Negative Nancy is the default mode most of our brains live in. It’s easy to be Negative Nancy. It’s natural. It feels comfortable.
In fact, even if you think your mind isn’t home to Negative Nancy, I invite you to have a closer look around. You see, our minds are so prone to finding, focusing and milling about the negative, about the problems, about what is or could be wrong about things. When we’re stuck in a negative rut, it’s all we can see. And, because we’re focussed on the negative, we actually create more of it.
Instead, we can choose, with a lot of effort, to turn our minds over to a new tenant: Positive Pam. The way to do that is simply to start focussing on the positive in any given situation. Then, watch it multiply.
What you focus on, you create more of. It works like a magnifying glass. Pastor Steven Furtick says it like this:
What you magnify, you get more of.
This goes for everything in life. If you focus on, acknowledge and show gratitude for positive behavior with your kids (or your spouse for that matter) you’ll probably get more of it. If you start to notice how nice everyone is today, you’ll probably find more of it as the day wears on. And there’s science to back it up.
The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, associated with the frequency illusion (coined by Stanford linguistics professor Arnold Zwicky), explains why when you get a new car, you suddenly start seeing that same car everywhere. The reason is our brains like patterns. When it finds one, even if it’s a stretch, it latches on hard. If we learn something new or are struck by something particularly fascinating, our brain starts this process of selective attention. This selective attention, kind of unbeknownst to us, starts searching and scanning the environment to keep that thing fresh in your mind to cement it. What’s really crazy is that two instances of the same thing cement that very thing in your brain and kind of lets all the other stuff that wasn’t great in between go. For example, maybe your kiddo brushed their teeth two times without being told. Those instances may not have been in a row and they may have been the only two times. Yet, your brain will happily let go of the other annoying times in between because you’re telling it what to focus on. What’s even more fascinating is that whatever it was wasn’t really new to us, according to the science, we just starting paying attention. I mean, mind blown.
Practically, it means you need to purposefully look for the positive throughout the day. Reinforce it by acknowledging it out loud, by writing it down, but thanking someone. That means you’ll find more positive, but hey, you’ll also get more from family and friends that are pleased you noticed. The more positive you pay attention to, the more positive you’ll have to pay attention to.