The Value of Self Determination

Accomplishments despite contrary influence

Authors note: Today is Saturday, I have decided to try and make Saturday a two post day (because it’s my blog and I can!).  Be sure and scroll down to read todays other post “Coping with Societal Negativity” and of course input is always welcome! ~J

So interestingly, the last two days have given themselves up to a very excellent stream of positive consciousness for me as well as an awareness of how strong people can be. I have two stories to relay in this article, both popping up over the last couple of days and both I have found to be quite inspirational to me. The first story had me in such a good mood I can only classify it as an emotional high even though the achievement in the story had absolutely no impact on me directly. The second story while, not actually so much of a “feel good” tale illustrates a long-term determination to succeed and how our failures might assist us over the long term. So, let’s dig in:

Story one comes from a member of my favorite HipChat group (I have mentioned them in prior posts) A Farewell to Recovery. I will note that any stories that I relay in my articles are done with permission and unless requested otherwise I keep the person anonymous.

Our subject recently had a very big announcement, the achievement of a GED or General Education Diploma which is an alternative to a high school diploma here in the United States. You might think “well what’s so special about that many people have GED’s or high school diploma’s, heck that Joe guy has his GED”. What makes this story so positively refreshing to me is that this person was told throughout life that it could never be done! In fact, some of the exact words were harsh enough to include the term “retarded”. Imagine going through your early life being told what you can’t do at every turn and not hearing much about what you can accomplish.

Over the course of about a year and a half this person exhibited the drive and perseverance that most people rarely tap. A fundamentally raw persistence to accomplish what according to the surrounding environment could not be done. What I find even more inspirational about this is that a year and a half is not a particularly long time to study for a GED. Add to that the continuing conversations about the next steps, aspirations to possibly become a Veterinarian Technician or possibly something else. Someone who had nothing but “bound to fail” reinforced over and over, and now quite successfully on a forward track that many “normal” people lack the stones to achieve. This story made my day, and inspired me to work just a little harder on my aspirations as well, thank you for that!

wow must be some socks!

Story two is a little bit different and close to home it involves a family member, my mother who is an avid weaver (don’t ask). She apparently has a “sock machine” which is some strange loom used for weaving circular deal for knitting socks (again don’t ask) which from our conversations is incredibly difficult to use. I had a conversation with her very recently about a pair of socks she was trying to make, in her words she calls them her “F***ety F*** F*** socks” wow must be some socks!

In my mind, mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities that begin with a negative consequence.

She has been trying to make this pair of socks for what I think is several weeks now (just go buy socks!) at one point having finished the pair but not being happy with them taking the pair apart back to yarn and starting over. Something happens here or there with the loom…. Tear down and start over…. Full moon…. Tear down and start over. At the time of this article posting, the socks are not complete and I’m willing to bet are either in a state of tear down or a state of start over. The endgame is decided in this case, there will be socks! While the idea of toiling so much for a simple pair of socks might not be a positive thought, the side effects are of a very positive nature. With the continued use of the machine, and the continued identification and fixing of mistakes my mother has been able to better master the use of her beloved sock machine! In my mind, mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities that begin with a negative consequence. (you can quote that).

May your feet stay warm,

~Joe

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Coping with Societal Negativity

coping_with_societal_negativity <- PDF download of this article!

Dealing with the Emotional Negativity Pulse (ENP)

Authors note: This is not a political article so don’t worry! This is a smattering of my thoughts on how we can cope with generally negative people and maintain a good healthy attitude about ourselves.  Also, it’s Saturday!!! I will be trying to make Saturdays a two post day so be sure to check back for the second article!

It’s bound to happen. If you leave your bed, possibly multiple times a day. If you isolate in your home but turn on your TV, hop online, read the paper, turn on the radio. If you leave the house and are within earshot of human beings, maybe even dogs…..

I felt empowered!

Negativity! Body language, comments, and sighs OH MY!! As I write this and think about how powerful negative energy is I conclude that our ultimate display of strength is not in how we push our feelings on others but how we react when influence is pushed on us. I once worked the counter at a small neighborhood convenience store, not exactly a 5-star job but I decided each day regardless of how grueling the work was for so little pay that I was going to try to make every person that stepped foot in my store want to come back. So, I would put my uniform shirt on, and a mask every shift. I would greet people happily while mopping the floor and occasionally one would stop and comment something like “Every time I see you your happy man”. I felt empowered!

Like some super hero; I was changing the future for people, one happy “how’s it going today? Can I help you with anything?” at a time.

Despite everything that was going wrong in my life I had accomplished something great, I had changed somebody’s attitude! This may sound (or read rather) somewhat silly, but the fact was simply by being aware of my outward appearance and actions I had found this inner super power that allowed me some level of control over those around me! Like some super hero; I was changing the future for people, one happy “how’s it going today? Can I help you with anything?” at a time. The double edge sword to this super power is that it can also be used for evil. The most interesting thing about this super power is that all humans possess it should they decide to use it; the decision of good vs evil is quite often a subconscious one making it an even more dangerous power. Think nuclear warheads of the emotional variety.

So how do we defend against the nuclear attack? What kind of anti-negative missile battery can we deploy that will defend our own attitudes and well-being from this ever-present threat? After a lot of careful thought and consideration, I started to reflect back on times of stress where I have reacted in calm and effective ways; a time when someone entered my workplace with a handgun looking for his ex-wife’s boyfriend, all the times I’ve been hiking and come across someone that fell or had an allergic reaction and I had to reach into my trusty pack to render aid, stopping to pull someone out of a car after a bad interstate accident, the list goes on and on (sometimes I wonder if my presence causes the problem). Then I begin to think about how used to verbally insulting staff meetings, customers, co-workers, and bosses I became working in Information Technology.

Lots and lots of instances, I eventually had to stop thinking as I felt I was dwelling on the past. The lesson though had been found! In almost every case, the action under pressure, the getting screamed and cursed at, watching the fist pounding and throwing of glasses and pens; in most of the cases during the actual event I would focus my mind on staying calm and rational and attack the situation as it needed to be handled. This does not mean it did not change my attitude to the negative after the fact but during the event I would put myself on autopilot to solve the problem at hand.

So, what if we train ourselves to put some form of “positive defense” on autopilot? Maybe maintain that autopilot for a period that lasts not just through the event but also after the event? Maybe we focus on keeping rational when people are negative around us and think positive but also accepting thoughts like “I’m not sure what kind of things are going on with this person but maybe if I stay positive I can help”? Our best defense might be a 1-2 punch of positive self-talk and acceptance followed by a counter strike of positive outward attitude against our negative opponent.

When I was in active shooter response training we were taught AlICE: Alert, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. While there are several different trained methods this was the one I was taught; we can apply the same principles to a let’s call it “active negativity pulse” or ANP. I know, cheesy huh? Just bear with me here I know I’m going to get all kinds of comments on this one.

Let’s set a scenario where we are in conversation with someone who begins to emit ANP via body language and conversation. Our first step is to Alert ourselves consciously that we are under ANP attack this prepares us. Our second step would be to Inform ourselves and possibly others around us that the ANP is in fact happening, this can be through body language, conversation, and of course internal positive self-talk “okay we need to be on our toes”. Now we Counter with a positive interjection towards the source of the ANP, “hey did you see that (insert object here) made it to (insert achievement here)!” with luck this will deflect the ANP by changing the subject to something we can work with, it may not in any case we continue our work. Finally, we Evacuate if we can continue about other business we do so leaving the area, if we simply cannot leave the area we consciously hit the mute button on the ANP source or we consciously imagine walking through a door and having a wall between the speaker that deflects the ANP.

While this sounds silly, my thought process has three simple points:

  1. We are consciously aware of the negativity
  2. We attempt to change the subject or impart positivity
  3. If the situation does not change, we stiffen our defenses and allow it to “roll off”

As always, I invite your comments and thoughts. This one was a doozy to write given all the stuff swimming in my head but I have a little bit of confidence now that maybe it will help me to be more mindful of negative situations and when I need to put more active focus on positive influence.

Duck and cover,

~Joe