Positivity and Opposition
While having dinner at a restaurant with my dad, my kids, and one kidlet's girlfriend, I gave the waitress a compliment. I told her that I thought her glasses looked nice on her. I said it because I liked her glasses, and I thought it would be thoughtful to share it with her. I also did it because I know the value to both parties when one makes an effort to connect, especially when providing a positive springboard.
In this instance, the waitress lit up with pride and appreciation. She paused and looked directly at me and said thank you. She then went on to tell me how she came to choose these specific glasses. She even shared that she had just had her hair highlighted, as well. She oozed appreciation for the compliment and said she had been on shift for 12 hours, and it was the first compliment she received all day. This one small effort on my part had such an impact that she even thanked me again just before we left — with purposeful eye contact.
What an amazing gift to offer both of us! One honest, shared observation elevated this young lady's confidence and energy. I can't help but wondering if the deeper impact was allowing her permission to acknowledge how she felt about herself? And if it gave her a deep sense that SHE was noticed that day — that SHE matters.
An interesting thing happened just after she left the table beaming with confidence — my kids all began chiding me for being a "suck up." It didn't trouble me, I know they learned something valuable through observing the interaction. What interests me is where this mocking originates?
To scoff at the interaction indicates some discomfort. Part one of that discomfort, I suspect, is in a desire to have been the one to cause such enthusiasm. But I think that's just scratching the surface. I believe everyone at the table understood the positive benefit I received in initiating the encounter. I am curious if their reaction was a desire to feel what I was feeling — a profound sense of satisfaction and purpose.
All this goes without detection on the part of the person doing the scoffing, of course.
Their deriding gave rise to exploring other recent similar situations. Those where a strong negative reaction occurs in response to something that doesn't seem particularly threatening or offensive — such as my choice of clothing color and pointing out that life is imperfect. In these cases, I wonder if these people desire things they are unable to embrace and in turn judge or discount its validity.
For instance, the person that didn't like my red, pink and purple clothing combination is someone trapped by needing admiration and appreciation. Perhaps she's unable to embrace individuality because she fears it will taint her image? In the case of the perfectionist, I purport that she would love to embrace imperfection but it's such a scary and unimaginable prospect that she defends the tangibility of perfection instead.
I don't believe these illustrations of opposition represent envy though they do impersonate it. I believe it is about a longing to unbind ourselves from an image we hope will keep us safe in the world. Rather than envy, it is the admiration of the assuredness displayed by others without a worry of judgment, comparison or the collapse of self.
If, before our moments of ridicule, we stop to consider its source and our intent, maybe we'll uncover our authentic selves? From this, perhaps we can reveal our authentic selves to the world as well.
I was recently in a situation that had me feeling vulnerable. (Note that feeling vulnerable had me — rather than me having the feeling of vulnerability.) In a moment of panic, I asked myself: "What if I'm not vulnerable?" In that instant, I could see vulnerability at arm's length — as a perception of a reality that I was creating. Holding vulnerability where I could see it, my feelings shifted to confidence and assuredness. After all, there is no one other than me assigning meaning to the moments of my life.
How might you stop and question the feelings that have you so that you can instead have them? The next time you're trapped by a negative feeling, stop and ask yourself: "What if I'm not ________?" and see what happens.
After returning from a regional NSCA Strength and Conditioning conference last weekend, I am exploring the coalescence of strength/conditioning and health/wellness coaching.
As a strength and conditioning coach, I listen to the needs and goals of my client and observe their current conditioning as compared to where they'd like to be (vision). I learn about their motivation and time commitment as well as their strengths and challenge areas. Depending on their goal (race, wedding, fitness, other), I design an adaptable training plan aligned with the event date in mind (periodization). As their body adapts to the physical stress placed upon it, I modify the exercises to continuing challenging and improving their abilities (neuromuscular adaptation). Throughout our relationship, I gather feedback and champion improvement, tweaking my plans as necessary to stay the course toward goal achievement (optimizing physical potential).
As a health and wellness coach, I listen to the needs of my client and explore their current situation and how it differs from what they'd like it to be (vision). I learn about their motivating factors and readiness to make changes. I ferret out their strengths and help them determine how to leverage them. If there are obstacles, we brainstorm solutions. Together, we create goals that are realistic, achievable and measurable keeping their long-term vision in mind (periodization). I take note of achievements and barriers and help my client harness their strengths for continued success — repeated new behaviors become habit over time (neural plasticity and optimizing mental and emotional potential). Every step of the way, I champion the tenacity and courage it takes to stay the path of growth and change and adapt my approach to meet my client's needs.
In both types of coaching, the key features are:
So, while the outcome goals of my clients may differ, the core skills required of me remain the same: listening, curiosity, observation, competence, engagement, flexibility, and fun.
At its best, coaching is helping people achieve meaningful goals.
So is Pessimism
Optimism is choosing what you believe about adversity. Emotion and action follow our interpretation of an event — they don't simply follow events without us first assigning meaning. Optimism is resiliency.
The optimist views adversity as impermanent, isolated incidents that are not personal in nature. They see choice and challenge and try new things when the going get tough. Though they get knocked down by occasional defeat, optimists dispute negative thoughts, take action and recover quicker than their pessimistic counterparts. Optimists make an effort to connect with others, and in turn, have better relationships than pessimists. Optimists are curious and explore possibilities, opening themselves to risk, opportunity, and reward.
The pessimist, on the other hand, sees things as permanent, pervasive and personal. They focus on what's wrong which leads to rumination, inertia and passivity. Pessimists isolate rather than reach out to others. Pessimism is self-fulfilling and leads to poor health and depression. Pessimists sometimes ruminate about their happy past or daydream about the life they want but stay passive rather than taking action to make change happen — thus fulfilling their fatalistic outlook.
The good news is that pessimists can choose to become optimists by using the strategy in the first paragraph. By learning to change the interpretation of a negative event, you can change the emotions and actions that follow. By taking the small step to dispute your automatic thoughts when adversity strikes (which might be often when you're depressed), you'll begin feeling empowered and capable. When you learn that you're in charge of your thoughts, you learn that you're in charge of your feelings, actions, and outcomes, too.
Passivity, a bioproduct of pessimism, ensures that you're never personally responsible — you can never take the blame and you can never take the credit. If you find passivity and rumination to be your norm, it would be useful to consider how they benefit you. While it might be comfortable to be the martyr, you're choosing to let life pass you by via passivity. You must choose responsibility and action to create the upward spiral of optimism and the positive benefits that come with it.
To foster sustainable change alongside others that share your journey toward optimism, learn and practice the skills of the optimist with AlohaConnection.
For further theory and research about optimism: Seligman, M. (1990). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York, NY; Random House, Inc.
Learner and sharer of all things healthy, active, esteem building, growth promoting, witty and Hawaiian