Infect Others with Positivity

The positivity and negativity around us guides the positivity and negativity within in. Be a good guide for others and yourself.

Recently, while waiting at a doctor’s appointment, I talked with another

patient.  She inquired about the logo I had on my shirt and iPad

(I was reading The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor). She shared

that was is a personal trainer, so we talked about what we do to help

people with fitness. It was interesting for me as I’ve been thinking about

getting certified by NASM, which she’s done.  I think it was interesting for

her as I take a very different approach, with my work really focusing on the

mental side of it rather than giving people specific exercises (I can do that,

but it’s not really the driving force behind my coaching).

She gave me the rundown of how she got into it, and the experience she’s

had working for various gyms. The overall tone was negative and unhappy,

with things she doesn’t like about each gym. We then talked about her

fitness objectives, and the conversation focused mainly on the barriers she

faces and why it’s so hard or impossible to do XYZ. For example, we talked

about running, and the discussion moved immediately to why she can’t run

more than 3 miles.

I’m not trying to be critical of her or our conversation. What I’m trying to do

is point out how the general view of things can be a trap. It’s not simple

irony that I was reading The Happiness Advantage when we started

speaking as the teachings in the book are exactly what’s in play for her.

The chapter I was reading was about how our emotional state is contagious

– when we’re happy, we ‘infect’ others with happiness; when we’re

unhappy or negative, it causes the same in others. Acutely aware of this, I

took a very positive tone, and tried to be inspirational. I ensured I didn’t end

up ‘catching’ her negative approach, but wanted to give her a case of the

‘see possibilities and reach for them’ that I am infected with.

For example, when telling me the reasons she can’t run more than 3 miles,

I offered the idea of running two shorter runs in the same day.  Book end

your day with 20 minute runs (that should get you 2 to 2.5 miles) so you

avoid the issues she was raising while getting a good bit of training done

and enjoying yourself. I could see the wheels turning as to why that wasn’t

going to work, and then she said, “Well, but I want to run longer, so that

isn’t going to help.” True, but it will condition your muscles for the longer

run, and perhaps change your other issues in the process.  You’re

essentially training around them.

It boils down to the analogy I often give people when discussing The

Happiness Advantage. If you walk up to a wall, you see a barrier –

something that’s in the way of progress. It could be illness, a bad boss,

financial trouble, whatever. The book wouldn’t suggest that there’s no wall.

The reality is that the wall exists. That’s not the problem. The problem is

whether you just sit there, staring at it dead on, focusing solely on the

existence of the wall. If you could break your fixation and look around,

you’d notice the door over to the side. You just have to be willing to look at

it. The door could be budgeting better, sitting down with your boss with

some key points jotted down around how you feel you’d perform better with

different support from him or her, or a new treatment plan for your illness

that you have hope will really help.

Our conversation was all wall, so to speak.  Every time I tried to suggest a

slight turning of the head, she’d remind me that there’s this big freaking wall

there. The funny thing is that I was sitting there, not even a week out of

knee surgery – my 14th operation, mind you – and saw all kinds of

possibilities around fitness and overcoming physical constraints. Every time

I’ve gotten cooking with my own fitness, something goes haywire and I end

up in an operating room. I’ve chosen not to let that be my reality or a

forgone conclusion. She can, too.

There’s a great story that Achor shares, and is pretty famous. No one had

been able to break 4 minutes in the mile, and it was a medically accepted

fact that it was physically impossible to break it. People got close to 4

minutes, but just couldn’t break through. Of course not, it wasn’t physically

possible, as all the experts reminded them. One man wouldn’t believe that.

In 1954, Roger Bannister of the UK broke 4 minutes, and set a world record

(and he didn’t even train too intensely as he was studying to be a doctor a

the time…and became a well-regarded neurologist, so he better believe

that studying was intense and time-consuming). Where the story really gets

interesting is that his record only stood for 46 days until Australian John

Landy broke it by nearly 1.5 seconds (that’s a huge margin, actually).

Bannister showed the world that this immovable wall of 4 minutes actually

had a huge door you could run right through. People starting breaking 4

minutes regularly (18 more times, actually), setting successively faster

records. As of writing this, the current record was set in 1999, and stands at

3:43.13 (great table of the records on Wikipedia). Once people realized it

wasn’t impossible, the flood gates opened.

How we look at situations dictates how we feel.  While how we feel dictates

how we act, it also impacts all those around us – for better or worse. I

fought the negativity in the conversation with positivity and inspiration –

both to benefit her and to protect myself from getting a case of the

negatives. I think I showed her the light, but she will have to embrace it


How did you impact someone’s mindset today? How will you Go out and

Do It?

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