Why the Positive Profit
I am pessimistic by nature. It's always been easy for me to pick out the negatives in everything and to also be very self-deprecating. I used to think my negativity kept me grounded and rational. It was something I began to find my identity in, eventually becoming somewhat of a source of pride and something I saw as a strength.
However, as I've gotten older, I've witnessed how stifling negativity can be to personal growth and healthy relationships. I've realized that dosing my leadership with what I thought was a healthy amount of cynicism wasn't all that rational or effective. It certainly wasn't inspiring anybody. So, this is something I've been working on over the last couple of years and have become marginally better about, but I have a very specific goal this year to focus intently on becoming more optimistic than negative and to see those scales finally tip.
And of course, as life would have it, I was given my first opportunity to prove my commitment to this just days after the turn of the year.
Still on maternity leave and it being just five weeks since giving birth, I was faced with my husband having to finally return to work after the holidays. And while I’m so incredibly blessed to continue having help from our wonderful sitter with my daughter, there was a stretch during this period where she was on vacation, which meant it was just going to be me with the two kids. Part of me was totally ready to dive in and take on the challenge of two, and then, of course, the other part of me was terrified.
Day one. Wow.
It was basically like starting a new job that you have no clue just how over your head the work is:
- A fussy newborn that didn’t want to be put down or sleep
- A toddler vying for my attention but only getting screen time instead
- Both kids needing to be fed and neither seeming to get it at the time they really needed it
- My ravenous son wanting to nurse constantly and my overachieving daughter in potty training wanting to "go pee on the potty" every two minutes. By the way, do you know how hard it is to lift a 30-pound toddler on and off a toilet with one arm while trying to keep a newborn attached to you in the other? This was happening about five times in a twenty minute span—not an exaggeration.
- Oh yeah, and I should probably not pass out. I should eat. How do I even do that?!
- Crap, the cleaning lady just arrived which I completely forgot about. I didn’t pick up the house beforehand and now I have to hole up the three of us in a room for two hours so we don’t get in her way.
I know. That is a whole lot of complaining. And trust me, that’s exactly what was going on in my head the whole day (okay…and also maybe in some text messages to my husband). And it was accompanied by a whole lot of tears.
I finally get to the end of the day (if that’s even a thing with momming). I’m sitting in the glider in the dark feeding our son and through tears I'm praying, “Lord, this was only one day out of so many to come and it was such an epic failure. How do I even muster the will power and want to wake up and do this all over again?”
And in that moment, a brilliant idea came, which I can only attribute to the Lord as being a very timely revelation. This conviction dropped into my spirit, "Right now, you're measuring your day by recounting all of the negative moments. Challenge yourself and write down every ‘win' you've experienced today and watch your perspective on the day completely change."
Not begrudgingly (because I knew He was right), I pull up Evernote on my phone and start to make a list of every win that day. Here’s what it looked like:
- I got an extra hour of sleep this morning before having to get up for good because John took over for a little bit.
- Ethan stayed happy long enough for me to get my breakfast made.
- I got my morning pumping in with complete ease and no kid chaos around me.
- Olivia had no accidents throughout the day with going to the potty.
- Though it was surrounded by meltdowns, I did manage to get lunch in my body.
- I got both kids down for naps at the same time and got in about 20 minutes of deep sleep for myself.
- My husband and I are blessed to work at a company that is extremely flexible and he was able to come home early because he knew I was having a hard day.
- Olivia ate a cheese stick at dinner. This is huge because I'm always worried about her getting enough protein and she actually enjoyed it.
- I got to make and eat my dinner while Ethan was sleeping.
- I also got my evening pumping in with complete ease and no kid chaos around me.
- The milk supply issue I’d been dealing with seemed much improved today.
- The cold I’d had for the last week didn't seem as severe as the day before.
- Olivia didn't wake up crying during the night (she's a great sleeper but the last two weeks had been rough with her cold).
- Oh yeah, and I have a completely clean house because I have a wonderful lady who comes and helps me out with that twice a week.
Not only did the wins completely outweigh the negative moments, but even one of the things I counted as negative was clearly not an issue that day—my worry of not being able to feed myself. I got all three meals in.
I don't know why, but optimism always seems to take a concerted effort. I'm convinced that optimism is found in the bigger pictures of life's journeys. And since I'm more of a details person and less of a big picture person, I always tend to see the negative first.
But being negative is easy. It takes almost no emotional intelligence to zoom in and point out all of the imperfections in something. What really takes maturity is setting aside this urge to nitpick in order to step back and allow for the positive potentials to show in the bigger picture.
And you’re probably saying, “well, that’s not optimistic, that’s just naive”, but here’s why it’s not. The bigger picture has the advantage of context. This means that when you are overwhelmed with negativity, you have the emotional mobility to shift your gaze to another part of the picture for comparison. This makes for a more comprehensive and accurate reality rather than being tunnel-visioned into contextless details that don't tell the whole story. When you're zoomed out and able to see from multiple angles, you broaden your perspective to include more hopeful possibilities and you're empowered to choose your reality.
I went from the reality that my day was a complete failure and not even wanting to try again, to my day simply being a little chaotic yet pleasant, where those in my care were attended to and loved to the best of my ability. What an impact that makes on my ability to wake up the next day and lead my children. This is the kind of mom and leader I want to be. And this is exactly what Dave Ramsey meant when he said,
"Success is a pile of failure. You're just standing on top of it and not underneath it.”
It's 100% about how you respond; and how you respond is always a choice.
Choose to be positive. Choose to win. Choose to be a #RecoveringPessimist with me.