We all carry around numbers, and they’re usually bragging rights. Whether we’re proud of our child’s GPA or how fast we run the mile, whether we brag about our cholesterol level, golf handicap or tennis ranking, sometimes numbers seem to define us.

And yet here’s a number you may not know, and one that I discovered, to my dismay, was pretty high for me. The number:  What percentage of your daily thoughts dwell on something negative? I’m not talking about problems that have to be solved, I’m talking about when you catch yourself repeatedly thinking about how annoyed or angry or frustrated you are with a person or situation.

A Surprising Ratio

If you would have asked me my ratio, I’m guessing I would have bragged that it was amazingly low, that I never focused on anything that wasn’t positive and aimed at getting results. However, what I discovered was that I was ruminating over what might have been done differently in a situation and how wrong and incorrect the other party/parties were.

What a waste of time. Revisiting negative situations over and over is like rewinding a bad movie again and again until we feel worse and worse. Not smart thinking, and not very productive either. We need to pay attention when our minds start to wander or get stuck in negativity, and create new neural pathways that produce useful thinking.

To Keep Our Numbers Low

So what’s the best way to have bragging rights about your low numbers and healthy mental attitude? Here are some simple, easy-to-follow thoughts to keep from being sidetracked. Let’s put our energy and focus where it can get results!

Here are some ideas:

  • If it’s an ongoing worry or annoyance, think of something that would be the exact opposite, and simply put one thought over the other every time you start to think the negative thought. We can’t hold two thoughts simultaneously, so keep making the mental switch. Repetition is how we create change.
  • Misdirection−putting the focus here when you’re doing something somewhere else is one of the techniques magicians use, and as a magician, I use it every single time I speak. Why does it work? Because people are expecting things to happen a certain way. (Remember my blog on the invisible gorilla?). Misdirect your mind. Wear a rubber band that you’ll snap on your wrist, or say the words “cancel clear” or something else that moves you quickly by catching your attention.
  • Use compassion. There is a saying, “If you knew the history of those you would like to punish, you would find enough sorrow to disarm our hostility.”Whatever the situation or individual annoyance, realize how blessed you are, and choose to smile and shake your head and think to yourself, “it’s not worth it.”
  • Finally, pay attention to what’s really relevant. In a class I recently taught, I asked everyone to come up with one of the best pieces of advice they were ever given. One person in the field of medicine replied, “If no one died, we can handle the problem.” Sounds a bit dramatic, but how often do we put way too much emphasis on something because we’re emotionally tied into it? Choose to put it in perspective (did anyone die?) and focus on what’s beneficial and will make you more effective and feel better.

Start bragging about having the lowest ratio around; anything else is a real waste of valuable time!

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