How do we create the future that we want? Isn’t a great future one, full of happiness and success, a part of our very nature? The Dali Lama posits that the purpose of life, our raison d’etre, “is to be happy.” So let’s agree that it’s something we all desire. In fact, I ask the following question during my keynotes and workshops—how many of you have as a general life goal to be happy? As you might imagine, every hand goes up. Every. I’ve never had someone sit on their hands as if to say, nope, I’m actively seeking a life of unhappiness. Hardly scientific research but hopeful, nonetheless.
So back to my opening question, how do we? We intentionally create Upward Spirals. To help me define what Upward Spirals are, let’s begin with the opposite. The Downward Spiral. I suppose I could just create a picture in your mind of a toilet but let’s stay above the rim.
The last thing you do before you lay your head down for a night’s rest is watch the evening news. They open with a murder on the south side, prognosticate rain in the morning, and the cheeky sports anchor closes with your favorite team getting creamed by a division rival. With that in your brain, how do you think your morning’s going to go? Sure enough, you wake up and its raining. Ugh, my day is already ruined. I could go on but you get the picture. We’ve successfully fed a brain that already exists with a negativity bias, gave it more ammunition, and somehow, we are to miraculously “soar with the eagles.” Of course, our brain then focuses on that initial negativity (it tends to store negative events and discard positive ones), sours our mood, links it to each following event, setting us up for a day where all we see is the negative, “I always get behind the slowest drivers!”, and no matter what we do, we are destined for a day we’d rather forget. Sound familiar? Negativity begets negativity. Within a few waking moments, we’ve launched a Downward Spiral.
For an example of an Upward Spiral, let’s step away from the morning routine to a time when I was laid off two weeks before Christmas. To make matters worse, I soon spent a week in the hospital with a diagnosis of diverticulitis. Sick, unemployed and burning through savings, I faced an uphill battle. I had a choice: reframe the situation or be consumed by it. So, with time on my hands, I set about a plan to re-emerge better than I arrived. I changed my diet, with a focus on nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. Once recovered, I re-committed to exercise, ran a marathon (jogged, to be honest) that next fall. I published two articles, read five books, consulted for an organization who I still work with to this day, and found a great job within five months. That job took me to Raleigh, North Carolina almost every month where I formed new relationships that spawned a growing list of clients for my current business. Upward Spiral launched.
In an early part of the Harry Potter franchise, Headmaster Dumbledore says to young Harry, “It’s not our abilities that show who we truly are, it is our choices.” Our mindset, and the spirals it creates, is up to us—not the weather, our job situation, or even the behavior of others. This mindset proves powerful in our personal lives but is indispensable in the chaotic, ever-changing world of business. It becomes the foundation for related paradigms like resilience, growth mindset, and grit. Upward Spirals release brain chemicals that make us different and better. In short, they help create the future we want! Launch your Upward Spiral by following the DRIVE model:
• Define – the future isn’t promised so it’s up to you do determine what it looks like. To stay future-focused, set reminders in Siri, Alexa, or your Outlook calendar, committing to actions that support your new future.
• Reframe – think about something that you have recently labeled as “bad” – think forward a few months how that “bad” can become “good”.
• Invite – according to Jim Rohn, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Upward Spirals are by their very nature, contagious and linked to the future. It’s easier to create the future we want when we hang around with the best version of ourselves.
• Vary – add variety to your thoughts by creating a new neural structure that defaults to a positive outlook rather than your constant negative one, e.g. you’re not “stuck” in traffic but now have the “opportunity” to reach out to a former colleague or listen to a podcast.
• Expect – commit to expecting the best and that’s what you’ll get.
The naturally occurring links of Upward Spirals connect to opportunity, abundance, and positive relationships; they ensure the best chance to create the life and the business outcomes that we desire. Its time to launch the future we want.
Visit GoPositiv.com. Don Sandel is the founder of GoPositiv and represented by Luminary Leaders, www.luminaryspeakers.com.