "Happiness is not just a package we can open up and consume, but we must learn to recognize the elements of happiness and enjoy them as they last." I continue to be so grateful for my life and the things that continue to bless my life each and everyday.