October 15, 2009

Just Say No to Negativity

As shared in my last newsletter, the tendency to think negatively about yourself is common among academics.

If you're unable to stop your negative self-thoughts, then you will be hampered in your ability to write.

And so I just had to share this article with you, compliments of our very own Writing Club Coach Rene.

Enjoy!

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Just Say No to Negativity (Part I)
by Rene Hadjigeorgalis, Academic Writing Club Coach
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I'd like to address the idea of positivity, how you may resist being positive, what negative self-talk can do to you (without even realizing it), and how you can teach yourself to be more positive.

First of all, let me say that with the exception of a few people who just light up the room when they smile, most of us have to make a concerted effort to be positive. For some reason, the human condition is such, particularly in academia, that it defaults to negativity and catastrophic thinking. "I will never get this paper done." "I will not be prepared for classes." "Everyone will think I am an idiot at the conference." "I am not cut out for academia." "I will never get tenure." "I am a time waster and procrastinator." "I have nothing to offer in my field." And my personal
favorite - "There is too much to do and I will never get it done." We tell ourselves this and anyone around us who is willing to listen.

Why do we tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive and why do we beat ourselves up so?

One theory is that we derive some benefit from all the negative talk - or we perceive that we do. Perhaps we think that if we chastise ourselves we will work harder and be more productive. My college roommate used to have a saying posted up above her desk, "Fear is motivation." Well, yes, if you are being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, but does it really help us achieve our day-to-day goals? If you think negativity is helping you in some way, you will resist replacing it with positivity.

So how do you stay positive and deflect those negative thought tendencies? You create a positivity habit. Unless you were a particularly negative child, negativity is something that you learned and adopted into a habit. Being positive is also a habit. You want to replace the bad habit (being negative) with the good habit (being positive). Here are 7 tips and strategies:

1. *Be aware of the negative urge.*

This requires a lot of mindfulness, which, if you are a negative person, is also a challenge. At first, you may not notice the negative urge until you have already said the comment (to yourself or to someone else). Well, better late than never. Once you notice that, however, you will
naturally start to notice the urge to be negative before the thought is completed in your brain. Then you just stop yourself and think of a positive statement to replace your negative comment. If you can't think of a positive comment, just stop yourself from finishing the negative thought.

Remember what your mother said - if you can't say something nice [to yourself or anyone else] don't say anything at all.

2. *Use realistic positive statements to replace the negative statements.*

If you replace the negative statements with positive statements you do not believe, you will get nowhere. The negative comments have a hold over you because you truly have come to believe them. So, the positive statement has to be something that you also think is fairly plausible. For example, you probably wouldn't want to replace the negative statement, "I am not cut out for academia," with the positive statement, "I am a Nobel Prize Laureate and any university on the planet would be humbled and grateful to have me bless them with my presence on their faculty." If you really believe this, you probably didn't have a negativity problem to begin with.

A more realistic statement might be, "I completed a Ph.D. (this already puts you in an elite and small group), I am a dedicated professional, I enjoy research and writing, I write well and I have good ideas. Academia is the perfect job for me." If that is too long-winded for you try the simpler, "If somebody else can do it, so can I."

3. *Create a positivity cheat sheet.*

Start the day off by reviewing your strengths and talents. Make a list of all of your qualities -- up to 100. Keep going until you get to 100. Write down everything -- such as "I am good at grammar." "I am funny." "I have a good sense of humor." "I can write well." "I am smart." "I am savvy." "I make a mean quiche lorraine." etc. Take a look at this list every day before you start your day and whenever you are doubting your abilities.

4. *Make a list of all of your accomplishments.*

Another very good exercise to reinforce the positive is to make a list of all of your accomplishments. Include everything. If you went through a difficult personal situation and pulled through, add that too. This is another list to look at when you think you are not good enough or working hard enough.

Keep these lists handy and look at them when you falter and you will be well on your way to building a positive habit.

5. *Fake it.*

This may sound cynical but I have found that if you actually pretend that you are in a fantastic mood you can put yourself in that mood. And once you are in that mood, it is hard to be negative. Try smiling at yourself in the mirror in the morning. Contrast this with stumbling to the bathroom, looking at yourself in the mirror, noticing the bags and telling yourself how tired you are.

6. *Put up a sign.*

Forming a positivity habit is different than forming other habits, because you can't just pick a time to be positive during the day and then check that off your list of things to do. Being positive is something you need to incorporate into your overall outlook and how you approach life in general. So put up a reminder or multiple reminders. Draw funny pictures on them and write catchy sayings. Or just tack up a post-it note at the very least that says "Stay positive." You can actually forget to be positive (just like you can forget to call for a dentist appointment).

7. *Convince yourself that the negativity is not helping you and is actually hurting you.*

None of these tips and strategies will do you any good if you truly believe deep down that the negative self-talk is helping you. This will require some reflection. Do you really think that if you beat yourself up, you will do better? Where is the negative self-talk coming from? Is there some fear attached to letting go of the negativity?

What tips or tricks do you use to say no to the negative and work with a positive attitude? Please share any ideas you may have by posting your comments here on the blog.

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Are you tired of struggling through your own negative selftalk? Would you like the support of a community to help turn that negativity off?

The Academic Writing Club provides the structure, guidance, accountability, coaching feedback and interactivity with peers that you need in order to write productively.

With the Club you will discover how much more you can get done, and how much less painful writing can be when you have the right support.

In addition to the online program, you will get extra tips on how to become a more productive writer and how to maximize your time in the Club, in our free teleclass, "Six Strategies for Successful Academic Writing."

All this, plus our free telephone group coaching Q & A session, will help you jump start and continue your productive writing throughout the year. (You will receive recordings of both teleclasses in downloadable MP3 format). Just the teleclass and very popular telephone group are worth the Writing Club fee!

Check out the Writing Club at: http://www.academicwritingclub.com/
or to join right away go to:http://www.academicwritingclub.com/#joinnow

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