6 Things I Learned from The Negativity Challenge

August 27, 2012

Last Friday, I wrote about how negative attitudes and words had been creeping into my life. I created what I called “The Negativity Challenge” and challenged myself to go an entire day without saying something negative. (If you missed that post, you can read it here.)

It was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time. Here are six things it taught me:

1. I was more negative than I realized. Negativity, like many vices, is sneaky. I didn’t realize how often I was negative until I started this challenge. All day long I would catch myself about to say something derogatory or pessimistic. Most of us don’t realize just how negative we are. This challenge rolled back the curtains.

2. Other people were more negative than I realized. You don’t realize what a high percentage of cars are white until you buy one. And you don’t realize what percentage of other’s words are negative until you become intentional about avoiding negativity. (A few people knew about the challenge and even tried to get me to say something negative to ruin it! But I couldn’t tell them how insensitive that was because, of course, that would be negative!)

3. Pessimism (and optimism) are contagious. It’s an irony of human nature that we naturally begin to reflect our surroundings; being around negative people influences us to think and speak negatively. On the flip side, the optimism of cheerful people also rubs off on us. (And positive people are so fun to be around!)

4. Negativity is a bad habit. Scientists have not been able to fully uncover the mystery of how our human minds work, but one thing they have discovered is that our brains work in patterns. Consistent patterns of thought literally groove our minds, and become deeper and deeper ingrained. This is true of negativity. It’s not just an emotional state or bad day; it’s a brain pattern. It’s a habit. And like any bad habit, it takes time and effort to break it.

5. It’s about thoughts, not words. The words we speak are simply giving voice to our thoughts, so overcoming negativity is about thinking differently, not just speaking differently.

6. Avoiding negativity forces you to find the good in everything. Since I could not say anything negative when something bad happened, I was forced to try to find something positive about it to comment on. This was one of the best parts of the challenge for me. It shocked me how effectively it forced me to focus on the best parts of every situation. It is magical and powerful!

Trying to go an entire day without saying anything negative was the best thing I’ve done in a long time. I am starting the challenge over each and every day, and continually learning and growing.

If you haven’t already taken the challenge, I STRONGLY urge you to. Don’t just read about it or think about it; TRY IT! You’ll be amazed at how much it helps you.

Questions: Are you a naturally optimistic or pessimistic person? Did you take the challenge? If so, how did it go?

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