There’s a scene early on in the first Ant-Man film between Scott and Luis.
Scott just got out of prison and Luis is picking him up. The key thing to note here is Luis always has the biggest smile and happiest demeanor throughout the entire conversation (and film).
Scott Lang: Hey, how’s your girl, man?
Luis: Ah, she left me.
Luis: And my mom died too. And my dad got deported.
[Scott just stares in awkward silence]
Luis: [Suddenly enthused] But I got the van!
If all of that happened to me, I would be an absolute wreck. (knock on a thousand pieces of wood) I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, let alone be happy about a van.
Of course this is a movie and this obviously a scene for the laughs and you’re not seriously supposed to start thinking about Luis’s setbacks and tragedies.
But I can’t shake the feeling that there’s an insight to be gleaned from how Luis handles life.
Everything sucks, but I’ve got the van!
I’ve read our brains are wired, or at least tend to bend towards focusing only on the negatives that happen to us. Spotting danger (Will Robinson) is part of our humanity. If you’re in the wilderness and there’s a bear close by, it’s hard to really care about how lovely the tree canopy looks in certain lighting, or that there’s edible berries to the left of that tree over there. All that matters is THE BEAR.
Yet today, not all of our problems are hungry bears. Meaning, we can face some incredibly challenging situations that bring pain, anxiety and stress — like being financially volatile — but they’re not going to (directly) kill us.
The question is, when everything in our lives implodes, how to do we stay focused on the positives instead of being consumed by the negatives?
How to Focus on the positive instead of the negative.
1. Drown out the negative
The big problem with negative situations in our lives isn’t the event at all but the negative mental loops we run in our head ad infinitum. This can be explicit talk like “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I’m ugly. I’m ugly. I’m never going to win. I’m never going to win.” Or even more insidious, returning to memories of the negative events that happen to us and playing them on repeat (which lead to or imply the explicit:’ I’m not worthy’ self-sabotage).
One great way to get rid of the negative mental chit-chat that’s controlling our lives is drown it out and leave no mental space for it to exist. In his wonderful book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, Kamal Ravikant dives deep into this idea and offers practical advice on self-compassion and self-love from first hand experience of hating himself. The daily practice he created was to repeat the phrase: “I love myself” over and over in his head. The intention is to commit to something that’s positive (i.e. I love myself) even if he began with not believing it, to incept himself into believing it, which ultimately changed and transformed his life.
2. Reinforce positivity.
Related to drowning out the negative, we can also reinforce the positive by creating practices that fill our days with positivity instead of negativity.
This could be gratitude journals, affirmations and the like.
Or it could mean simply not reading / watch so much news (or twitter). News that’s designed to get the most clicks and views through shock and awe.
3. Ignore negativity through momentum.
In the book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie talks about the idea of losing yourself in action. When we start moving towards something, anything, and create momentum in our lives, it’s hard if not impossible to give negativity the time of day. By working towards improving your life, worry and negative thoughts have no place to exist.
4. Talk (or write) them out.
Find an outlet that gives you peace of mind. Maybe that’s talking to a friend or therapist, or maybe that’s simply starting a blog or vlog to hash out your thoughts and experience.
5. Surround yourself with Luis’s.
Negativity creates negativity. Positivity creates positivity.
It’s hard to be grumpy when you’re surrounded by happy people. Eventually their positive mood rubs off on you.
By finding positive people to surround ourselves with, we begin to learn what makes them happy, and how we can apply their frameworks to our own lives.
The idea is not to be always perfectly happy and positive.
Rather, the goal is to not let negativity control and consume our lives to the point of overwhelm and inaction.
If you’re feeling stuck in life, it’s less about what’s happened to you (even the worst things and the things that weren’t our fault) and more about how you are thinking about what’s happened to you, and how that’s affecting your ability to move forward.
STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner
Daily Blog #516