Cath is a qualified and experienced Social Worker, Neuro-linguistic Psychology Master Practitioner and Martha Beck Life Coach who helps entrepreneurs and professionals to get more of the 4 M's in their work: Motivation, Mastery, Meaning and Money.
The positive psychology movement has helped to bring psychology out of the mental wards and into the hands of the average healthy and relatively successful person. For the most part, positive psychologies offer a much more healthy view of humanity than previous models.
But we have a problem. A lot of 'gurus' in the positive psychology movement these days perpetuate a message that you shouldn't allow yourself to have fears or "negative" thoughts and feelings. The advice is geared towards a belief that you should doggedly focus on your vision and you should never entertain thoughts about potential obstacles because you'll then falter. I disagree. There’s a time and a place to shine the light on fears, negative thoughts and feelings, obstacles and problems. So I'm here to ask you to consider welcoming your inner negative cynic back. S/he's incredibly resourceful and has your best interests at heart, after all.
Here are some of the resources that your inner cynic has to offer that will help you to create more of the life you want:
Your inner cynic can point you to what you really value
When you're judgmental, annoyed or angry in response to someone else, it's because you perceive that something that you value is being, or could be, violated or blocked in some way. Rather than blocking out or denying your annoyance because it's "negative," sit with it a bit and ask yourself, "What does this tell me about what I truly value?" and "How am I like this person that's annoying me?" And then consider how you can take action to align your life a little more with what you truly value and who you really want to be.
Your inner cynic can help you to focus your problem-solving efforts
The first step in a successful problem-solving process is identifying the problem. This might sound easy, but identifying the right problem to work on can be tricky and for complex problems, can require extensive, in-depth scrutiny of the problem. Figuring out what you don't want, what's a problem for you, and why it's a problem can help you to clarify what you want instead and to develop an effective plan to solve the problem. Don't be afraid to spend time getting to know your problems.
Your inner cynic can accelerate your learning
Daniel Coyle gives a useful account of the process of accelerated learning and talent development in his book, The Talent Code. He talks about the necessity of doing "error-focused" deep practice - a form of practice that involves ruthlessly looking for the mistakes, imperfections and things that aren't working, so that you can gradually eliminate them from your practice. Rather than focusing solely on your strengths and hoping that positive affirmation will drive your motivation, learning and performance, Coyle says you'll learn faster if you (and your coach, if you have one) have a keen eye for identifying your errors as you practice.
Your inner cynic can protect you and alert you to BS
In our abundant world, we're faced with a lot of persuasive sales material everyday. And with the growing research into the psychology of influence, the persuasion tactics that we're subjected to are increasingly subtle and effective. But nothing beats your built-in, natural, intuitive bull-shit detector… if you listen to it. One of the reasons why magical-thinking movies like The Secret were so popular is because the audience is taught to focus only on thoughts that feel good (lest they attract bad stuff into their lives!), which quietens the inner cynic and BS detector. Without your inner cynic, you could get sucked into all sorts of BS schemes that serve other people's agendas and crazy ideas, and other dangerous situations. So don't be shy to let your inner cynic do what it does best.
Your inner cynic can help you to observe reality more accurately
Focusing on only the positive aspects of your life might feel a bit better, but you're not getting an accurate picture of your reality. Reality is diverse, and so accurately observing reality means noticing both the good and the bad. In order to create a relevant and effective plan to deal with a problem or improve your reality, you need to know what kind of reality you're dealing with and what your starting point is, so let your inner cynic show you the parts that your optimistic self has not noticed yet.
Your inner cynic can help you to decide your next steps and improve your plans
A lot of people know what they want but get stuck and don't go forward because they aren't sure what to do next or how to make plans for complex projects. Your inner cynic can be a great help in deciding your next steps and creating a solid plan to make the changes you want. Think of a change you want to make or a goal you want to achieve. Now put on your cynical, negative hat and brainstorm all the things that could possibly go wrong as you try to make your changes. List all your fears and perceived obstacles and let your inner cynic go wild. These fears and obstacles are all pointing you to gaps in your plan that need to be addressed - what valuable information! Now you can go through your list of fears and obstacles and brainstorm potential solutions for each one, choose your preferred solutions, add deadlines for completing each action step, and hey presto, you have your plan!
Written on 14th August 2010 by Cath Duncan. Through projects like The Bottom-line Bookclub, and Agile Living, Cath is helping people to cut through information overload, and to find and use the most effective tools for working, changing, creating and thriving in these fast-paced, high-change times.
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