Changing Our Thoughts: The Road to a Positive Attitude

"Our brains are Velcro for bad news and Teflon for good news."  Hanson & Mendius (2009)

My sister-in-law sent this quote to me today.  It was completely timely, since one of my favorite resources got zinged in feedback yesterday.

After the initial sting and a lot of grumbling to myself (OK, so some of it was out loud) about this person clearly not understanding the underlying lesson and how clever I was in making this, I decided to look at it from another point of view to see what I could do to improve the product. I changed my thought.

Changing our thoughts can really turn bad news or a negative view around to something productive. It removes us from being a victim to being empowered, moving forward to a more productive mindset.

I've used this strategy often- on the tennis court, on the golf course, in the classroom, with friends and family, and trying to figure out why the stupid html code isn't working...

Negative self-talk slows us down.
I've never been good at... I can't... This is too hard... I don't know how to... What if I fail? What if they don't like me? What if I do it wrong? These fear-based phrases are like swimming through quicksand. Guaranteed to get nowhere fast!

This one really makes me crazy-

"I've never been good at math." I've heard that way too many times, both from kids and parents.  It's like giving our brains permission to take a vacation. Brain: "Cool! Now I don't have to try and figure this out because I have permission to not be good at math. Woohoo! Pass the Cheetos, please. I think I'm hungry."

What if, "I've never been good at math," was replaced with, "hmmm... this is challenging? I know how to do this part, but I'm getting stuck here.  I think I'll ask someone for help."

Instead of, "My ground strokes are terrible," I changed my thought to, "I need to stay down and follow through."

What if the minute, "I've never been good at..." starts to leave our lips, we catch ourselves and change our thought, taking control and getting unstuck from the quagmire of self-doubt?

Positive, constructive self-talk increases self-confidence.
No, I haven't done any scientific studies, so you're not going to get cold, hard data from me.

What I do know is "change your thought" works.  I've seen it work time and again in the classroom, as kids begin to realize, yes, they can do whatever they believe they can do! I've experienced it personally, both on and off the court.

We can rewire our brains to accept these changes.  It won't happen overnight, but after awhile, the negatives become the Teflon, and the new positive thoughts become our Velcro encouraging us to take more risks.

OK, in the spirit of complete transparency, I'll admit it- I still function from the dark side of, "I am never going to understand this stupid coding thing." However, I am working on my new thought: "I've got to be smarter than a bunch of letters, quotation marks, forward slashes, and dots." The funny thing is, it usually ends up eventually working... sometimes... I think... (Don't you just love the confidence? Guess I'm not quite there yet.)


Thanks to Amy Alvis for the cool math paper clip art!