For the month of February, we chose optimism as a character trait we wanted to focus on to improve ourselves and our relationship. This week, we report back on our experiences and lessons learned from this experiment. Check out how well we stacked up to our goals!
Intention #1: Start each day with a positive mindset. While I had a tough time getting up early to meditate, I did do it most days in mid-afternoon for about 20 minutes. Jenna introduced me to an app called Headspace, and I love it! This guy Andy guides you through each meditation session with a relaxing, soothing voice and he offers tips on how to replicate the peaceful feeling in your daily life. While the practice is still new, there were times this month when I remembered to stop my overactive brain and be more mindful of what I was doing and where I was at that particular moment. I felt a sense of peace by focusing on the present instead of thinking about what I needed to do next or what I should have done before. Meditation fosters a positive mindset and I want to stick with it – in fact, after the 10-day free trial, I bought a yearly subscription!
As for smiling at myself in the mirror, that was a bit too cheesy for me, so I dropped that intention after a few days. I am still going to work on getting up earlier, though, so that I can ease into my day with positive intentions. If I would just stop hitting that darn snooze button!
Intention #2: Listen for negative self-talk or comments and consciously turn them into positive ones. Well, I had some good outcomes with this one and some not so good ones. I am happy to report that I lost two sets of tennis one day and had a great time anyway! I actually coached myself through the first few games: I gave myself positive reinforcement when I hit a good shot and when I missed one, I told myself that it was okay and pat myself on the back for being out there in the first place. After successfully halting any lurking negative thoughts, I told myself, “That’s great, Ellen. See, you can do this! Be positive; it’s only a game.”
But the following week, I played golf and was not able to stop myself from criticizing each shot. I tried, but I felt like I couldn’t control my negative thoughts. I even went so far as thinking that I wanted to stop playing golf altogether. I ruined what should have been a perfectly nice afternoon.
Another example: Jenna is coming for a visit in two weeks and we spoke about it a few days ago. When I told her that I was really looking forward to seeing her, I could sense some negative vibes coming from the other end of the phone. And when I began to talk about plans for the time she’d be here, she told me that she was really tired and wanted to just sleep a lot and relax. My first reaction was disappointment and my visions of yoga, biking and beaching were replaced with others of me twiddling my thumbs while watching Jen sleep on the couch. After a little while, I recognized this familiar pattern and was able to manage my expectations, think positive, and get excited about being with Jenna and helping her have the type of vacation that she wants and needs, not me.
So, as you can see, my positive self-talk has worked on some occasions and has been ineffective on others. I’m going to keep working on this because optimism and positive thinking are important things for me to learn, especially when it comes to sports. After all, it is “only a game” and I don’t want my self-image to be affected by whether I play well or poorly or whether I accomplish something or don’t.
Intention #1: Send 10 special thank-yous. I’m so glad I set this intention this month because it came in handy the past few days! It was a rough week: I lost all electricity in my apartment for two days, got a cold, and my scoliosis pain returned in a big way, forcing me to miss many activities. The other night I was exhausted and feeling down…until I remembered I had this blog to write!
Immediately, I whipped out my computer and started writing notes to people I care about – from mentors and travel buddies to college buddies and newfound friends at Wharton, I sat down and began writing notes, telling people why I am so grateful to have them in my life. At first, I was surprised at how vulnerable I felt – it’s easy to tell people how much you care about them on special occasions but randomly, for no reason? It felt weird! However, it was amazing how quickly I perked up as I wrote the notes: I immediately felt happier as I reminisced about fun memories with people I care about and brainstormed all the people I could write to who bring joy to my life. I highly recommend this intention since it has double benefits: cheering yourself up and sharing love with the people you care about!
Intention #2: Look at my vision board every day. Well, I must admit: I failed at this one. Not because I don’t love my vision board, but mostly because I rarely see it where it hangs above my desk. While I spend a lot of time doing work in my apartment, I prefer to lounge on my couch with my computer in my lap rather than sit at my desk.
While I spent a lot of thought and time creating my vision board and framing it, I realized that it’s not the look but the location that really matters. For example, one of my close friends simply printed out his mission statement and posted it on the back of his door. Every time he walks out of his apartment he pauses and reads the statement to himself – what an amazing idea!
This month I started working with an executive coach at Wharton and he challenged me to create my own personal mission statement – once I refine it, I think I am going to steal my friend’s idea and post it on my door so I can’t help but see it every day.
While my schedule seems to be jam-packed these days, I really enjoyed both of these intentions because they forced me to pause and make time to focus on people and thoughts that make me grateful for what I have and optimistic about the future!