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Happy New Year. Make it great!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Make it great 

Please take a moment to consider this question:- Are we safer now than at any other time in history? Or not?

Studies show that more than 70% of people will answer “No” to this question. Which is understandable given the trouble, strife and disaster presented every day in the media.
Yet for most of us, it’s absolutely true. As a species, we have never enjoyed better health, higher standards of living or more diverse opportunities. One simple statistic – longer life spans, proves the point.
 

So why do we feel so worried?
We are designed to focus on the negative. When we evolved in the jungles and on the savannahs, it was important that we took serious notice of the grass that moved a little differently, or the leaves that rustled when others didn’t. It may have been a tiger, python or neighbour planning to have us for lunch. Or it may have been potential lunch for us. Either way it was important we took notice of things that were different, or negative. It was a matter of survival.
To illustrate the point in a different way, consider this quote from Margaret Attwoods’ novel, ‘Blind Assassin’ - “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement”.

To achieve anything, we have to ‘have a go’ - and having a go involves risk and failure. Achieving ongoing ‘success’ involves learning the skill of ‘Failing forward’ which means learning from our mistakes and moving on - applying the lessons learned along the way.
So here is the summary. We are built to focus on the negative. That’s a survival trait. To achieve we have to strive and when we strive, we will sometimes fail. This can add up to defeat if we don’t cultivate the habit of remembering that ‘failure’ is one of the most important ingredients of a ‘successful’ life. The key skill is to find the “good” in the mistakes – the ‘silver lining in the cloud’ and consciously focusing on it. The silver lining - rather than the cloud.

American neuro-biologist Dr Rick Hanson author of Hardwiring Happiness says “taking in the good” each day trains the brain to turn transient positive moments into something more long lasting and gradually attunes and sensitises the brain to positive experiences. To help, he offers this formula:

H.E.A.L

H - Have a positive experience and notice it , whether it is a physical pleasure, feeling or sense of determination.
E - Enrich it. Consciously stay with the positive experience for 5 to 10 seconds and let it fill your mind.
A - Absorb it. Let the experience sink in so it soothes you. Nourish it. Savour it. Enjoy it. Celebrate the satisfaction.

L - Link positive and negative material. Be aware of a negative experience while feeling the positive one. If a dark thought hijacks your attention, focus on the positive and try to let go of the negative. Or laugh at it.
Or, in the words of Monty Python. “when you’re chewing on life's’ gristle, don’t grumble, give a whistle, and this’ll help things turn out for the best”

This year will be like those that have come before:-  wonderful, as well as not so nice things will happen. It’s possible some truly awful things will happen as well, because that’s a part of life. But we can decide how we respond to whatever comes our way, the good, the bad and the ordinary. There will be silver linings to be found if we choose to look for them. It’s up to us.

Have a happy, healthy strong new year!