Yep, I said it. Me, the positive coach who has been spending the past 3 years studying positive mental skills and teaching riders that there is a positive in every situation, if we just look hard enough for it, just admitted that sometimes there isn't a positive.
I have been really struggling with this the past few months (thanks COVID).
And quite frankly, a lot of the positive techniques that I've used successfully in the past to get through challenging times just weren't working.
When there are so many negative things going on, it is just too much of a stretch for us to try and reframe a negative situation into a positive. It comes out sounding fake. Like, "It's a good thing that I was laid off due to COVID, it means I get to spend more time riding," when really you are worried about your ability to pay your bills and keep your horse. Our attempts to be positive and find the good in a negative situation end up sounding pollyanna-like. And when the positive reframe is so far off from reality, no matter how many positive affirmations we repeat to ourselves, our brain is going to reject it. So simply trying to think positive in really tough times just isn't going to work.
Now, getting stuck into the negativity rut isn't going to help you either. Listing the bad things, focusing solely on the negative events, seeing only the obstacles in your way-that is just going to further reinforce the negatives. And when we are stuck in the negative thoughts, we aren't able to see the possibilities that can be helpful to our situation.
So if thinking positively isn't going to help, and thinking negatively isn't going to help, what can we do? I was super frustrated about this conundrum! Then, I happened to find a podcast with Trevor Moawad, a mental coach for multiple NFL Champions, talking about his new book, "It Takes What It Takes" where he introduces the idea of overcoming tough times by using neutral thinking.
I was stunned-it was totally a "duh!" moment. If negative thinking definitely doesn't work, and positive thinking isn't working either, what is left? Neutral.
The idea of a negative thinking being like a car in reverse, definitely taking us backwards from our goals, and positive thinking being the car in drive taking us towards our goals makes sense. However, when a situation is really negative, it isn't effective to try and slam our car from going reverse at high speeds into drive!
Like the car, we need to shift our thoughts to neutral.
When you shift your thoughts to neutral, you simply accept and state what is, look for solutions, then take action.
This process takes us out of reverse by stopping the negativity. Then while in neutral we get an objective look at what is and what solutions are available. Then we can shift to taking action-moving towards our goals again.