There was a big torrential thunderstorm last weekend while I was in the country.
As I watched the clouds crash together and the rain pour down, I couldn’t help personifying the weather. It looked like the earth was crying and the skies were angry and yet, every few moments, there was a beautiful bright flash that lit up the whole sky and illuminated the trees and the lake.
It was a gentle reminder that the darkness wouldn’t last forever. Somewhere behind the dark sky there was light.
I was thinking about how easy it is for us to stay in the darkness. To only notice the storms and clouds of life.
As I wrote about last time, our brains are wired to focus on bad news.
We have what’s called a “negativity bias” (link) which means we’re constantly on the lookout for what can go wrong in our environment so that we can be alert to it.
To overcome this bias, I always start out my coaching sessions with what I call “celebrations and brags.”
I guide my clients to notice what’s going well in their lives by asking, “What’s new and good this week?” or “What do you want to celebrate and brag about?”
This reminder retrains their brains to shift out of default negativity mode. It would be easier for them to start off our sessions by sharing what isn’t working. To go straight to the venting part.
But before long, they come up with something positive. They start with one celebration and suddenly they’re on a roll. “It’s finally summer and I can wear sandals!” “I started eating breakfast more regularly and I have more energy!” “I practiced saying no this week and it felt great!” “I’m sleeping through the night!” “I took my first nap in years, guilt free!”
It’s a funny thing, because as comfortable as it can be to share bad news, I’ve noticed it’s often much harder for us (especially women) to share good news.
Take a moment to think about how many people you can call when you’re upset or need to vent. Got a number in your head? Great.
Now think of how many people you call when things are going really well and you just want to celebrate?
Which one is higher for you? Do you have more people to vent to or to celebrate with?
Even if there’s only one person in your corner who can celebrate you and be genuinely happy for every step forward you take, every success, every joy, that can be enough.
Here are some of the reasons I've heard people give for why they didn't like to share good news:
“I don’t like to brag.”
“I don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable.”
“I don’t want to make anyone jealous.”
“Other people are not doing as well in their life and I feel guilty for my happiness.”
If you have any of the above thoughts, you might have a hidden belief that other people’s needs are more important than your own.
(The good news is that's something we can work on!)
Of course we don’t want to share good news while others are sharing their bad news. If someone tells you their dog just died, you’re not going to respond with, “That sucks. Did I tell you I got a promotion?”
So use your good judgment and when the timing is right, make space to talk about the stuff you are proud of.
Don’t wait to be asked. Just claim the space to share.
What I know about positivity and love is that the more you are able to share it, the more we are all encouraged to do the same! Why not get some upward positive momentum going instead of a downward spiral?
This week, I want to challenge you to ask yourself the following questions:
“What can I celebrate?” “What can I be cheered on for?” “What’s new and good?” “What am I proud of?”
Next, I want you to find someone to share this good news with. Not just anyone – not someone who will roll their eyes, or pretend to be happy or make you feel bad. Instead, seek out someone who will be genuinely happy for you. Author Nancy Levin calls this your "Bragging Buddy"- I love that!
If you can’t think of anyone, I still want you to give it a go. You can try telling a stranger or a new friend at a party. Just try it out and see how it feels.
Or, if you're up for it, tell me! I'd love to celebrate YOU! Every little tiny step towards living your life full out counts and nothing is too small to be acknowledged. So feel free to share with me by leaving your comments below :)
Bonus: If you want to feel powerful when you don't, you'll want to check out the amazing power of striking a pose here