Hi team! It’s your friend, Mary, with The I in Team Series, where you can find, be, and build your positive influence. A few weeks ago, IA’s Gratitude Group discussed toxic positivity and its effects. Toxic positivity is the belief and pressure to ignore negative or painful emotions, putting a positive spin on even the hardest life events. Toxic positivity often leads to emotional repression, forcing individuals to believe that they should feel ashamed for feeling negative emotions or like nobody understands them. Avoiding toxic positivity can be beneficial for you and people around you. While it’s okay to have a positive attitude and outlook, ignoring the other side of emotions can be detrimental to your health.
Internal Toxic Positivity
Internal toxic positivity is when you don’t allow yourself to feel and accept your emotions, often telling yourself to stay positive. This is typically due to shame for feeling the emotion. Emotions are part of the human experience, so to avoid internal toxic positivity, follow these three steps.
Being transparent with yourself about what you are feeling means having enough respect and self-compassion to allow yourself to feel. When you’re honest with yourself about your emotions, you make it easier to get rid of those emotions. Additionally, you can also weaken their hold the more often you are honest with yourself about them. By acknowledging their presence, you avoid emotional repression.
Knowing when you are feeling emotional is typically easy, but classifying those emotions isn’t always easy. For those who have been repressing their emotions, emotional identification becomes more difficult as they are typically classified as the highest-ranking emotions (anger, sadness, happiness). Additionally, it’s always possible there are multiple emotions present at one time. This can, again, make it even more difficult for those repressing their emotions to categorize the emotions they feel. One tool that can be used to aid in validating and identifying emotions is an emotion wheel. Emotions are valid, but the more you understand them the less power they have.
Empathy and self-compassion are imperative to avoiding toxic positivity. You may feel both grief and happiness at the same time, and that is normal. Having empathy for yourself means realizing that emotions are part of the human experience and that you are allowed to have them. Empathy encompasses validating, identifying, and understanding your emotions, but with yourself.
External Toxic Positivity
Avoiding being toxically positive with others may be difficult if you are toxically positive with yourself. While you work on being less toxic with yourself, consider using those same (or similar) tactics with others. Below are three steps to avoid toxic positivity when interacting with others.
While being transparent with yourself requires you to listen, you also need to listen to others. By listening to others when they are describing their emotional state, make them feel acknowledged, heard, and validated by repeating back to them what you hear. For example, “I hear that you are experiencing immense grief right now,” or, “It sounds like that event made you feel very angry.” Don’t offer unsolicited advice, but if you want clarity on what they are looking for, ask them if they want advice or someone to empathize with them.
Empathizing with others is a lot like empathizing with yourself. Showing empathy means being able to understand other’s emotions and demonstrating that understanding through some kind of support. Having empathy for the bad parts of being human is okay. Yin and Yang come from ancient Chinese philosophy and methodology, representing complementary forces, like good and bad. The symbol for Yin and Yang denotes there is some good in the bad and some bad in the good. Having empathy for others (and yourself) means accepting this fact.
To avoid toxic positivity, you have to change your language. Toxic positivity often sounds like, “good vibes only,” “everything happens for a reason,” or, “it could be worse.” These are invalidating statements that can make people feel shame for feeling emotions. Emotions are not something to be shameful of. Replace these phrases with, “all vibes welcome,” “life is full of peaks and valleys,” or, “you aren’t alone in this experience.”
While positivity serves us greatly in many regards, when it becomes toxic positivity it becomes detrimental to our mental health. Overcoming toxic positivity and emotional repression is not an easy task, but it is possible. It takes willpower and habit building to rewrite your mind’s natural way of thinking. To continue spreading your positive influence, you must have compassion and empathy for the spectrum of human emotions, both with yourself and those you influence. Once you do so, life will, ironically, become more positive.
Hi team! It’s your friend, Mary, with The I in Team Series where you can find, be, and build your positive influence. This week, I want to focus our attention on what it means to take the high road. Taking the high road is subjective to each of us; at The I in Team Series, we believe the high road is when you take the path that helps the most people and hurts the least amount of people. Sometimes taking the high road means leaving someone or something behind so you can continue to grow in your positive influence. It can mean swallowing your need to speak when the timing isn’t right or being patient while you give someone an extra five minutes of your time. Taking the high road is always taking the right road, but you must understand what that path means and how to find it.
Finding the High Road
The high road is always the right road, but sometimes finding it can be difficult. First, you must weigh the paths you have in front of you. Ask if these choices, and subsequent decisions, influence anyone other than you (most decisions do), and then ask which choice will produce the most positive influence. When taking the high road, remember to put yourself first if the decision will influence you the most. We believe that in order to give people your most positive influence, you must live life for yourself and put yourself first. Some may find this selfish; some will say this is taking the low road. Taking care of yourself so you can have a positive influence is anything but selfish. So, when considering the high road, you will need to take yourself into account first, and then evaluate which decision will positively influence the most people.
Making decisions can be difficult when you don’t know what the outcome will be, but you have to trust yourself to weigh the pros and cons and analyze the information you have. Be diligent and seek out more information and trust your instincts. Ask people you can trust for their opinion if you need an external source to weigh in. You may find that one day, you are walking on what you believe is the high road, but you may find yourself standing alone.
Walking the High Road
Walking the high road can be a lonely road, as most people find it difficult to take the high road. You may become unpopular and shunned by peers for the decisions you make in life, but if you know that it is your high road then you must stay true to yourself. Let’s digress to a story about a man named Nicolaus Copernicus, who was a mathematician and astronomer in the 1500s, and the first to suggest that the Earth and all the planets revolved around the sun, rather than the Earth being the center of our solar system. He made several great strides in astronomy, including correctly hypothesizing why planets go into retrograde.
However, this was at a time when everyone believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that everything moved around a stagnant Earth. Copernicus was utterly rejected by society, thrown in prison, denounced by his faith, and all but killed for his ideas (which, most, were later proven to be true). At no point did Copernicus waiver from his findings, and he spent his life trying to help others see the truth about our world. He died being mocked and shunned by society and faith. We now know that the Earth does in fact revolve around the Sun. This is one of my favorite stories of human strength and will. It would have been easy to retract his statements to be accepted by society and his church, but he refused. He knew what was right and he died trying to teach others. There are high roads that you will walk alone, but you must keep empathy in your heart for those on the low road.
Observing the Low Road
Choose curiosity over judgement. Do not judge those who cannot see the high road, be curious as to why they can’t or why they refuse to walk it with you. Having empathy for those who are walking the low road is another form of taking the high road. Like Copernicus, the best you can do is speak what you believe to be true from your perspective. Educate others and encourage them to be curious. Do not view others as being judgmental when they ask questions in a tone that questions your position; appreciate that they are looking for knowledge and view them as curious, even if they can’t control their tone. Being on the high road means holding empathy for those who are not with you, whether they choose not to be or don’t know how. Just because others haven’t joined you on the high road yet, doesn’t mean they won’t. Taking the high road is the mark of a leader.
Taking the high road is always taking the right road. Whether it is to benefit yourself or to help others, your high road is always right. When faced with an opportunity to take the high road or the low road, envision your hands with one up and one down; the one up is the high road, the road that will bring the most positive influence to you or others, and the hand that is down is the low road, the road you take when you are not your best self (most likely to induce feelings of guilt later on). Taking the high road may seem scary, difficult, or impossible at times, but if Copernicus could do it in the 1500s, you can do it today.
Hi team, Mary here! We have had a pretty crazy year. Between the pandemic, civil unrest, and elections, it seems emotions are always running high. But in the month of giving thanks, I would like us all to reflect on that which we are grateful for. In times of uncertainty and stress, it can be easy to look at the past or future and wish for better, but that takes us away from the present moment. I implore you to focus on that which you do have, in the now. Showing gratitude for the positive parts of your life will help you remain positive and content overall.
What is Gratitude?
Most individuals believe that showing gratitude is the same as showing thanks. While being thankful is synonymous with showing gratitude, there are some subtle differences. Being thankful is when you acknowledge what someone or something has done or given you. For example, when your co-worker brings coffee to work for everyone, you may respond with, “Thank you!” Gratitude, on the other hand, is a feeling that is much deeper. It goes beyond the simple, verbal “thank you” and involves having a deeper appreciation and love for that person, event, or thing. It’s a deep emotional response that you feel down to your core, and the feeling lingers much longer than the “Thank you!”
If you’re someone who doesn’t have or express a lot of emotions, the differences between showing gratitude and being thankful might be difficult to grasp. You can still show gratitude and be mindful about how you conduct yourself in showing thanks while not feeling the deep emotional sense of gratefulness. Showing gratitude for the things and people in your life requires that you remain mindful of yourself and your surroundings. So, if you’re someone who has difficultly feeling or expressing emotion, meditation and mindfulness might be the solution for you showing gratitude.
Mindfulness is a school of thought that can be expressed in several ways but boiled down it’s just about remaining aware of yourself, how you’re feeling inside, and remaining cognizant of the influence you have. Some people practice mindfulness by meditating while others may practice mindfulness by reading self-help books or engaging in self-education. Mindfulness is kind of what you want it to be, as long as you can stay grounded in who you are and how you influence the world around you. Staying mindful just means that you stay aware. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect because none of us are. It means that if you identify an opportunity for growth, you try to grow positively.
Being humble goes hand-in-hand with showing gratitude. If you are boastful, you are certainly not being mindful. You might have a little or you might have a lot, but no matter what you have, it’s important to remain humble in those feelings. There are always going to be those who are less fortunate than you. Remaining humble and showing gratitude for what you do have in life will help you remain more content. Instead of constantly chasing greener grass or looking back on better times, find peace in where you are at in life. By showing gratitude, and feeling the weight of that gratefulness, you will inherently become humbler. Gratitude itself is a humbling feeling.
Focusing on what we do have rather than what we don’t have is how we can all live more content lives and spread a positive influence. When we feel grounded with where we are, we feel better about ourselves. When we feel good, we spread that good feeling to those around us. In the month of thanks, take some time to show deep gratitude towards those who have positively influenced you. You may even show some gratitude towards those who have been a negative influence in your life; sometimes negativity can make us better as humans and that is something to be grateful for. If you’re looking for more ways to be a positive influence and help spread the love, check out our Influence page! We have tons of examples of positive influence for children, your professional life, and your personal life.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to anyone out there who has read this blog, our book, followed us on social media, watched our vlogcast, and supported our efforts to spread a positive influence by teaching people how to be better leaders. You’re the reason I get up in the morning and why the sun will shine again tomorrow. You give my life purpose and meaning, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to help anyone grow in their positive influence. So, how about you? What are you grateful for? Namaste, team.
Hi team, Mary here! With 2021 right around the corner, I’m sure some of you are looking ahead to better and brighter days. One of the things I love most about a new year is how excited people get about their new year’s goals! (Notice how I said “goals” and not “resolutions.”) Unfortunately, approximately 80% of people give up on their new year’s goals by February! Hence, why I refuse to call them resolutions.
Creating new year’s resolutions is usually about building healthier habits. One of the most popular is going to the gym regularly. Habits take discipline and dedication to take root in your life, so they become automated. It’s estimated that actions take 21-60 days of repetition to firmly become habits. Usually, these habit-forming resolutions are abandoned, for one reason or another, and forgotten about until the next new year comes along.
I believe creating healthy habits starts with dedication to yourself. You start forming new habits because you know they will be good for you but can become discouraged if you miss a day or multiple days, giving up on the habit creation altogether. When dedicating yourself to making new and healthy habits, you need to employ some empathy for yourself too. Don’t feel discouraged for not being perfect. Instead, feel uplifted and remember why you set out to start creating a new habit in the first place. One of the best ways to start creating new habits is to evaluate the ones you currently have.
Evaluate Current Habits
When you decide it’s time to add new habits into your routine, the first thing you need to do is evaluate your current habits. Some habits are completely automated and perhaps even subconscious (like, biting your nails) while others are intentional (like going to the gym). Subconscious habits are usually harder to spot as they are typically performed while in the subconscious-mode state. Nonetheless, write down and evaluate all your current habits that come to mind. You can add to this list over time as you discover some of the smaller subconscious habits you have. After you have your list, you will want to determine which of those habits are negative influences on you. Do away with negative habits to make room for positive, healthy ones.
Build Healthy Habits
Building healthy habits starts with dedication to yourself and pursuing a better life. It might be helpful for you, when you decide to create a new habit, to write yourself a note to encourage your future self to stick with it! We often forget why we set out to create new habits but reading a letter from your past self could help keep you on the right path. Even if you make a mistake, pick yourself back up and keep trying. The only person you let down by not sticking to better habit development is yourself. Wayne Dyer once said, “You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, ‘I release the need for this in my life.’”
Sometimes building new, healthy habits is hard if you don’t know where to start! One of the programs we are part of, ProHabits, makes healthy habit development a breeze. ProHabits sends you a daily MicroAction, either in a text or email, and you focus on performing that small action that day. Each MicroAction takes only 5-10 minutes per day and it corresponds to the habit track you choose. Some examples of tracks they have include leadership, mindfulness, and empowerment. They have a basic program with their stock tracks, but we partnered with them through IA Business Advisors to bring our clients specialized tracks based on The I in Team Series. If you want some help learning where to start with healthy habit development, ProHabits is the place for you. Just ask us how you can sign up!
Make a Routine
Once you know what healthy habits to put in place, you will want to schedule them into your daily routine. If you can fit in these new habits with ones you already have or during a time when you are already doing stuff for yourself (like, getting ready in the morning), you will have an easier time remembering to perform the habit each morning. For example, when I wanted to make the habit of taking my new vitamins every morning, I put my vitamin container next to my contact lens case. Therefore, when I put my contacts in, I would see the vitamins and remember to take them. Consider writing a sticky note to yourself and sticking it somewhere, like your bathroom mirror! Or, if you’re addicted to your phone like many of us are, finding a habit tracking/creating app or using your calendar or reminder app to help you might be your best route!
Habit development isn’t an easy task. It takes time, discipline, and desire to change. With the new year right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start considering your current habits and some goals you have for your future. Keep in mind that you’re only human, and all humans make mistakes. Making a mistake is not a license to throw your entire habit development plan out the window. Instead, show yourself some kindness and keep moving forward towards your goals. Adjust these goals as needed to keep them relevant in your life. If you need help with healthy habit development, contact us about ProHabits!
Hi team, Mary here! As I write this, it’s almost the end of June 2020 and with the state our world is in right now it’s becoming increasingly harder to stay positive. I want to take a moment to remind you how important you are and how important your influence is! We have to stay strong and do our best to pursue positivity, even when faced with copious negativity. Today, I would like to share with you some of my top tips for staying positive during negative times.
Remember this: Loving yourself first is anything but selfish. If you don’t, who will? Practicing self-love is about knowing yourself down to your foundation and understanding what you need to rebuild your positivity. I know for me personally, sleep is about the only thing that really mends my positivity. Having the time to process and rest really helps reset myself for the next day. Although, there isn’t always time for sleep, or you may need to stay positive at a time when sleep is not an option.
You may enjoy a hot beverage, taking a walk in the sunshine, meditating, doing yoga, playing a game on your phone, scrolling social media, talking on the phone, or simply unplugging from it all. To practice self-love, you must first find the activities you love the most. If you don’t know, start trying some things out. What makes you feel good? What makes you feel like you can take on the world? Make time in your day for those activities. Do not neglect yourself. To be your best for others, you must first be your best for yourself.
Empathy. It’s hard to explain and even harder to teach. If you have it, you know it. If you don’t, you need to learn. Emotional intelligence is necessary for our current times and the times of the future. Essentially, empathy boils down to this: being able to recognize another’s emotions and feel them as if you were in their same position. It’s more complicated than that, but for those of you that are still working on this I hope this definition helps.
If you feel a situation you are in becomes negative, or you find that you are surrounded by negativity, ask yourself: Why? Why are people negative? Why do people push their negativity on me? It’s because they don’t feel positive inside, and that is something we can (and should) have empathy for. Showing empathy for those who might be mean, icky, or just all around not fun to be around is one of the best ways we can keep up our positivity. Don’t sink to their level and add to the negativity. Instead, be the light that lifts them up and continue to share your positivity.
Two additional notes on empathy: 1) Don’t take things so seriously. Sometimes people just have bad days, but that’s not a reflection of you. Sometimes people have hard lives, but that’s not a reflection of you. Some people are just bad people, but that’s not a reflection of you. You need to learn to let things roll off your back and have empathy for the other’s situations. 2) If you feel the weight of empathy start to drag you down (this is for you, fellow empaths), re-read my self-love section. Being an empath means you fully take on the emotions of another, sometimes finding it difficult to separate your own emotions from theirs. When you feel this, practice self-love and remind yourself that you don’t have to take on the weight of another.
When you’re faced with a negative situation or are experiencing a lot of negativity, try to slow the moment down. Negativity can sometimes force us to act irrationally and without thought. When you feel your emotions begin to boil over from negativity, slow down and remind yourself to not take things so seriously. Employ some empathy for the moment and work to add positivity back into the situation.
The Law of Attraction
“Think positive and you shall live positive.” I love the law of attraction: the idea that what you put into life is what you get out of life. Even during negative times, keep putting positivity out there. Never cease to be the beacon of hope in others’ lives. You never know what the positivity you put out could do for another, even just one, human being. Remind yourself that life has peaks and valleys, and if you are in a valley right now there is only one place left to go: up.
Hate only breeds more hate. The best thing we can do for our world right now is to stay positive and keep fighting for what we believe in. One last note for you, do not be hard on yourself if you cannot remain positive all the time. It’s not plausible, or even fair to yourself, to expect to be positive all the time. The best you can do is, well, the best you can do! Work hard everyday to spread a positive influence. It all starts with you. Because if it’s not you, then who?
Written by: Brian Smith & Mary Smith
Like most of the world, we have been thinking more about things that are out of our control. The amount of time we have to ourselves or with our families is unprecedented in our lifetimes. We find ourselves streaming more shows and reading more news articles. There is a phrase we keep reading, “This is the new normal.”
As business advisors, we deal with exceptions all the time. We are trained to deal with the uncertainties of life and are now pondering this phrase, “This is the new normal.” As leadership development consultants and influence-understanding specialists, our view is that COVID-19 is an exception, not the new normal. However, this phrase continues to parrot around the internet and is seeping into our everyday lives.
COVID-19 is not the new normal. People describe this as the new normal to ease their anxiety of change. If they can find a foundation by deeming this a new normal, they may feel that things aren’t as chaotic. By defining something you give it meaning; meaning gives people purpose and understanding. This foundation and purpose ease the anxiety around change. Therefore, if they can feel more at ease thinking “this is the new normal” they will tell themselves that even if they don’t believe it.
We would go as far as to say there is no normal, but that wouldn’t sit well with most individuals. The reason we are inclined to say this is because we feel that there is no way to define true normal. It’s subjective to each individual and philosophical at best. People need to feel like they have a normal to feel secure. In reality, change is the only normal. There has never been and never will be a normal, just change. We define things as “normal” so we don’t have to face the vastly open possibilities of change or keep an open mind.
So, what exactly is this “new normal” that everyone is talking about? Being shut inside? Not being able to socialize? Mass businesses being closed or shut down? Having to stand six feet apart when shopping at the grocery store, or not being able to use reusable bags? The very idea that this life is our new normal is, honestly, quite sad. If people really believe that we are going to be stuck like this forever, they have lost touch of reality. We won’t be quarantined forever, we will be able to socialize again, businesses will come back or reopen, and we will be able to use our reusable bags again.
We predict that, in the future, most things will return to how it was with very minor adjustments. Yes, there will be tragedy and struggle. There will be lives, properties, and businesses lost. We will face challenges, but they won’t be anymore challenging than what humans have faced in the past. Rather than tackling this challenge and the change that comes with it, people would rather define this as our “new normal.”
Lives are going to change, but that doesn’t mean that life itself will change. Some will experience a “new normal” if they become shut ins or germaphobes. However, there have always been these kinds of people, and for those that do become shut ins or germaphobes due to COVID-19 this will be their “new normal” rather than societies new normal. Time will progress. We will adapt, learn, and evolve, as humans have always done. We will persevere and we will return to “normal.”
Humans have an amazing capacity to overcome tragedy and take on seemingly insurmountable challenges. Humans move past tragedy, with short attention spans, and ignore (to a fault) the lessons of history. History shows us that we will make it through this. If you can accept that change is the only normal, things won’t seem as chaotic. This acceptance opens doors to new possibilities for the future, one where we are all better prepared for change. There is so much we can learn from the experience of COVID-19, and one of them is that change is the only normal.
© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2020