I have to say that one of the most seminal books in my life on productivity was Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog! It’s a simple concept but very powerful – the idea is that with your greatest willpower and discipline, do the most important, hardest, most challenging task on your to do list and if you can accomplish that first thing in the day, there won’t be anything else that you can’t tackle that day.

As you may know from some previous posts, I’m generally a positive person. Back in high school and university, I was quite negative and at some point, I turned all of that around. I started eating healthy and having good habits. I focused on positive emotions. I changed my language and vocabulary. I faked a lot of happy emotions but you know what they say, fake it till you make it! Yet, even I know that there are ways to maintain or even improve that positivity in my life and I take great care to stay humble and learn from everything I read and everyone I meet, even if I think I am an expert.

What did I learn about turning negatives into positives in my life?

People can have self limiting beliefs

Some of my beliefs are based on absolutely nothing. I’m too old to be a professional athlete. I’m too old to go back to school. I’m too inexperienced to start a business. But if I went on to Google, I bet I could find people that have become a professional athlete well past the prime age. Or have started a business with no experience at all and been successful at it. What are some of your negative or self limiting beliefs? The difficult part is in identifying these because sometimes they can be so ingrained in your thinking that you take it as a truth. Here’s a suggestion, the next time you say that you cannot do something, ask why? Ask why at least five times, diving deeper and deeper. If after five why’s, you respond with something legitimate (and it won’t be easy to find something legitimate but there could be something), that’s fine, but I think that there’s not a lot that you can say is legitimate.

I can’t start a business.
I don’t have the experience.
I have never started a business before.
I am afraid of losing money
I am not a risk taker
I prefer to make safe investments
(and on and on – once I circle around and make the same arguments against myself, I’ll know that there’s a self limiting belief in there somewhere)

The perfect day exercise

Pause for a few minutes right now and start to imagine your perfect day. What time would you wake up. Would you wake up next to someone? What would he / she look like? What does your bed look like? What happens after you wake up? Do you greet your kids, make them breakfast and walk them to school? How about pets? What would you do after? Work? Write? Exercise? Write all of this down.

Now, write down what you would typically do on a day – say a Saturday or Sunday. Write all of this down.

Compare the two. What’s the difference? Why can’t you do more of the things in your perfect day? And if you already have a perfect day as your typical day, awesome!

When you clear your mind of negative thoughts, you can’t help but fill your mind with positive ones

I thought this was an interesting takeaway from the book – being positive isn’t just about filling your mind with positive thoughts although you can. A lot of the times, it’s about clearing your mind of negative ones.

What did that look from my coworker mean?

Negative thought: Oh no, he looks mad. Maybe he wasn’t happy with the report I created for him.
Positive thought: It’s probably nothing and I’m over thinking things.

What’s an easy way of clearing your mind? Meditation. Even taking a few minutes during strategic points in your day (say in your car just before going into your home or before heading into the restaurant for dinner with friends) can help you to stay in the moment and clear thoughts (mostly negative ones) from your head.

Change your vocabulary

I love this! I’m not an expert in NLP but a long time ago, I recognized that the language that you use can affect your emotions and feelings. When people ask “how are you?” do you respond with “good” or “okay”? Next time, respond in the extreme – “I’m fantastic!” or “I’m amazing!” Notice how others that ask you respond. You might just brighten up their day too.

Also recognize when you might be using language that demoralizes or depresses you further:

  • Problems -> Opportunities or challenges
  • Laziness -> Efficient
  • Criticism -> Suggestions for improvement
  • Exhausted -> Productive day
  • Did nothing all day -> Purposeful relaxation
  • Busy -> Tried to get a lot of stuff done
Free yourself from guilt

The authors advocate following four rules:

  1. Do not criticize yourself
  2. Do not criticize others
  3. Do not use guilt on others
  4. Do not let others use guilt on you

Why do these things? It’s to help prevent you from letting in negative emotions and feelings into your life but also to prevent you from affecting others with your negative emotions and feelings as well.

Let go of painful frogs

Do you have people in your life that you have not forgiven? Why? Or have you wronged others but just haven’t set aside your ego to apologize? Now is the time to let go of the past. Or else these things will sit in the back of your mind and always be there.

Try this if you have not forgiven someone in your life, which I learned from James Altucher. Draft up an e-mail as if you were writing to the person you are forgiving. Write out all the things you would say. Write out how they hurt you. Write out how they disappointed you. And then forgive them. You can decide if you want to send it or not (and you don’t have to) but James claims that by writing out this forgiveness letter, you can get all the feelings of actually forgiving someone and start to let go of the past.

I have certainly learned some powerful strategies in helping turn negatives into positives in my life but what about you? What kind of things do you do when life is not going your way? Do you shop? Exercise? Meditate?

Are you interested in Wang’s book summaries of the (mostly non-fiction) books he reads each month? Secret hacks / tips that he has discovered in his life? Subscribe to Wang’s e-mail newsletter! and get immediate access to the top ten formative books that he has read culled from hundreds of the best non-fiction books.