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Life 101: What’s the good news?

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By Linda Arnold EBS CONTRIBUTOR

I’ve had the pleasure to work with a wonderful corporate trainer and motivational speaker, Gary Lalonde, over the years.  And I’ve always loved his traditional greeting, “What’s the good news?”  

During these challenging times, this seems like a helpful tool to consider.  First of all, it sets a positive tone.  And it puts the responder in the position of doing a quick brain search to come up with something that is going right in their lives.  

I’ll admit it can be a bit disarming.  Especially for those “Debbie and David Downers” out there.  Cue the sound effect from Saturday Night Live (waaaah, waaaah).

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Our brains have a natural tendency to go toward the fearful “fight or flight” response.  Blame it on that throwback to the saber-toothed tiger days–and the human race’s need for safety.  

Psychologist Rick Hanson has done extensive research in the neuroscience arena.  He sums up the negativity bias of our brains in an interesting illustration below.

Our ancestors had to avoid two kinds of mistakes: 

  1. Thinking there’s a tiger in the bushes, but actually all is well.
  2. Thinking all is well, while actually there is a tiger about to pounce.

The cost of the first mistake is just needless worry, although the cost of the second mistake is irreversible.  As a result, we have a brain that tends to make the first mistake again and again to avoid ever making the second mistake. 

As a result, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones!

Asking the Right Questions

During this pandemic period, there are lots of unknowns.   And, since our brains have that negative bias, there’s a tendency to look at things that are going wrong.  What about looking at what’s going right in your life?

Our brains love questions, and they will even go in search of answers.  Try this exercise that’s very simple and, yet, can yield profound results.  Just keep asking your mind these questions:

  1. What’s going right in my life?
  2. What else is going right?
  3. And what else is going right?

Our brains think in pictures, so the more you can attach a positive picture to your answer, the better.  As well as a “fist pump” when recalling a specific success!

Putting Things Into Perspective

My niece, Caity, has a wonderful way of shedding light on life lessons with her sons.  She came up with the term “PIP it,” as a shorthand way of saying, “put it into perspective,” and we’ve adopted the phrase in our extended family. 

Consider these real-life scenarios, shared by life coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff, from their workshops.  Talk about PIP-ing it!

“On my nursing shift at the hospital this evening, I was forced into a moment of clarity when I got off the phone, utterly flustered after having an argument with my husband.  An 8-year-old patient–who is dying of leukemia–asked me if I was okay.”

“Today is the 10-year anniversary of the day I had planned on ending my life. It’s also the 10-year anniversary of the day I found out I was pregnant with my now 9-year-old son.  He’ the reason I changed my mind.  And he is so worth it!  But, perhaps most important, I now realize I am worth it, too.”

So, what’s the good news in your life?

Linda Arnold is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and Founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org  or visit www.lindaarnold.org for more information on her books.

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