Nov 21st, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, application, Career advice, challenges, competitive challenges, confidence, negativity, self confidence, strategy, success, tactics, Thanksgiving

PracticaL Mentor

Many of us are caught up in situations that are less than ideal, and sometimes Thanksgiving highlights the negatives rather than accentuating the positives. So instead of giving thanks for all we have, we dwell on the negatives.

Perhaps I am an idealist and think that Thanksgiving should be like a Norman Rockwell setting in both appearance and substance. Although there have been many Thanksgiving dinners that would rival Rockwell’s images, there has always been something that keeps it from being ideal, sometimes just a nagging negative word or thought. Several of my friends and acquaintances say that it is just me, and they don’t have those kind of feelings on holidays. I used to believe them, but not anymore.

There is a psychological trick that says I can make you think of anything I want just by telling you not to think of it. For example, if I wanted you to think of a turkey, I would say don’t think of a turkey. Instantly, no matter how briefly, a thought of a turkey pops into your consciousness. Perhaps this is the principal that always seems to conjure up negative holiday thoughts when we should be festive. Do we unwittingly sabotage our own good feelings?

This story is mostly true, and it is only to illustrate my point. One Thanksgiving when I was in the military, I sat down to Thanksgiving dinner with several of my buddies. It was a welcome break to have a down day, as we were launching sorties around the clock and putting in some exhausting hours. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and the conversation centered on the food as we each emerged from the chow line with our plates laden with turkey and all the trimmings. At first everyone had only positive comments. Even those making fun of chow hall cooking were being kind. Then it happened! It seemed innocent enough, but like a runaway sidewinder missile, once off the rails, it was looking for the hottest target to detonate, and it found several. “What are you thankful for?” It seemed like the kind of question that would float around the family Thanksgiving table, and may have just been a traditional holiday reflex, but it was anything but harmless. First there was silence, which is never a good sign in a GI conversation. When the conversation resumed the mood had changed. Instead of everyone being glad to have a good meal and some safe and peaceful time to enjoy it, now everyone started thinking how much they missed being home for Thanksgiving. This started a downward spiral in the conversation and continued into a flat spin. There was no recovery, just crash and burn. By the time dinner was over, we had touched every negative nerve among us, and pushed those buttons that only people who know you well know how to push. Perhaps it was just the stress of the situation we were in, but the lesson was clear. Not everyone carries only positive thoughts during Thanksgiving.

So what do we do? We do the best we can. I do think the holidays are much like the psychological trick. The more we try to ignore the negatives the stronger they seem to get. Perhaps a way to beat the psychological trick is to frame it differently. Just for fun say to yourself “Don’t think a happy thought.” It always seems to make me smile, if just for an instant. When you talk to someone about Thanksgiving leave out the negatives. If you are like my service buddy, Powers, whose girl broke up with him on Thanksgiving Day, you may want to skip that one all together. In the service, there was no way to avoid each other; we were confined to the same space almost 24 hours a day. We had no alternative but to adjust and make the best of it. By the next morning Thanksgiving was a memory, and everyone said how much they enjoyed the food and the company. Perhaps we can adapt this strategy, and discard our negative baggage before we have to pay the freight on it.

Happy Thanksgiving
The PracticaL Mentor

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