Friday, January 24, 2014

The Taming of the Grouch

Have you ever wished you had a “refresh” button for your life? 

We acquire a fair amount of knowledge from study and personal experience, but at times it seems all it takes are a few setbacks, and poof, we revert to our old bad habits. 

It happened to me.

I was in a car accident a year ago which left me unable to do a lot of the physical activities I enjoy – including playing softball with my team, the Stingers. Nearly a year has passed. I received therapy, slowly began preparing my muscles by taking yogalates classes and now it was time to play ball again. I started off pretty good and got some solid hits, but in my enthusiasm to sprint to first base I pulled a hamstring muscle.  Part of the problem is I didn’t warm up properly. It was a knee jerk reaction – hit the ball and run. 

I have never been a powerful slugger like many of my teammates such as Mary Lou, Stella and Tracy, so part of my effectiveness as a softball player is being able to get a hit and beat out the throw to first base. The same formula is true with my fielding. I may not stop line shots like Kathy or Jo, or snag fly balls like Karen, June or Ruth, but if a ball gets past me at least I can chase it down at a respectable pace. The pulled hamstring was taking away my mobility edge.

Mary Lou and Shirley, our couch and manager, found pinch runners for me at the next game, but I batted a miserable 0 for 4. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. While in the dugout my teammates, Connie, Carla and Mo encouraged me. They reminded me that I had hit the ball solidly, it just had the misfortune of landing in our opponent’s mitts.  It happens to everyone, including our most powerful hitters. Still I was grousing and made a few negative remarks about my performance. 

Normally I am a “glass-half-full kinda gal,” so my pessimism raised a few eyebrows. My teammate, Jo, was especially surprised since she knew I not only valued an optimistic attitude, I penned a book about it (Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.) She suggested I reread what I wrote.  Talk about a wake-up call.

That evening I pondered what Jo said. The hamstring pull was a pain, but certainly not the end of the world. What was causing me to unleash my inner grouch?

Upon reflection I realized I went into a slow, but steady downspin following my car accident the year before.  Over time, some of my positive routines disintegrated into bad habits. Instead of exercising like I would’ve liked to do, I had to be sedentary and heal. I began watching more television – including programs that were violent and depressing. This not only gave me nightmares, it affected my attitude. Slowly, but surely, I was giving my inner grouch permission to run amok.

Fortunately Jo’s comment caused me examine the issue and correct it. I was a little embarrassed with my flirtation with the dark side, but it’s not like I had total amnesia on all things hopeful.  I just needed a little refresher course. And being a middle child who likes to share, I thought many of you who normally embrace optimism, but occasionally relapse, might benefit from what I discovered. Here are a few tips on how to refresh your optimism.

·         1. Go back to the basics. It doesn’t matter if it’s your golf swing, a diet or life. Review the basic principles of what you are trying to achieve. Chances are you didn’t develop an esoteric tendency that nullifies ALL your past efforts, you just need to review some of the fundamentals. The good news is you don’t need to start from the beginning.  Just do a quick review, discover where you went astray, and get back on track.
o    2. To prevent from going too far off course, monitor your progress on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. It can be a list, check-up sheet, journal or any tool of your choosing. The point is to have a barometer to measure your level of optimism.  When you review your emotions you can spot when your attitude is taking a nosedive and catch it before it becomes a serious problem.

3.  Create an internal emotional vibration that matches the positive things you want to manifest. You can’t attract happiness when you dwell on misery any more than you can make orange juice by squeezing an onion. Match your thoughts, speech, actions and emotions with your desired outcome, NOT YOUR FEARS.

In conclusion, remember we all make mistakes. No one is perfect, not even the self-help gurus. Also, I might add, nothing is gained by beating yourself up. For example my hamstring is healing, but it still hurts. I can complain about it for hours, but that doesn’t help. Not even a little. Instead I choose to look at this painful experience as a life lesson. Maybe I had to get a pain in the butt to learn how to not BE a pain in the butt.  Now how is that for a refreshing thought?

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