How many times in your life have you faced a potentially good thing, but instead of getting excited about the prospect you told yourself not to get your hopes up? It seems like a logical thing to do, right? Why set yourself up for disappointment? Why allow yourself to get excited just to run the risk of getting your hopes dashed, your feelings hurt, your idea rejected? While the desire may be self-preservation and protection, the outcome is actually much worse.
This type of self-preservation is a product of the ego. Its desire to protect us (really a desire to protect itself) creates the very thing we think we are bypassing. In fact, what we end up doing is creating the very emotions that we are attempting to avoid. Instead of allowing ourselves to experience the pleasure of excitement, the anticipation of joy, the potential of possibility, we self-impose pre-disappointment. We choose to squelch our own hopes, and negate our own excitement, in order to beat everyone else to the punch. We invoke the very thing we thought we were being smart to avoid. We become our own disappointer.
What’s worse, if you do this often enough it begins to color your view of yourself and the world. The cumulative result is a dark and ominous worldview; you become cynical and jaded; you begin to anticipate the worst and expect bad things to happen. Before you know it, you feel demoralized, hopeless and depressed.
You decide to believe that the world is a dark and evil place; that everyone is out to get you; you are always waiting on the other shoe to drop. Over time it can become nearly impossible to experience any type of pleasure or joy – and you think your experiences are to blame, you think the deck is stacked against you, when in fact you have done it to yourself.
Seeking to avoid disappointment actually causes you to experience it unnecessarily, without realizing it. Isn’t it ironic that we feed ourselves emotional poison and then blame everyone else that we are sick?
Of course there is an alternative. You can begin to cultivate a more positive outlook on the world, and yourself. Add in a measured amount of healthy risk-taking and before you know it you’ll be living a more exciting, positive, and energized life.
Below are six specific steps you can take to detoxify your worldview and embrace the joy of risk.
Control your information intake
We all know that the media loves to sensationalize. Stories of happiness and success get lower ratings. What you may not realize is the impact that over-exposure to negative, violent images and stories can have on your outlook on life. Not every story ends in tragedy or failure. You can choose to limit your exposure to negative, sensational stories and images and choose to seek out more encouraging, inspirational messages. You will be surprised how this one simple change can alter your worldview and help you cultivate a more positive attitude.
Focus on what’s going right
Chronic complaining and worrying just feeds a negative worldview. Challenge yourself to only talk (and think) about what’s going right in your life. Acknowledge every blessing. Be grateful for every simple gift. Try it for one week and you will be amazed at how you feel and how many miracles you may have been taking for granted.
Accept setbacks as normal
Setbacks are a normal part of living. Plans change; unexpected circumstances arise; tragic events do occur. But they only stop you if you let them. You can choose to meet setbacks as learning experiences, as opportunities for growth. Let them stimulate your conviction and passion. Let them feed your determination and commitment to continually moving forward.
Create a support group
Positive thoughts and encouraging self-talk are both great, but if you really want to accelerate positive change in your life, get them out of your head and start talking about good things with others. Make a commitment with your family, coworkers or friends to keep your conversations uplifting and encouraging. This doesn’t mean that you put on rose-colored glasses: self-deception is just as unhealthy. But you can choose to talk about what is going right in your lives and encourage each other to press on.
Look to positive role models
History is full of people who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and not only survived, but excelled. Virtually every significant advance in culture, science and society came about because of women and men who saw a problem and walked right into it. Read about these people; take inspiration from their stories and believe that you also have something important to contribute. People who avoid disappointment never take risks, and people who never take risks never achieve greatness.
Accept risk as opportunity
It goes without saying that I’m not talking about seeking out physically dangerous activities. But you also shouldn’t avoid opportunities, conversations or activities just because there’s a risk of things not going according to plan. Allow yourself to embrace risk as a required part of opportunity. Listen to your intuition and trust your heart.