Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Turning Our Negative Patterns Into Positive Ones

The Greatest was right.  The mountains ahead can inspire us; it's the pebbles in our shoes that can irritate us and keep us from the climb.

What are your pebbles?  What are the petty concerns and irritations that drain you of energy and keep you from tapping into the bigger picture of your life?

There's a technique in psychology called experience sampling.  You set an alarm to go off at random intervals through the day and then write in a journal everything you're thinking about, doing, and feeling when the alarm goes off.  

Experience sampling is a great way to identify the psychological patterns in your life, both the ones that enhance your life and the ones that detract.  Very often, the sampling reveals that we spend inordinate amounts of time and energy on those pebbles: the frustrations of the moment that mean relatively little in the grand scheme of things.

I recently created a positive pattern in my daily routine in which I began taking a small aspirin each day along with my morning vitamin pill.  Every time I took the aspirin tablet, I mentally rehearsed a key priority for that day.  Doing that day after day made the pattern automatic: I now routinely associate taking the pills with connecting to that day's priorities.

Imagine extending the exercise such that, every time you catch yourself getting caught up in negative, frustrated, petty concerns you immediately take several deep breaths, focus on something in your life that you're immensely grateful for, and channel your attention toward an activity that will enhance you and others right then and there.  Day after day, pairing the concern over a pebble with a worthy mountain climb would keep you from draining your energy and indeed would help give you inspiration.

Fretting about a missed opportunity, beating yourself up over a losing trade, hashing and rehashing arguments and differences with others, comparing ourselves with others: there are many potential pebbles in our shoes.  How much difference it could make if we used the pebbles as triggers for enacting the best within us.  Perhaps the best way to deal with a negative pattern is not to fight it, but turn it into an ally.

Further Reading:  Optimism and Trading Performance