Four Tips to Unleash Your Positive Energy

January 14th, 2015

This is the famous story an old Cherokee chief supposedly told his grandson. The chief said:

“A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible battle – between two wolves. One wolf represents negativity: fear, anger, self-pity, resentment, cruelty. The other wolf stands for positivity: kindness, hope, sharing, serenity, generosity, compassion. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too,” he added. The grandson reflected on these words for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”


Science tells the same story, just in different words.  We have a battle between what researchers call the negativity bias and our innate entelechy.  Let’s examine the negativity bias first.

The negativity bias pulls you to pay more attention to bad experiences than good ones. This tendency to give more weight to negative phenomena evolved to keep you out of danger, to protect you from harm, to enable you to survive.  In essence, your brain developed a system to make it hard for you not to notice danger and respond to it. It’s as if you are on hyper-alert for threats and problems.  This worked well when we were living on the savannah and fighting saber tooth tigers and hunting wooly mammoths.  But in the 21st century we have a real problem.  Because of the negativity bias, you are now on hyper-alert for perceived threats of an emotional nature.  Did your daughter really just say “whatever” for the 100th time today?  Was your boss angry with you when she closed the door to her office this afternoon?  How about the driver who cut you off – what’s with that?  We remember, ruminate, and rehash these incidents because we perceive them as threats to our wellbeing, security and control.  And what’s the next step.  We start entertaining the wolf of negativity, becoming filled with fear, anger and resentment.

Now for entelechy, a Greek word for the force that directs life and growth, the unlocks potential. Think of entelechy as positive energy that nurtures your innate essence.  For example, a planted acorn becomes an oak tree due to its entelechy.  It doesn’t have to try to be an oak tree, that capacity is innate from birth.  The acorn just needs the positive energy of sunlight, soil and water to unlock its full unfolding.  Similarly, each of you is born with a life force that spurs you to grow and become who you are meant to be.  You simply need to nurture that life force, treat yourself with love and kindness, recognize and own your strengths.  But along comes your negativity bias, shutting out the sunshine, choking off your growth with weeds of unresolved hurts and resentments, cutting off your growth path with rocks.  You are literally smothering out the inborn positive energy of your life with all this negativity.  We are born with a self-righting tendency, the capacity to spring back from adversity and bad experiences.  Researchers call this capacity resilience, and those who study resiliency point out that we can either help or hinder this self-righting tendency.  In other words, we can either unleash our life force or shut off its flow.  The choice is yours.

And this brings us back to the Cherokee chief.  The chief’s message to his grandson was to feed the positive wolf.  My way of delivering the same advice is to allow your positive energy to flow. The four tips discussed in this blog are designed to prevent negative weeds from taking root and to keep your soil free of rocks.  They focus on treating yourself (and others) with kindness, generosity and compassion. They empower you to focus on your strengths, to adopt a perspective of optimism and hope, and to enjoy the journey that is your life.

Imagine that you are a cork, floating down the stream of wellbeing that is your birthright.  Yes, everyone faces potential obstacles in the stream.  No one goes through life without experiencing some setbacks, failures, and tragedies.  When faced with adversity, you have a choice.  You can experience the adversity as if a hand is holding the cork under the water by continuing to focus on fear and worry, anger and guilt?  Or, you can release the hand of the negative wolf by practicing these ten tips, allowing your cork to bop up to the surface, once again enjoying the power of positive energy to propel you forward and upward.      

The Four Tips that will be explored in subsequent posts are:

  1. Retrain your amygdala
  2. Get in your control zone
  3. Focus on the positive aspects
  4. Become solution-oriented

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It’s All In Your View

December 12th, 2014

DSC05428How can you feel bad when you look at a view like this?  While most of us don’t wake up and see this kind of sunrise from our bedroom window, even those who do can be on a downward spiral.  Because it is not what is outside that determines our mood and life experiences, it is what is on the inside.  Yes, it is often easier to feel positive when things are going well, but even when they aren’t, you have a choice.   This photo was taken in Mendocino, California, where the majority of the time, you would never see this view in the early hours of the morning.  That’s because Mendocino is usually covered in fog, the view literally clouded from your vision.  Yet, you know it’s there.  When the fog lifts, the view appears.  Our  negative moods are just like the fog.  They obscure our view of possibilities, excitement, passion and contentment.  But I guarantee they are there. 

Unlike with the weather, you have control over your moods.  When you are feeling down, you can make a choice that you want to and deserve to live life on an upward spiral.  You can clear the fog by deciding to choose thoughts and actions that will turn your downward momentum around.  It takes some effort, practice and determination, but it can be done.  Don’t settle for anything less.  The goodies are always there, when you decide to lift the veil and let the sun shine. 

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Who Pushes Your Hot Buttons?

November 11th, 2014

hot button

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax was asked by a reader  how to handle her “button-pushing sister.”  In her response, Hax in part tells the questioner not to allow others to control the access to her sensitivities.  The questioner then writes back to Hax to elaborate on this strategy, stating “I don’t ‘give’ people like this access to my sensitivities, they just now exactly what they are and how to use them to hurt me  Even if I put on a show like it doesn’t hurt, it still hurts.”

Hax’s response was so perfectly stated, I am restating it here, with the caption: “I couldn’t have said it better myself!”

Answer:  I’ll use my experience in reading hostile mail for 16 years, and also in some volatile, now-ex friendships.  Both used to upset me deeply, and now the same things barely register.  Nothing about the other parties changed, the abuse still comes.  What has changed is inside me: I value their (or anyone’s) opinion less; I am more accepting of, less embarrassed by, and therefore less defensive about my own shortcomings; and I learned more constructive ways to handle my hard feelings.  Combine the three and I am just not as, for lack of a better work, hurtable as I used to be.

Needless to say, I couldn’t agree more.  Dealing with difficult people is an INSIDE job!!!

Source:  The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 21, 2014, p. C2

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Is Small Talk Good for You?

October 15th, 2014

"Optimism helps you find solutions"


Small talk may be common, but it doesn’t do much to nourish our sense of well-being. Compared with people who rated themselves as more unhappy, people who were happiest spent 70% more time talking, had one-third as much small talk and twice as many substantive conversations.

Researchers came to their conclusions by having a group of 79 college students wear a tape recorder for four days and eavesdropping on their conversations. The students also were given tests to measure happiness and personality.

The findings “demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary, and conversationally deep rather than superficial,” the authors, from the University of Arizona and WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis, wrote.

It’s not clear, however, whether happy people attract others for deep conversation or whether deep conversation makes people happier. Further research should be done, they said, to see if having more substantive conversations helps unhappy people become happier.

The study is published online in the Journal Psychological Science.

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Stop of Comparison Game

September 17th, 2014



Do you compare yourself to other people?   Of course you do, because this is human nature.  It is only natural to experience envy.   Envy isn’t all bad.  It  can be a motivator in the short-run.  For example, if you envy your neighbor’s new car, this can motivate you to work harder in order to earn more money for your own new car.  The problem with playing the comparison game is that envy can become a toxic emotion.  Too much envy, and you will get stuck.

Let me explain.  While it may be comforting to know that on any given measure – whether money, appearance or job status – you will outrank some, there are always others who will outrank you.  This puts you on a downward spiral, a dangerous place to be if you want to keep energized towards reaching your goal.

And, when you are grappling with toxic envy, you often try to make yourself feel better by putting others down.  The belief is that if I can tear you down, I will build myself up.  But this practice doesn’t really put you on an upward spiral because deep down inside, you still don’t believe that YOU measure up.

So, stop playing the comparison game and start focusing on you.  Here are three quick – yet effective – tips to put on an upward spiral:

  • Shift your focus.  Mentally run through those life circumstances in which you feel confident and appreciate yourself.
  • Decide to find your own measure of success.  Remember, you create your  own vision and determine our own goals that are meaningful for you.
  • Challenge yourself to be happy  with your current situation.   In fact, with a positive attitude, you are more likely to make improvements.

End the comparison game…focus on you…and enjoy the journey.  After all, this is YOUR life so you might as well enjoy YOUR journey!


One Response to “Stop of Comparison Game”

  1. Raul Medlin Says:

    Oh my goodness! an incredible article. Thanks.

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